London: Thomas Davison for the proprietors of the collection, 1815. Large 4to (263 x 168 mm; 103/8 x 65/8 in.). Title printed in red and black. Hand-colored woodcut frontispiece by Barriman showing John Lydgate presenting his book to Henry V (described in item 412 of the catalogue), engraved title vignette, various portraits and initials. Contemporary tan russia by Hering, outer gilt border with strapwork corners, inner blind dentelle border surrounding single fillet panel, fleuron tools in angles, spine in 5 compartments with four triple bands gilt-lettered within blind borders in two, the rest with central gilt saltire, fleurons, dots and roundels, board edges gilt, turn-ins gilt, all edges gilt. Skillfully rebacked preserving original spine, endpapers renewed, some very minor wear, occasional pale spotting. Provenance: Cornelius Paine (1785-1869) English book collector (cipher booklabel and armorial bookplate). Paine’s library was sold at Sotheby’s in 1891. Item #403584
FIRST EDITION, LIMITED ISSUE, ONE OF 50 LARGE-PAPER COPIES.A luxurious bookseller’s catalogue of early English poetry. Longman purchased the library of English poetical historian Thomas Park (1759-1834) from Thomas Hill (1760-1840). “Longman’s speculation was not a profitable one. A few of the more expensive books were bought by Sykes and Heber ... the larger portion of the books ... were subsequently brought together again in the Britwell Library” (De Ricci, pp. 91-92).
This was one of the most comprehensive and detailed catalogues of English poetry compiled to date (if not the most). Griffith notes in the Advertisement that titles were exact transcripts (not mere abbreviations), that sizes are provided along with exact page counts to account for preliminary material, and that a synoptical index is included to assist the reader with the occasional anomalies in alphabetical order. Each of the 956 entries has a discursive note, some briefly highlighting a detail, while others provide extensive commentary on the author, title, or a bibliographical curiosity. Entries often quote from the dedication or other prefatory matter, and occasionally from the poems themselves. Works of singular rarity, such as James Yates’s The Castell of Courtesie (1582, item 889), are found. Priced here at £52.10s., no copies have appeared at auction in at least a century. At a mere £30 was Shakespeare’s equally scarce 1609 Sonnets (item 629). The prices total £7,559 15s., averaging nearly £6 10s. per volume. The text is occasionally punctuated by the addition of a small engraved portrait of an author, and these have been preserved with a facing plain tissue guard.
Thomas Corser, who included this work in his Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, says that not long after the present catalogue was issued “the entire collection was soon afterwards dispersed, and became scattered abroad and absorbed in the libraries of Heber, Freeling, Midgley, Broadley, Perry, and other eminent collectors of that period.” See George Watson Cole, “A Survey of the Bibliography of English Literature, 1475-1640: With Especial Reference to the Work of the Bibliographical Society of London.” In: The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 23, no. 2 (1929): 1-95, item VIII.