(Birmingham: Printed by John Baskerville, for J. and R. Tonson, 1761). 305 x 235 mm. (12 x 9 1/4"). Four volumes. With preface and ode to Addison by Thomas Tickell. First Baskerville Edition, First State (with Straus & Dent ornaments #1 and #2 on Vol. III, p. 3).
Contemporary sprinkled calf, raised bands, spine compartments gilt with central floral sprig, volute cornerpieces, two red morocco labels, marbled endpapers and edges. Engraved frontispiece portrait, three engraved scenes from plays, and 13 leaves with engravings of Roman medallions. Gaskell 17; Straus and Dent 47; Rothschild 15; ESTC T89166. Joints cracked, head or tail bands lacking from a couple of volumes, corners rubbed to boards, four labels chipped, a couple of boards with minor scratches or stains, but A FINE COPY INTERNALLY with only occasional mild browning or insignificant marginal stains, otherwise CLEAN, FRESH, AND SMOOTH with ample margins, in once-handsome bindings that, although somewhat worn, are intact, unsophisticated, and not without appeal.
This is a lovely copy internally of "one of the most ambitious of Baskerville's efforts" and "certainly the most beautiful edition of Addison ever published," according to the printer's biographers, Straus & Dent. One of the major writers of the early 18th century, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was an English political figure (associated with the Whigs) of some importance, best known to us (in Day's words) as "a consummate stylist of English prose, numbering Benjamin Franklin and countless others among the students of his style." Through his numerous contributions to the "Tatler," "Spectator" (of which he was co-founder), "Guardian," and "Freeholder," Addison exerted a good deal of influence on the political and literary scenes of his day. He desired to have said of him that he "brought philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and in coffee-houses." Baskerville's royal quarto edition printed on laid paper in Great Primer type is a "glorious performance" of Addison's poems, plays, travel writing, and essays, in the opinion of bibliophile T. F. Dibdin, who enthused, "It is pleasant (and of course profitable) to turn over the pages of these lovely tomes at one's Tusculum [villa] on a day of oppression from heat, or of confinement from rain--and if the copy be in goodly calf, full charged, gilt binding--with marble edges to the leaves . . . why so much the better: so therefore hasten, gallant young Bibliomaniac, with six sovereigns and six shillings to boot, to make yourself master of such a copy." Our original owner followed Dibdin's advice to the letter, and if the bindings now show evidence of avid use, the interior remains creamy and bright, a treat for sight and touch. (CBJ1731)
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