A Famous 18th Century Large-Format Hunting Poem, in an Animated and Delightful Binding


(London: Printed for G. Hawkins, and sold by T. Cooper, 1735). 263 x 207 mm. (10 1/4 x 8 1/8"). 6 p.l., 106 pp., [1] leaf (errata). FIRST EDITION. ONE OF 750 COPIES.

SUPERB OLIVE GREEN CRUSHED MOROCCO BY RIVIERE & SON (stamp-signed on front turn-in), cover with lettered central panel surrounded by four onlaid sections of darker green morocco, outer frame of leafy vines emanating from the tips of the fan-palm-shaped cornerpieces, each of these compartments with a blind-stamped leaping stag on a stippled gold ground, raised bands, spine with gilt-ruled compartments, gilt titling, gilt-ruled turn-ins, all edges gilt. In a (somewhat worn) fleece-lined burgundy buckram chemise and marbled paper slipcase. Engraved allegorical frontispiece featuring Diana and Apollo, by Scotin after Gravelot. Front pastedown with morocco ex-libris of Alfred Barmore Maclay. Foxon S-562; Hayward 158; Rothschild 1932; Schwerdt II, 166. ◆Leather on spine uniformly sunned to olive brown (as expected with green morocco), text perhaps lightly washed and pressed (in keeping with bibliophilic fashion at the time of binding), occasional faint marginal smudges, otherwise fine internally, and in a very lustrous binding with no signs of wear.

This is the first edition of the most popular work by Somerville (1675-1742), a mock-heroic poem about hunting, in an apt and very striking binding by a renowned English workshop. Divided into four books of Miltonic blank verse, "The Chace" is considered to be one of the finest didactic poems of the first half of the 18th century. The text covers hounds and their kennels, along with the hunting of hare, fox, and otter, and there are digressions that bring in methods of the chase in exotic localities. Most of the hunts described are accompanied by dogs and set in England past or present, but the poet occasionally strays far afield to describe lion stalking or the hunting habits of Genghis Khan. According to Schwerdt, the book was "highly approved of by the first literary characters of his day." The extraordinarily handsome binding by Riviere incorporates the hunting motif, with four stags appearing to chase one another around the covers. Riviere is one of the foremost names in English binding, partly because the firm did consistently fine work and partly because it was so long in business. Robert Riviere began as a bookseller and binder in Bath in 1829, then set up shop as a binder in London in 1840; in 1881, he took his grandson Percival Calkin into partnership, at which time the firm became known as Riviere & Son, and the bindery continued to do business until 1939. Our volume comes from the library of Alfred Barmore Mackay (1871-1944) who, after a very brief career at his family's bank, devoted himself to collecting books, art, and antiques, engaging in equestrian sports, and designing a sumptuous garden at his Florida estate, now a state park.

Price: $12,000.00

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