A seminal collection of English essays and the first book by Sir William Cornwallis (c. 1579-1614), who along with Francis Bacon and Henry Peacham - and following the model of Michel de Montaigne - helped to make the informal essay an important part of 17th century English literature. Cornwallis draws from a variety of classical and contemporary sources, including Tasso, Commines, and Guicciardini; he quotes the Old and New Testaments, proverbs, fables, sermons, and commonplace books in his discourses on matters such as fame, affection, praise and glory, resolution, vanity, justice, words, flattery, etc.
This is a mixed set of the two volumes; they are sometimes catalogued separately as individual books, but the second series is clearly a continuation of the first: Essays 1-25 constitute volume one and 26-50 volume two.
Bookplate of Sylvain van de Weyer and John Clawson in volume one; signature of Thomas Ryme, dated 1615, on the title-page of volume two, and on the final blank is the signature of Samuel Deaken, dated 1727. Bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on the front free endpaper of volume one; the two volumes were purchased by Pirie from bookseller John Fleming in 1966. (Inventory #: 26967)