"THEY ARE GREEK, THEY ARE PINDARIC, THEY ARE SUBLIME!": THE KIRGATE FORGERY OF GRAY'S ODES, CIRCA 1797
(WALPOLE, Horace) GRAY, Thomas. Odes. London: Printed at Strawberry-Hill (Horace Walpole), 1757 [i.e. (Thomas Kirgate, circa 1797)]. Slim quarto, late 19th-century full green straight-grain morocco gilt, raised bands, red paper doublures, all edges gilt. $700.
Original forgery of Gray's Odes, printed around 1797 by Thomas Kirgate at Walpole's famous Strawberry Hill Press. An exceptionally fine large copy, with two authentic impressions of Johann Sebastian Müller's portrait of Gray, after John Giles Eccardt (one cropped).
Gray's close friend Horace Walpole was most likely the first outsider to read the poet's famous Elegy (1751), and it was Walpole whose help Gray enlisted in getting the Elegy published. Gray's Odes (1757) was the first publication from Walpole's own press, Strawberry Hill, one of 2,000 copies, printed on thin paper. Walpole recounted, "I found Gray in town last week; he had brought his two Odes to be printed. I snatched them out of Dodsley's hands, and they are to be the first-fruits of my press." Shortly after publication Walpole boasted, "A very honorable opening of my press— two amazing Odes of Mr. Gray; they are Greek, they are Pindaric, they are sublime!" The Odes was printed by Strawberry Hill's first printer, William Robinson, who left Walpole's employ two years later. After several failures in finding a suitable replacement for Robinson, "[i]n 1765, the printer Thomas Kirgate took charge of the press, printing books and occasional pieces. Walpole died in 1797, but Kirgate remained until the following October. During this period he reprinted, in exact facsimile, a number of the earlier products of the Press, now out of print, which he sold as original. The credit for exposing and dating them, by careful analysis of paper, typography and provenance, to the period after Walpole's death is due to the late A.T. Hazen" (Jones, Fake? The Art of Deception, 1990, p. 154-155). This is the Kirgate forgery of Gray's Odes, printed around 1797 on thick paper watermarked "J. Hoonig & Zoonen," with "Illissus" for "Ilissus" on page 8, line 17, and no comma after "Swarm" on page 16, line 19. Rothschild 1070. Bookplates of T. Farmer Baily and Charles B. Foote, the latter a notable collector of literary first editions, whose collection brought record prices at auction in 1894.
A fine copy, with only a few faded ink spots to front cover.