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5 Rare Books about Love, from Peter Harrington’s “Love in Literature” Catalogue

Rare book shop Peter Harrington has recovered, restored and found loving homes for many romantic treasures. Each catalogue is painstakingly curated by a team of Peter Harrington rare book dealers, and the latest is no exception. Launched in conjunction with Valentine’s Day, 2021, the Literature in Love catalogue includes a list of rare books dedicated to romance and eroticism, featuring poetry, prose, play scripts and more.

Poems. With Elegies on the Authors Death. Author John Donne 1633.

First edition of the principal collection of Donne’s poetical works, issued two years after his death

DONNE, John. Poems. With Elegies on the Authors Death. 1633. £25,000.00.



The first of John Donne’s exquisite poetry collections was published two years after his death, in 1663. Containing some of the English language’s greatest romantic verses, this first edition represents, in part, Donne’s pivotal introduction to the poetic canon. The collection includes the scholar and cleric’s most famous work, ‘The Flea’, alongside others, such as ‘The Sun Rising’ and ‘Air and Angels’, but notably excludes his erotic ‘Elegy: To His Mistress Going to Bed’, which remained unprinted until another editor dared to include it in 1669. John Donne is widely regarded as the finest of the metaphysical poets.

Marriage A-la-Mode. A Comedy. As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal. Author John Dryden 1673.

DRYDEN, John. Marriage A-la-Mode. 1673. £1,750.00.

Playwright, poet, critic and England’s first Poet Laureate, John Dryden, was no stranger to love in literature . His Restoration comedy Marriage A-la-Mode follows two couples as their overlapping stories play out numerous comic tropes, from mistaken identities to a complicated love quadrangle. Published in the same year it was first performed, the play appears exactly as it was written for actors at the Theatre-Royal in London’s Covent Garden, thus transporting its reader into this farcical love story as it originally unfolded on stage.

Miscellaneous Poems. Advice to a Painter and Second Advice to the Painter 1681. Author Andrew Marvell 1679.


MARVELL, Andrew. Miscellaneous Poems; [together with:] Advice to a Painter; [and:] Second Advice to the Painter. 1681; [1679; 1679?]. £12,500.00.

Contained in this first edition of three works is Andrew Marvell’s tantalising, seductive and, in 1689, salacious ‘To his Coy Mistress’  – one of the best-known erotic poems written in the English language. Eminently quotable (‘Had we but world enough and time…’), the racy monologue – delivered to an apparently coquettish love interest – carries a great sense of urgency, both in form and language, as its speaker attempts to ‘reason’ with her chastity. Particularly vivid is Marvell’s double entendre: ‘my vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow…’, which requires little imagination to interpret!

Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Author William Shakespeare 1685.

SHAKESPEARE, William. Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. 1685. £185,000.00.

First published in 1685 and self-described as ‘never-before printed in folio’, the seven scripts added to this Fourth Folio completed the final edition of Shakespeare’s work printed in the 17th century. With these inclusions, the folio contains 50 play scripts in three genres – comedy, tragedy and history – and though six of the new additions are no longer attributed to Shakespeare (the seventh being ‘Pericles’), the Fourth Folio was considered the preeminent edition of Shakespeare’s work until the 18th century. And of course, among others, inside Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio is one of the most powerful and enduring love stories of all time: ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

A Collection of Poems, in Two Volumes. Author William Shakespeare 1710-11.

SHAKESPEARE, William. A Collection of Poems, in Two Volumes. [1710-11]. £22,500.00.

Shakespeare’s sonnets cover a swathe of emotions experienced by lovers. Admiration, nervous anticipation, connectedness, jealousy, betrayal and rejection; the 154 sonnets contained in this edition, first published as a collection by the author himself in 1609, are amorous and tragic in equal measure. Alongside his most famous, such as Sonnet 18 (‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’) and ‘A Lover’s Complaint of his Angry Mistress’, are lesser-known treasures, including Sonnet 43 , whose finishing rhyming couplet is breathtakingly romantic:

‘All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.’

Peter Harrington rare book dealer is committed to maintaining the condition of rare books and delivering them to newfound owners. The list of rare books in the Literature in Love collection has been carefully curated to appeal to the most romantic of collectors: those who celebrate life’s seductions, courtships and heartbreaks – and everything that happens in-between.

By Lauren Hepburn

These items appear in our recent catalogue, Literature in Love, a celebration of romantic love, in its ecstasy and anguish, expressed in the great stories and poetry from across the ages.