In the public imagination, Sir Walter Raleigh is the swashbuckling adventurer who colonised North America and introduced tobacco and the potato to England. He is perhaps less widely known as a fine poet and a scholar who built a substantial library of manuscripts and several hundred printed books. Only six of the books were known to have survived until the recent discovery of Raleigh’s signed copy of Italian 16th century poet Torquato Tasso’s Rime et Prose (Poetry and Prose) Part III. It is to be offered at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday 11 March with an estimate of £30,000-50,000.
Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) was regarded as the foremost Italian poet of the 16th century whose works were widely read throughout Europe. He was attached to the court of the Este family in Ferrara, the most brilliant court in Italy of the time. Raleigh also owned copies of Tasso’s Rime et Prose Parts I and II, both of which also survive.(Raleigh’s copy of Rime et Prose Part II was sold at Bonhams in 1997).
Bonhams Senior Valuer of Books and Manuscripts Simon Roberts said, “The lives of Raleigh and Tasso share many intriguing parallels. Both were significant figures at court who fell from grace and spent several years in prison. Indeed, Tasso wrote the third part of his Rime et Prose while in gaol and it may well have been among the books Raleigh had with him when James I imprisoned him in the Tower of London for treason in 1603.”
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552/4-1618) was a key figure in Elizabethan England as a courtier, spy and explorer. He played an important in the colonisation of North America. A favourite of Elizabeth I, he was mistrusted by her successor James I and imprisoned him for several years. Released in order to lead an expedition to find the fabled city of El Dorado, he was executed for piracy on his return