THE WORKS OF MR ABRAHAM COWLEY.
(London: Printed by J. M. for Henry Herringman, 1678). 302 x 203 mm. (11 7/8 x 8"). , 41, , 80, , 70 [i.e. 68], 154, 23, , 148 pp. Fifth Edition.
Once elegant contemporary black morocco, covers with gilt ruled panel and floral cornerpieces, raised bands, compartments with gilt lettering and intricate floral patterns forming an "X" shape, tops of joints and tail of spine with possible expert repairs, all edges gilt. Frontispiece portrait of the author, additional title pages for each part (these dated 1677 as called for in ESTC). Front pastedown with bookplate of Robert S. Pirie, and a small gilt paper book label. Wing C-6653; ESTC R29277. ◆Boards a bit splayed, corners bumped and worn, covers with some spots, dings, and scratches, but the binding completely sound and the elaborately gilt spine with excellent shelf appeal; a few small ink blots (all marginal except on one leaf), other very trivial imperfections in the text, but, all in all, a really excellent unrestored contemporary copy.
From a distinguished collection, in pleasing condition, and in a contemporaneous binding, this is the fifth collected edition of the works of Abraham Cowley, one of the most precocious poets in the annals of English literature. Admired both by the public and by stars like Dryden and Wilmot, Cowley (1616-67) exerted an influence on contemporary poetry that was profound; his funerary monument refers to him as "the English Virgil," and Perkin asserts that "[Cowley's] fame as a poet exceeded even that of Milton" during the waning years of the Restoration. Upon his death, Cowley was not only given the extraordinary honor of burial in Westminster Cathedral--his was noted by the DNB as "the most lavish funeral which had ever been given to a mere man of letters in England"--but was also afforded a privileged spot next to the graves of Spenser and Chaucer. The first collected edition of Cowley's work was compiled by his friend and literary executor Thomas Sprat and published the year following the author's death; it includes reprints of his most popular works, including "Poems" (which contained both "Davideis" and "Pindaric Odes"), "Verses," and "The Mistress," several lesser-known prose essays and poems (including one on Cromwell's government), and some hitherto unpublished material including his "Several discourses by way of essays in verse and prose." The publication was an immediate success, with a second printing appearing the same year and at least 12 separate editions in the following 60 years. The effort to respond to demand for this work resulted in a great number of states in these early editions, leaving the possibility that various copies may contain a combination of states and printings. This particular copy comes from the collection of Robert S. Pirie (1934-2015), an extremely successful lawyer and investment banker who amassed the finest library of 16th and 17th century English literature in private hands during his lifetime. (ST13039a)