The Faerie Queene (1596)

Original 1596 first edition of the second part to Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene - disposed into twelue bookes, fashioning XII. morall vertues - a book published, according to Spenser, to “fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.” It is a highly allegorical tale, the adventures of several medieval knights, dragons, damsels in distress, etc., in a mythical "Faerie land" ruled by the Faerie Queene, all used to explore moral issues and what makes for a life of virtue under the reign of his 'Queene' Elizabeth. The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer and Il Canzoniere of Francesco Petrarca, whom Spenser greatly admired. He originally indicated that he intended the poem to be twelve books long, so the version of the poem we have today is incomplete.

Read the first 3 books in Part 1 in this later (and slightly more legible!) edition from 1859.