rare book library
ORIGINS OF MODERNITY
So rich in literature is the period which gave rise to modernity that one can only display a tiny fraction of the significant works.
The 'bookends' of this section are the Works of Shakespeare and Boswell's Life of Johnson. In between we have poets, playwrights, satirists and an example of the newly emerging novel, Robinson Crusoe.
It should be noted however that the selection of writers on display reflects modern tastes and hindsight, for the impact of these works was not always immediately felt and neither were all of these authors as popular in their own lifetime as they are today.
Unlike Ben Johnson, Shakespeare was not widely read outside of literary circles in the seventeenth century. He only became a phenomenon in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, a poet like Sir Richard Blackmore was widely read and discussed in his own time, but he would barely merit inclusion today.
Works of translation, while not technically English literature, should not be overlooked for their impact on the language and literature of the period. For example, Don Quixote was enormously popular in translation and the King James version of the Bible is said to have exerted more influence on the language than any other single work.