Cicero’s Three Books of Duties

Shakespeare’s Library –  School Books

#5 Nicholas Grimald, translator, Cicero’s Three Books of Duties (1556)

The rhetorical and philosophical works of Cicero were central to the grammar school curriculum in the English Renaissance. Shakespeare would have read works such as the De Officiis (“On Duties”) in Latin, but Cicero was also available in English. This book is a translation of the De Officiis produced by the important humanist scholar and poet Nicholas Grimald. It was published by the printer Richard Tottel, who is famous in English literary history for producing the first major anthology of vernacular poetry, the Songs and Sonnets (1557) which featured several poems written or translated by Grimald. In Grimald’s preface to the reader in this copy of Cicero, an early reader has made several notes, including a rudimentary “manicule” or pointing finger (see item 1) with the word “nota” [“note this”]. The book was later owned by a woman named Lucy Renshaw, who inscribed her name (dated July 31, 1876) and whose initials appear on the elaborate binding.

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