RARE FIRST EDITIONS OF POPE’S FAMOUS TRANSLATIONS OF HOMER’S ILIAD AND ODYSSEY, 1715-1726
(POPE, Alexander) HOMER. Iliad of Homer. WITH: Odyssey of Homer. London: Bernard Lintot, 1715-26. Together, eleven volumes. Quarto, contemporary full mottled (Iliad) and speckled (Odyssey) brown calf rebacked, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, contemporary and modern spine labels.
First editions of Pope’s famous illustrated translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. A beautiful, sumptuously bound set.
Encouraged by Swift, Addison, and Steele, among others, Pope began his translation of Homer in 1713, an arduous undertaking that would prove to be the most laborious literary enterprise of his life, but one to which he was well-suited. “Idolatry of classical models was an essential part of the religion of men of letters of the day… But a Homer in modern English was still wanting. Pope’s rising fame and his familiarity with the literary and social leaders made him the man for the opportunity… The ‘Homer’ was long regarded as a masterpiece, and for a century was the source from which clever schoolboys like Byron learnt that Homer was not a mere instrument of torture invented by their masters. No translation of profane literature has ever occupied such a position” (DNB). Samuel Johnson, in his Life of Pope, calls it “certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen; and its publication must therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of learning;” likewise, De Quincey regarded it as “unquestionably the greatest literary labor” (Allibone, 1632-34). Certainly, Pope’s long-lasting literary fame rests to a large degree on the great success and extensive influence of these translations.
Beautifully illustrated with copper-engravings, including a fine frontispiece bust of Homer by George Vertue (not found in many copies), a double-page map, three plates (one folding), and numerous historiated initials and elaborate head- and tail-pieces. With the “Shield of Achilles” plate, often missing. The six volumes of the Iliad were issued between 1715-20 and the five volumes of the Odyssey between 1725-26. Only 650 copies of Pope’s translation of the Iliad were printed in quarto for 575 subscribers; with 574 subscribers for the Odyssey. “Contemporaneously with the quarto he issued the work in two forms, a Large Paper folio and a Small (or ‘ordinary’) folio” (Griffith 39); this copy is a mixed issue, with the Odyssey from the quarto subscriber’s issue and the Iliad from the small folio issue. Bound without half-titles, as often. The subscriber’s list in the Odyssey is bound after the “General View.” The privilege leaf is tipped to the frontispiece in Volume I of the Odyssey. Brueggemann, 25-26. Lowndes, 1100. Griffith 42, 50, 78, 96, 115, 119, 151, 155, 159, 166, 170.
Paper repair to title page in Volume I of the Odyssey, affecting text. Plates and map fine, text generally quite clean, with very little foxing. A very beautiful copy.