(London: John Russell Smith, 1865-57-58). 175 x 140 mm. (6 7/8 x 5 1/2"). Five volumes. Translated by George Chapman. Introduction and notes by Richard Hooper.
Attractive early 20th century moss green three-quarter morocco, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with drawer handle cornerpieces, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt. With engraved frontispiece portrait of Chapman and three extra engraved title pages reproducing those in early editions of Chapman's translations. Front pastedowns with book label of Abel E. Berland. With occasional pencilled marginalia. A couple of short scratches to leather, a few tiny nicks to boards, the spines a little sunned, two raised bands a bit abraded, three leaves with tears into text (no loss), other trivial imperfections, but quite a pretty set in excellent condition, the bindings bright and showing no significant wear, and the text fresh and clean.
This is a pleasing Victorian edition of Chapman's Homer, an undertaking that Day calls "the greatest verse translation of the Renaissance" and perhaps "the greatest English translation of Homer." George Chapman (1559/60-1634) made his name as a poet and playwright before turning to translating classical literature. His was the first English translation to be done directly from the Greek, appearing between 1598, when the first seven books of the "Iliad" were published, and 1624, the date "Batrachomyomachia" ("War of the Frogs and Mice") was issued. His remained the standard translation until Pope's 18th century version. Chapman enjoyed a renewed popularity among 19th century poets: Keats composed a much-quoted sonnet, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," which begins "Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold," and Swinburne said, "No praise can be too warm or high for the power, the freshness, the indefatigable strength and inextinguishable fire which animate this exalted work." As DNB points out, "Chapman was no straightforward translator. Although he taught himself Greek, . . . He did not provide literal English versions of his originals; rather, he personalized the epic, appropriating his source and making Homer a writer of the early modern moment. Chapman also digressed from the Greek to stress his own interpretations of the central players." In addition to Homer's works, our set contains Chapman's translations of Hesiod, Musaeus' "Hero and Leander," and Juvenal's fifth satire. Finally, the unsigned bindings make an agreeable appearance on the shelf. The present item was once in the distinguished collection of Chicago bibliophile Abel E. Berland (1915-2010), a long-time member of the Caxton Club, which published this description of his library in their May 1996 newsletter: "The range of the Abel Berland library is extensive; the quality, remarkable; the collection, awesome. More than 500 uncommon titles brought together by the passion and genius of one person through an absolute devotion to books, ideas, and learning is an achievement worthy of reflection in an age enthralled by the chimeras of contemporaneity." (ST15557-5)
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PJP Catalog: RCVF20.029