The Works of Abraham Cowley

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by Abraham Cowley

The Works of Abraham Cowley

Title page from The Works of Abraham Cowley, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Abraham Cowley
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed by J.M. for H. Herringman
Date 1678
Edition Fifth
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages 558
Desc. Folio (31 cm.)
Location Shelf N-5
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was a poet who began to publish when he was only twelve.[1] He was a strong royalist, and one of his most famous and controversial works is an epic poem on the history of the English Civil War written from a decidedly royalist slant.[2] Cowley wrote poetry on love, virtue, and to praise contemporaries after they died.[3]

The Works of Abraham Cowley was the first folio compilation of Cowley’s work to be published under the supervision of the executor of his literary works in 1668. The poems and essays in this edition greatly impacted seventeenth century poetry, with fourteen printings of the folio between 1668 and 1721.[4] Cowley was highly praised because of his inclusion of classical formal elements in his poetry that influenced the style of Romantic poets.[5]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Cowley's works. fol." This was one of the titles kept by Thomas Jefferson and may have been sold to the Library of Congress in 1815. Jefferson did sell a copy of Cowley's works to the Library of Congress, but the volume no longer exists to verify its edition or Wythe's prior ownership. George Wythe's Library[6] on LibraryThing indicates "Precise edition unknown. Several folio editions were published." The Brown Bibliography[7] includes the fifth edition (1678) based on Millicent Sowerby's use of that edition in Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson.[8] The Wolf Law Library followed Brown's recommendation and purchased a copy of the fifth edition for the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in full leather with raised bands and gold and black impressing. Includes prior owner signature on title page. Purchased from Attic Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

Headpiece, first page of text.

See also


  1. William Cullen Bryant, “Abraham Cowley,” The North American Review, 124, No. 256 (University of Northern Iowa, 1877), p. 369.
  2. Alexander Lindsay, “Cowley, Abraham (1618–1667)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed September 19, 2013. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical details are from this source.
  3. Bryant, pp. 375-80.
  4. Lindsay.
  5. Arthur H. Nethercot, “The Reputation of Abraham Cowley (1660-1800),” PMLA, 38, No. 3 (Modern Language Association, 1923), p. 592.
  6. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe", accessed on November 11, 2013.
  7. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  8. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:483 [no.4421].