Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion (London, 1622).
Michael Drayton (1563-1631) was a prolific poet and part of a circle that included the likes of Ben Jonson, and possibly also Shakespeare. The first part of this work, a huge topographical poem covering England and Wales, was first published in 1612, and subsequently reprinted in 1622 with the second part which completed it. Constructed as a tour of the kingdom county by county, it describes the interesting topographical features of each, and throws in legends, historical fragments and anecdotes of various kinds for good measure. It is illustrated with maps of each county, with places and rivers represented anthropomorphically. The frontispiece, here with a small amount of hand-gilding added afterwards, shows Britannia clothed in a robe depicting the various rivers and cities of the nation, whilst surrounded by her four lovers and conquerors: Brute, Caesar, Hengest and William of Normandy. The title suggests the Greek for "Many Blessings", but also hints at the many-faceted nature of nascent Albion, which the poem aims to reconcile, in emulation of the reign of James I, King of England, Wales and Scotland.
In the detail below Cambridge, in the centre of the picture, is represented as a maiden with a cup in one hand, a solar emblem in the other, a castle on her head, and flowing breasts. Surrounding locations are also represented: above, Ely wears a cathedral on his head, and below, a bearded figure with a staff stands on the Gogmagog hills. Drayton placed particular emphasis on rivers, and they tend to dominate the illustrations as well, forming a heavy framework in the background, each with its own nymph.
This particular copy contains a hand-written poem entitled "An elogy upon the author", and signed J.B. [i.e. John Bladen].