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January 31, 2013

Special Collections and Archives / Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau

IMG_0101 The Poly-Olbion is a vast poem by Michael Drayton (1563-1631) describing the topography, history and legends of England and Wales. The text is accompanied by a series of wonderfully unique maps engraved by William Hole on which towns, rivers and other topographical features are all depicted anthropomorphically.

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Cities appear as maidens crowned with cathedrals, caves come complete with hermits and forests are shown as huntresses armed with bows. A bearded shepherd holding a staff sits on every hill and each river has its very own nymph!

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Constructed as a tour of the kingdom, the poem consists of almost 15,000 lines IMG_0099of iambic hexameter verse divided into 30 songs, each describing one or more counties of England and Wales. The 1612 edition contains the first 18 songs with commentary by the renowned polymath, John Selden; our edition was reprinted in 1622 with the remaining songs added. Drayton originally intended to compose…

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