“STIMULATED AN EXTENSIVE REHABILITATION… OF ENGLISH BALLADRY”: EXCEPTIONAL FINELY BOUND FIRST EDITION OF BISHOP PERCY’S FOLIO MANUSCRIPT
PERCY, Thomas. Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript. London: N. Trübner and the editor, 1867-68. Four volumes. Large, thick quarto, early 20th-century full brown morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spines and covers, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut. $6000.
First edition of this important publication of the original folio manuscript that “stimulated an extensive rehabilitation of the repute of English balladry,” expertly edited by Hale and Furnivall, beautifully bound in full brown morocco-gilt.
Although Percy was already an accomplished bishop and writer, this work “was to immortalize him. For some time he had possessed an old folio manuscript containing copies, in an early 17th-century handwriting, of many old poems… He had found it one day ‘lying dirty on the floor in a bureau in the parlour’ of his friend Humphrey Pitt of Shifnall in Shropshire, ‘being used by the maids to light the fire,’ and had begged it of its careless owner. “Percy assembled enough ballads to make three volumes called Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). As an editor of ballads Percy had had more than one predecessor in the earlier 18th century; but… he had more success and influence than his predecessors. The volumes stimulated an extensive rehabilitation of the repute of English balladry” (Baugh et al., 1017). “The book made an epoch in the history of English literature. It promoted with lasting effect the revival of interest in our older poetry” (DNB). “Percy’s magnum opus [was] of tremendous importance to antiquaries and poets alike… his rediscovery of older English poetry was destined to inspire the poets of the Romantic revival in Germany as well as England” (Kunitz & Haycraft, 404-05). In 1868, Professor J.W. Hales and Dr. F.J. Furnivall edited the original folio from which Percy took the poetry and published it in three volumes; this is the first edition of that work, together with the extremely scarce fourth volume of songs also taken from the manuscript. Armorial bookplates, including those of famous antiquarian William Harrison. Occasional annotations.
Title page of Humorous Songs expertly cleaned, exceptionally bright text. A beautiful about-fine copy.