The Extremely Fine Terry-Mills-Benz Copy
Of Goldsmith's Masterpiece
(BINDINGS - RIVIERE). [GOLDSMITH, OLIVER].
THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD: A TALE SUPPOSED TO BE WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.(Salisbury: Printed by B. Collins, for F. Newbery, 1766). 171 x 108 mm (6 3/4 x 4 1/4"). Two volumes, with the terminal blank in volume I.. FIRST EDITION, variant B.
BEAUTIFUL SCARLET CRUSHED MOROCCO, HEAVILY GILT, BY RIVIERE & SON, covers with French fillet frame, spine with raised bands and handsomely gilt compartments, lovely gilt inner dentelles, all edges gilt. Front pastedown of volume I with the leather book labels of Roderick Terry, [Edgar] Mills, and Doris Louise Benz. Temple Scott, pp. 173-75; Rothschild 1028; Tinker 1110. Lower corner of terminal blank in first volume skillfully renewed, artful repair and faint glue stains at inner margin of B3 in second volume, other isolated trivial defects, but A VERY FINE COPY, THE TEXT NEARLY PRISTINE, AND THE HANDSOME BINDINGS ESPECIALLY BRIGHT.
Written in 1761-62 but not published until four years later, "The Vicar of Wakefield" was said to have been rescued from some of Goldsmith's unpublished manuscripts by Dr. Johnson, who thus saved the penniless author from imprisonment by selling it to a publisher for £60. Considered the masterpiece of the middle-class domestic novel, the "Vicar" has never gone out of style because its whimsically delineated characters have a delightful simplicity that somehow insulates them against ultimate misfortune, and the innocent and virtuous are rewarded, as they should be, in the end. This copy has a distinguished provenance, having been owned, in succession, by Roderick Terry (1849-1933), Edgar Mills, and Doris L. Benz (1907-84), all of whom collected beautiful and substantial items chosen with considered discrimination. Terry accumulated items in various fields, but his library was especially strong in English literature: he owned the four folios, and he had strong holdings in Byron, Lamb, Spenser, and Milton. He also collected Americana, assembling a complete set of autographs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, in addition to many literary items. Dickinson characterizes him as "a connoisseur in the grand old tradition of the 19th century. His library reflected his eclectic tastes and [his] cultivated good judgment." For more on Benz, see item #52. Probably the main reason this volume had such celebrated owners is the beauty of its bindings. Riviere is considered one of the foremost names in English binding partly because the firm did consistently fine work and partly because it was so long in business. Robert Riviere began as a bookseller and binder in Bath in 1829, then set up shop as a binder in London in 1840; in 1881, he took his grandson Percival Calkin into partnership, at which time the firm became known as Riviere & Son, and the bindery continued to do business until 1939. In the early part of the 20th century, an intense rivalry between Riviere and Sangorski & Sutcliffe developed, and collectors have reaped immense dividends ever since in the form of more and more elaborate work that was not infrequently of breathtaking beauty. (ST6907)