(London: Printed for A. Roper and R. Basset, 1701). 244 x 186 mm (9 5/8 x 7 3/8"). 6 p.l., 42 pp. (lacking advertisement leaf).
VERY FLAMBOYANT CONTEMPORARY BLACK MOROCCO, COVERS WITH LARGE, EXUBERANTLY DECORATED ONLAID SECTIONS OF RED AND CITRON MOROCCO in the form of cornerpieces and very large cusped centerpiece featuring gilt stamps of flowers, acorns, scrollwork, and urns, all surrounded by a roll-tooled border, raised bands, spine gilt-stamped in compartments, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. In a modern green cloth chemise and a matching quarter morocco slipcase. Title page illuminated (by the binder?) with gilt floral roll and thistle cornerpieces. Front pastedown with bookplate of Frank Fletcher; front free endpaper with bookplate of Robert S. Pirie. Pforzheimer 871. Minor wear to joints and with small losses to the onlaid morocco (all difficult to notice amidst the riot of decoration), minor soiling to title and a few other leaves, one small tea(?) stain affecting two adjacent leaves, other tiny imperfections internally, but the text beautifully clean and fresh, and THE DAZZLING BINDING IN REMARKABLY PLEASING CONDITION.
This magnificent binding, exhibiting a self-consciously vigorous design, was commissioned by the author, who was known both for visually impressive stage productions and for currying favor by presenting beautifully bound copies of his works to important figures. (One likely recipient of such a gift was the man to whom this work is dedicated, wealthy financier Sir Charles Duncombe, ca. 1648-1711.) A prolific playwright who tumbled easily into controversy, Elkanah Settle (1648-1724) aroused the ire of Dryden and Pope, and is castigated in the "Dunciad." His competitors may have been too harsh, because DNB asserts that "Settle was undoubtedly a central figure in the Restoration theatre, his talent for producing spectacular and elaborately staged plays being particularly well suited to the contemporary vogue for heroic and operatic drama." The present tragic opera tells of the siege of Troy, focusing on the Trojan princess and prophetess Cassandra, whose warnings fell on deaf ears. DNB notes that its 1701 production was a "highly extravagant visual display" that "maximized its location with a series of spectacular scenes involving prospects of Troy in flames." The extravagance of decoration on our binding would suggest that Settle's taste for display extended to book coverings. Even apart from the sensational binding, this is a luxurious copy, printed damp on thick paper with immense margins. The present 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. In 1984, he was elected one of the 40 members of the Roxburghe Club, the world's oldest society of bibliophiles. (ST13047)
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PJP Catalog: ABA1stSept20.008