“STIMULATED AN EXTENSIVE REHABILITATION… OF ENGLISH BALLADRY”
PERCY, Thomas. Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript. London: N. Trübner, 1867-68. Four volumes bound as seven. Quarto (9 by 11 inches), contemporary full red morocco, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated boards and spines, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $4200.
First edition, one of 50 quarto copies printed for subscribers, 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 by Hodgson of Liverpool, with the bookplates of subscriber E.J. Stanley.
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, 404-405). 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. With the bookplates of Edward John Stanley, Baron Stanley of Alderley and first Baron Eddisbury, who is listed on the subscriber’s list as a recipient of one of 50 “demy-quarto” copies. Stanley was the grandfather of philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Interiors fine, only very light expert restoration to elaborate morocco-gilt bindings in a few volumes. A beautiful set.