Small 4to (185 × 135 mm.), pp. , 218 with some mispaginations, initial blank excised leaving short stub (lightly pasted to title margin). Title printed in red and black within typographical border, ornamental head-pieces and woodcut initials, text within ruled borders. Contemporary full calf, flat spine, sides with blind-ruled borders, early ink inscription to upper cover ‘Dr. Dons Biathanatos’. Minor expert repair to joints, early ink monogram to front pastedown and upper forecorner of title, further shelf number in the same hand to pastedown, later bookplate of Molly Flagg Gibb. An excellent copy.
First edition, second issue, giving the date '1648'. Keynes suggests that the work was first published in 1647, since although it is undated, it first appears in the Stationers' Register in the autumn of 1646. The second issue uses the unsold sheets of that first issue with a cancel title.
Donne frankly admits his fascination for the act of suicide in his Preface “...whensoever any affliction assailes me, mee thinks I have the keyes of my prison in mine owne hand, and no remedy presentes it selfe so soone to my heart, as mine own sword." He chose not to publish his meditations on the subject and only circulated the Biathanatos among friends in manuscript. He sent a copy to Sir Edward Herbert, and, in 1619, another to Sir Robert Karre, writing: "It was written by me many years since; and because it is upon a misinterpretable subject, I have always gone so near suppressing it, nor many eyes to read it: onely to some particular friends in both Universities, then when I writ it, I did communicate it: And I remember, I had this answer, That certainly, there was a false thread in it, but not easily found: Keep it, I pray, with the same jealousie; let any that your discretion admits to the sight of it, know the date of it; and that it is a Book written by Jack Donne, and not by D. Donne: Reserve it for me, if I live, and if I die, I only forbid it the Presse, and the Fire: publish it not, but burn it not; and between those, do what you will with it'”(cited by Keynes). It was published posthumously by John Donne the younger, and dedicated by Lord Herbert's sone Phillip.
Keynes 48; Wing D1859.