“THE WORKS OF PLATO MAY BE PROPERLY CONSIDERED THE SCRIPTURES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD”: FIRST EDITION SET OF THE FIRST COMPLETE WORKS OF PLATO TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH, HANDSOMELY BOUND
PLATO. The Works of Plato, viz. His Fifty-Five Dialogues, and Twelve Epistles, Translated from the Greek. London: Thomas Taylor (R. Wilks), 1804. Five volumes. Quarto, period-style full black straight-grain morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, marbled endpapers and edges. $18,000.
First edition of the first complete English translation of Plato’s works, prepared by the leading Platonist of his day, still considered unequaled. From the library and with the bookplates of Francis Currer, “England’s earliest female bibliophile” and close friend of Charlotte Brontë, who reportedly adopted the pseudonym of Currer Bell in honor of her. Handsomely bound.
“Amidst a great diversity, both of subject and treatment, [Plato’s] dialogues are pervaded by two dominant impulses: a love of truth and a passion for human improvement. While nowhere is a definite system laid down, it has been truly said that the germ of all ideas can be found in Plato” (PMM 27). Thomas Taylor was the leading English Platonist of his day: “In his knowledge of Plato… he has never been equaled by any Englishman, and he is still the most important disseminator of ancient philosophy in the history of English and American literature” (Axon, Thomas Taylor, 11). “The mystical neo-Pythagorean mathematics he esteemed the true science, which the Arabians and their European successors had corrupted; and he rejected the common opinion of an essential antagonism between the Platonic and Peripatetic philosophies… his frank avowal of philosophic polytheism created a strong feeling against him” (DNB). Taylor incorporated into his monumental translation nine dialogues as previously translated by Floyer Sydenham; the remainder he translated and fully annotated himself. “Thanks to the learning and industry of Messrs. Sydenham and Taylor, we have now the whole of the works of this wonderful philosopher brought within the reach of the English public, with a great variety of learned notes and instructive dissertations. The works of Plato may be properly considered the Scriptures of the ancient world” (Allibone, 2361). Bound with individual half titles; with engraved plate of diagrams (I). Lowndes, 1877. With armorial bookplates in Volume I and II of eminent bibliophile Frances Mary Richardson Currer, whose library was so renowned that she had been placed at “at the head of all female collectors in Europe” (Dibdin, Reminiscences). As “England’s earliest female bibliophile,” Currer inherited the sumptuous Richardson and Currer estates in the early 1800s, and continued to add to her exceptional library, which would ultimately number over 15,000 volumes, which were described by her cataloguer as “in the finest condition, and not a few of them in the richest and most tasteful bindings” (Dibdin). It is believed the pseudonym Charlotte Brontë, chose for her first book, Currer Bell, was in honor of her friend and neighbor Francis Currer.
Interior generally fresh with light scattered foxing, minor expert archival restoration to lower edge of diagram plate not affecting image. Beautifully bound.