BISHOP BURNET'S HISTORY OF HIS OWN TIME: WITH . . . NOTES BY THE EARLS OF DARTMOUTH AND HARDWICKE, AND SPEAKER ONSLOW, HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED. TO WHICH ARE ADDED THE CURSORY REMARKS OF SWIFT, AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1823). 264 x 159 mm. (10 3/8 x 6 1/4"). Six volumes. Edited by Martin Joseph Routh.
MOST ATTRACTIVE MID-19TH CENTURY INDIGO CRUSHED MOROCCO, HANDSOMELY GILT, BY BEDFORD (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), covers with gilt French fillet border, raised bands, spines elaborately and elegantly gilt in double-ruled compartments with large and complex central fleuron incorporating crown, pomegranate, fern, and palmette tools radiating from a central rosette, curling floral vine cornerpieces, densely gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, other edges rough-trimmed. With engraved frontispiece portraits of Bishop Burnet (volume I) and the Earl of Dartmouth (volume VI). Front pastedown with morocco bookplate of Robert Hoe. ◆One joint just beginning to show wear, spines uniformly darkened to a lustrous deep blue, two boards somewhat faded (small portions of a few others slightly dulled from leather preservative), extremities lightly rubbed, the two frontispieces and one gathering moderately foxed, occasional minor foxing or smudges elsewhere, other trivial imperfections, but still A FINE AND LOVELY SET, clean and fresh internally, with especially wide margins, and in bindings that make a beautiful appearance on the shelf.
This is a very handsomely bound set of the classic posthumous history aptly titled "His Own Time" (and sometimes "My Own Times"), a reflection of the fact that the text reveals the personality and political leanings of Burnet (1643-1715) as much as the events he narrates. Originally published in two parts in 1724 and 1734, the account covers a period almost exactly coinciding with Burnet's lifetime, from the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642 up to the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Our unusual critical edition was prepared by the Clarendon Press from copies which had belonged to the first Earl of Dartmouth (1672-1750), to speaker of the House of Commons Arthur Onslow (1691-1768), and to satirist Jonathan Swift. The editor has incorporated the marginal annotations made by these owners, as well as passages excluded from the original edition, but later added to the Onslow copy by the second Earl of Hardwicke, Philip Yorke (1720-90). According to DNB, Swift, who disagreed with Burnet on many things, filled the margins of his copy "with vitriolic comments such as 'dunce' and 'Scotch dog.'" Burnet's account has to be understood in light of the fact that he abhorred the immorality of Restoration life so much that he retired to Holland, where he became an adviser to William of Orange and accompanied the soon-to-be-king to England as his chaplain. Johnson is quoted by Lowndes as saying, "I do not believe that Burnet intentionally lied; but he was so much prejudiced, that he took no pains to find out the truth. He was like a man who resolves to regulate his time by a certain watch; but will not enquire whether the watch is right or not." Day is kinder, saying that, while the work "lacks the majestic style and architecture of Clarendon, [it] shows a distinctly modern concept of history writing, not as the struggle of personalities to be examined for its teaching of moral lessons, but as the contest of ideas and principles arising from the total maturation of society." 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 a decade afterwards, under the ownership of Joseph Shepherd. Bedford bindings are almost always elegantly traditional in their design, as here, and they are consistently so well executed that their appeal to a wide audience has not diminished with the passage of time. The lovely bindings and fine condition of these volumes are typical of works from the collection of Robert Hoe (1839-1911), founding member and first president of the Grolier Club. According to Beverly Chew, Hoe's library was "the finest [America] has ever contained." He acquired illuminated manuscripts, early printing (he owned a Gutenberg Bible on paper and one on vellum), fine bindings, French and English literature, and Americana; when his library was sold in 1911-12, it fetched nearly $2 million, a record that held until the Streeter sale more than 50 years later. (ST17640bb)