Finely Bound for a Gentleman Cleric, with an Appropriate, Unusual Painting of Mt. Etna


(Londini: Impensis J. Johnson et al. 1809). 248 x 146 mm. (9 3/4 x 5 3/4"). 2 p.l., 700 pp.With commentary by Christian Gottlob Heyne.

HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY NAVY BLUE STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, DENSELY GILT, covers with thick and thin gilt rule border and large central laurel wreath, that on the front with the Latin motto "Honoris Causa" ("For the sake of honor"), that on the rear with the name Thomas T. Churton and the date 1817, raised bands, spine lavishly gilt in compartments filled with foliage and small tools emanating from a central fleuron, gilt titling and turn-ins, all edges gilt. WITH A SPLENDID LATER PAINTING OF MOUNT ETNA ON THE FORE EDGE. In a recent plush-lined blue folding cloth box with gilt spine titling. With ink stamp of Bolton Public Library on verso of title and first page of text. Lowndes IV, 2777. Corners slightly bumped, boards a little faded, first two gatherings mildly foxed, isolated rust spots or faint freckled foxing, but still AN ESPECIALLY DESIRABLE COPY, the handsome binding virtually unworn, the text clean and smooth, and the unusual fore-edge painting very well preserved.

This scholarly edition of Heyne's acclaimed Virgil comes in a fine contemporary binding with a noteworthy fore-edge painting. Dibdin, Gibbon, and Sandys all praise Heyne's edition of Virgil, and Sandys credits him with being "the first who with any decisiveness attempted . . . to read in the writings of the Ancients, not their language alone, or even their detached opinions and records, but their spirit and character, their way of life and thought." First published in Leipzig in 1767-88, Heyne's edition was deemed "incomparable" by Dibdin, and even inspired a poem by William Cowper, "On Receiving Heyne's Virgil from Mr. Hayley." Our painting shows a coastal landscape in Sicily, rendered in strong greens and deep blues. There is a bay on the left and a tiny village perched above the sandy beach, with white-capped Mount Etna emitting a thin wisp of smoke in the background. Purplish clouds are gathering in the distance, which, combined with the smoking volcano, lend a frisson of foreboding to an otherwise tranquil scene. As often, the age of the painting is difficult to determine: not the work of any recognizable painter, it is very probably not as old as the binding, yet is almost certainly not something done during the last 100 years. In any case, the quality of its execution is high, and the subject matter--which is something quite different from the typical fore-edge design--is entirely appropriate for the classical contents of the book. The attractive binding, done for Anglican clergyman and scholar Thomas Townson Churton (1798-1865), is exactly what one would expect to find in the library of a gentleman scholar.

Price: $2,900.00