(London: J. & A. Arch, 1798; T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800). 175 x 105 mm. (6 3/4 x 4 1/8"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION, Second (London) Issue of first volume; FIRST EDITION, First State of the second volume (p. 209 with last word of footnote in the middle of the page; p. 210 with 10 lines only; p. 211 with 19 lines, ending with "he thought again"; p. 212 with 19 lines, beginning with "And his heart fail'd him").
LOVELY CRIMSON CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT, BY FRANCIS BEDFORD (stamp-signed on front turn-ins), covers with French fillet border, raised bands, spine compartments with distinctive urn-and-bird centerpiece surrounded by small tools, leafy cornerpieces, gilt titling, densely gilt turn-ins, dark green endpapers, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed. Front pastedowns with engraved bookplate of Harold Greenhill; from the collection of Bradley Martin (his sale, Sotheby's New York, 1 May 1990, lot 3333). Ashley VIII, 5-8; Hayward 202 (Bristol imprint); Grolier English 66; PMM 256 (the second edition, the "Manifesto of the Romantic Movement''); Rothschild 2603, 2604. Short, faint scratch to one board (well-masked by dye), half a dozen leaves with expert paper repairs to short marginal tears (well away from text), a couple of faint spots of foxing, but AN ESPECIALLY FINE SET, clean, bright, and as amply margined as possible, in extremely lustrous and unworn bindings.
This is a rarely seen set, offered here in extraordinarily fine and pretty bindings, of the two first editions often described as the inaugural event of the Romantic period. The printing of "Lyrical Ballads" constituted an experiment for the two young poets (Wordsworth was 28, Coleridge 26) in the modification of the traditional artificial verse styles in order to capture forceful sincerity and elemental human emotions. Their radical purpose was nothing short of the reformation of poetry by deposing an artificial literary tradition and substituting a new poetics, more in keeping with normal contemporary speech patterns, and to infuse their work with what Wordsworth called "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Folk ballads, as "natural" poetry, formed their models for pieces that reveal a sense of lasting joy in nature and in experiences common to all humans. The volumes contain, among others, "Tintern Abbey," "Lines Written in Early Spring," "We Are Seven," "The Brothers," "Michael," and "The Ancyent Marinere," 10 stanzas of which appear only in this edition. Volume I is the second issue of the first edition, with London rather than Bristol identified as the place of publication on the title page; there is just one known and one hypothetical copy of the Bristol issue. Additional issue points for these volumes are: Vol. I: p. 19 reads "Oft" in line 10, p. 204 reads "woods" (with the final "s" and comma) in line 15 and "thought" (with the final "t" and comma) in line 17; Vol. II: 01-2 are uncancelled, p. 64 reads "Oft had I" in line 1 and "wide Moor" in line 6, p. 83 has a comma after "last days" in line 6, p. 92 reads "He" (capitalized) in line 2, and p. 129 has "when they please" properly spaced in line 11. The second volume offered here was originally issued with a companion first volume that was virtually a reprint of the 1798 volume; as a result of this reissue, and the two-year gap before the publication of the second volume, it can be difficult to find a set composed of our two first editions. For five years our binder Francis Bedford (1799-1883) managed the firm of Charles Lewis for the latter's widow and then was in a partnership for 10 years with John Clarke before establishing his own bindery in 1851. He shortly became recognized as the leading binder in fashionable West-end London, and his firm enjoyed prosperity not only until his death, but for 10 years afterwards, under the ownership of Joseph Shepherd. Bedford bindings are almost always elegantly traditional in their design and very handsome in the execution. This set was once owned by the extraordinarily discriminating American collector H. Bradley Martin (1906-88); his copy of any book will always be distinguished as having been a part of a library chosen by one of the most discerning of modern collectors. The heir to a steel fortune and a director at a leading New York investment bank, Martin was a member of the Grolier Club for 50 years and was one of the great American book collectors of the 20th century. His library of 10,000 volumes was sold at Sotheby's in nine sales during 1989-90; these volumes appeared in that sale as Lot 3333. Former owner Harold Greenhill (1893-1968) was a Chicago book collector, active in the Caxton and Grolier Clubs. These works, especially when offered together, are uncommon in general, and handsomely bound, choice copies like the present set are exceedingly hard to find. (ST14212)