Pope, Swift, and Voltaire Among the Subscribers


(London: Printed for J. Tonson and J. Watts, 1735). 207 x 123 mm. (8 1/8 x 4 7/8"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.

Fine 19th century polished calf by Francis Bedford (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), covers with gilt French fillet border, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with birds-and-chalice centerpiece within a lozenge of small tools, floral sprays at corners, one red and one green morocco label, gilt-rolled turn-ins, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed. With engraved frontispiece portrait in volume I, and four engraved plates. Front pastedown with book label of John Porter, and his notes regarding provenance laid in at rear of volume I. Intermittent mild foxing, additional trivial imperfections, but a fine set, clean and fresh internally, with comfortable margins, in a virtually unworn binding.

This is a handsomely bound copy of selected works by writer and librettist John Hughes, whose literary output included poems, translations of Greek and Latin classics, essays for "The Tatler" and "The Spectator," and the first critical edition of Spenser. Described by DNB as "a versatile writer whose literary works and criticism made varied contributions to developments in early eighteenth-century literature and taste," Hughes (1678-1720) was a child of the Puritan middle class who showed an early aptitude for music and literature. According to DNB, "Hughes's poems, primarily lyric, draw on diverse traditions and verse forms and exemplify the often contradictory nature of Augustan verse, but generally avoid sharp wit or satire. . . . Fundamentally, Hughes believed that literature cannot be divorced from morality and that it has a primary function to present a clear moral. But his specific criticism—more appreciative than analytical or theoretical—touched a wide range of topics and put him in the vanguard of new directions of eighteenth-century taste." The list of subscribers for this set includes Pope, Swift, and Voltaire, perhaps an indication of Hughes' reputation among his contemporaries. 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.

Price: $1,500.00