(London: T. Cadell jun. & W. Davies, 1798). 290 x 225 mm. (11 1/2 x 8 3/4"). Two volumes. Edited by Thomas Birch. First Illustrated Edition, to which is prefixed a geographical index.
HANDSOME EARLY 19TH CENTURY MARBLED CALF BY J. FRÖDING OF AMSTERDAM (his ticket on front free endpaper), covers framed by thick and thin rules and bead-and-feather chain roll, smooth spine of dark red straight-grain morocco gilt in a Neoclassical style, with panels formed by chain and Greek key rolls containing sunburst centerpiece encircled by garlands, one green and one black morocco label, gilt-hatched turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With frontispiece portraits of Philip and Charles Yorke, 11 engraved busts of famous Athenians, and a folding map of Greece. For the binder: Van Leeuwen, "Dutch Decorated Bookbinding in the 18th Century" I, 714. Boards tending to splay slightly, joints faintly rubbed, the leaves immediately adjacent to the map a bit browned, occasional mild foxing or tiny rust stains, but AN EXTREMELY ATTRACTIVE COPY--clean and fresh internally with generous margins, and in a stately, lustrous binding.
This is an especially pleasing copy of the definitive edition of an epistolary novel comprising a group of fictional letters purportedly written during the Peloponnesian War, and featuring a notably handsome binding by Amsterdam artisan Jonas Fröding. Begun as an academic exercise among friends headed by Philip Yorke, second Earl of Hardwicke (1720-90), and his brother Charles (1722-70), "Letters" was edited by the historian Thomas Birch (1705-66), with contributions from Henry Coventry, John Green, Samuel Salter, the bluestocking scholar Catherine Talbot (1721-70), Daniel Wray, George Henry Rooke, John Heaston, and John Lawry. After a private printing in 1741 of just 10 copies, a second edition of 100 copies appeared in 1781 after several of the original participants had died, and sparked what Britannica calls "a considerable vogue" for this and other works of historical fiction. A pirated Dublin edition was issued in 1792 to capitalize on this popularity, but it was suppressed by Hardwicke's heir and superseded by our very attractive large-format 1798 printing, done under the third Earl of Hardwicke's direction, with an added geographical index, engraved plates, and a map. Stockholm-born binder Jonas Fröding (ca. 1763-1808) was registered as a burgher in Amsterdam in 1794, at which time Jan Storm van Leeuwen believes he was working as an apprentice for the Crevenna Bindery, a prestigious workshop that produced high-quality bindings for bibliophiles on their old and valuable books. One such client was the Italian-Dutch merchant by whose name the bindery was known, Pieter Crevenna. In 1803, Fröding was received into the bookbinders' guild and set up his own workshop, where he continued to use several roll tools from the Crevenna stock. While none of our rolls matches Crevenna rolls exactly, two of them (bead-and-feather, Greek key) are very similar to Crevenna rolls IX and XXV (van Leeuwen I, 715-16), and the overall design is quite like van Leeuwen fig. 239, a 1795 binding of tree calf by the Crevenna bindery, with a gilt design in a Neoclassical style; that work would have been done during the time van Leeuwen believes Fröding was an apprentice there. Sadly, Fröding's career lasted just five years; he died in Amsterdam in 1808. Not surprisingly, given the brevity of his working life, bindings by Fröding are uncommon in the marketplace. This work is seen for sale from time to time, but our copy stands out because of its particularly attractive binding. (ST15948)