A Very Bright, Fresh Copy of the First Printing of the Best 18th Century Edition of "Hudibras"


(Cambridge: J. Bentham [spelled "Bettenham" in volume II], 1744). 203 x 133 mm. (8 x 5 1/4"). Two volumes. Edited and annotated by Zachary Grey.

Recent dark brown half morocco over linen boards, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with central fleuron, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt. With engraved frontispiece portrait of Butler after Soest, and 16 lively engraved plates after Hogarth, five of them folding. Title pages with early ownership inscription marked out with black ink; title of volume I with ink signature of Isaac Cookson. Lowndes I, 335. Isolated faint foxing, otherwise AN UNUSUALLY FINE COPY, the text extraordinarily fresh, clean, and bright, and the retrospective bindings unworn.

This is a remarkably fresh and bright copy of the first printing of the major 18th century edition of "Hudibras," the version upon which most subsequent printings were based for many years, and simply "the best edition" according to Lowndes. Butler's mock epic in octosyllabic couplets was first published (in three installments) in 1663, 1664, and 1678. Modelled after "Don Quixote," the work satirizes the hypocrisy and self-seeking of the Presbyterians and Independents, represented by the title character and his squire Ralpho, whose humorous adventures provide ample opportunity to demonstrate their pedantry, greed, duplicity, and cowardice, as well as the ridiculous nature of their sectarian squabbles. Numbered among the relatively few illustrations Hogarth did for books, the engravings here were specially prepared for the 1726 edition of "Hudibras," and they were re-engraved for the present edition, resulting in especially rich impressions. Our early owner may well have been the Isaac Cookson (1705-54) who was a prominent gold- and silversmith in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he ran a flourishing business with a specialty in ecclesiastical silver. His obituary in the "Newcastle Courant" on 24 August 1754 proclaimed him a paragon of commercial and personal virtue.

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PJP Catalog: Cat 69.113


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