INTRODUCTION

1. Although John Leland [1502? - 1552] is primarily remembered as an antiquarian (and indeed thought of himself as such — he regularly signed himself Joannes Lelandus antiquarius), he was no mean Latin poet. In the 1540’s he published a few small volumes of poetry: notably, besides the present one, Genethliacon illustrissimi Eaduerdi principis Cambriae (1543), Κύκνειον ᾇσμα and Bononia Gallomastix (both 1545), and Ἐγκώμιον τῆς εἰρήνης (1546). Subsequently Thomas Newton — primarily remembered as the editor of the 1581 Seneca his Tenne Tragedies and also responsible, inter alia, for a collection of Latin poetry by his former schoolmaster John Brownswerd — assembled a volume of his previously unpublished poetry under the title Principum ac illustrium aliquot et eruditorum in Anglia virorum, Encomia, Trophaea, Genethliaca, et Epithalamia a Joanne Lelando Antiquario conscripta, nunc primum in lucem edita (1589).
2. If one is to make a study of Leland’s poetry, the present work is as good a place to begin as any. It is an attractive and heartfelt cycle of epigrams on the death of the diplomat-poet Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder in 1542, a friend from Leland’s university days, as we are told at 38ff. (although they were contemporaries at Cambridge, Leland belonged to Christ College, and Wyatt to St. John’s). The cycle was printed as a small volume, occupying only twelve pages, printed at London in 1542 to be sold ad signum aenei Serpenti, i. e., at the Sign of the Brass Serpent in St. Paul’s Yard, and therefore was the work of the printer Reyner Wolf, also responsible for Ἐγκώμιον τῆς εἰρήνης. With two exceptions (28ff. and 62ff., both of which are hendecasyllabic), all of the items in the collection are written in either dactylic hexameters or elegiac couplets.