London: Printed for J. Brindley, 1751. Item #05070
First Birch Edition with Thirty-Two Magnificent Double-Page Copper Plates by William Kent
In a Stunning Mid Eighteenth Century Red Morocco Binding in Perfect Condition
"The Aim of Publishing The Faerie Queene was to
Fashion a Gentleman or Noble Person in Virtuous and Gentle Discipline"
SPENSER, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. With an exact Collation of the Two Original Editions, Published by Himself at London in Quarto; the Former containing the first Three Books printed in 1590, and the Latter the Six Books in 1596. To which are now added, A new Life of the Author, and also A Glossary. Adorn'd with thirty-two Copper-Plates, from the Original Drawings of the late W. Kent, Esq; Archtect and principal Painter to his Majesty. London: Printed for J. Brindley and S. Wright, 1751.
Edmund Spenser’s rich allegorical poem of fierce lady knights, monsters, duels, and Classical gods and goddesses handsomely illustrated by William Kent.
First Birch edition. Three quarto volumes (10 11/16 x 8 5/16 inches; 276 x 212 mm.). [iv, blank], , lxiii, [1, blank], [ii], [i]-xxxvii, [i, blank], 1-212, -453, [3, blank]; [ii, blank], , 1-450, [2, blank]; [ii, blank], , 1-440, [2, blank] pp. Thirty-two fine double-page copper-plates, all mounted on stubs, by William Kent. Numerous engraved vignette tail-pieces. There are 20 plates in the first volume, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third volume. Some light scattered foxing throughout - the most noticeable being on gatherings M & N (pp. 80-96) and plate number 4 (between pp. 30/31) in volume 1. Otherwise a spectacular and immaculate set.
Contemporary English full red goatskin, the covers gilt tooled with a dog-tooth roll border, enclosing an elaborate panel of six different thistle and flower tools. Spines with five raised bands, elaborately bordered and decorated in gilt in compartments. Two dark green morocco labels decoratively bordered and lettered in gilt. Elaborate gilt board edges, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. The binding, which is near immaculate, has been attributed as "possibly by John Brindley (1705-1758). The book was also published by John Brindley.
John BRINDLEY (before 1705-1758). Primarily a bookseller, also a publisher. Reproduction of his trade card in Heal Collection (Heal,17.17) advertises "John Brindley, Bookseller and Stationer at the King's Arms in New Bond Street. Bookbinder to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales: Sells books in all languages, variety of novels, plays &c. Also, all sorts of stationary wares, stampt paper, bonds, cards, shop & pocket books &c. Wholesale and retail. Likewise neatly binds books in all sorts of binding. Money for any library or parcel of books." (British Museum).
"Most of our knowledge of John Brindley comes from The Oldest London Bookshop by George Smith and Frank Benger, published in 1928. Brindley began as a bookbinder and although in 1728 he established the bookselling business in New Bond Street which was to gain further renown under the successive managements of Robson, Boone and Ellis, bookbinding remained one of the firm's activities until after his death. He held the appointment of bookbinder to Queen Caroline and to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and a number of presentation bindings to them on books published by Brindley are in King George III's library at the British Library. Comparison of these with other presentation bindings at Windsor, with Brindley books from the library of Mr. George Smith sold at Sotheby's on 22nd July 1959, and with sets of the duodecimo classics published by Brindley between 1744 and 1754, enables us to identify many of the tools used in his shop and some of this specialities. The most striking of these was a partiality to edge decoration and to gaily marbled and gilt edges on sets of the classics… Brindley also bound for the Harleian Library. There is only one reference to him in Humfrey Wanley's Diary, when he applied - apparently unsuccessfully - on 3 February 1719/20 to Wanley for some work, saying that 'his Lordship lately gave him a Book to Bind'. But after Wanley's death he was apparently more successful, and four bills of his survive for books supplied and books bound during the years 1733-8 among the Portland papers on deposit in the British Library". (Nixon. Five Centuries of English Bookbinding. London, 1978).
This is the first edition since 1609 to publish The Faerie Queene as a separate work.
It is a new collation of the first two editions with a new biographical sketch written by the editor Thomas Birch. Birch (1705-1766) was a compiler of histories, a biographer, and formidable antiquarian. A member of the Society of Antiquaries, and fellow of the Royal Society, he is known primarily for The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle (1744), Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (1754), Lives and Characters of Illustrious Persons (1747–52), and The History of the Royal Society of London (1756–7).
"Thomas Birch describes his intention as "the collecting of all the Facts relating to him [Spenser], dispers'd in different Books, and the examining, digesting, and supplying them by his own Works, not hitherto sufficiently made use of for that Purpose" (Life, vol 1, p. ii). He arranges the available material into a more shapely narrative than most, emphasizing Spenser's struggles for recognition and patronage more than his literary accomplishments. Birch believes that the concluding six books of the Faerie Queene were written and then lost" (English Poetry 1579-1830: Spencer and the Tradition).
"The Edition of the Fairy Queen now offer'd to the Public, it is hop'd, will be found to be a just Representation of the genuine Text, not hitherto given in any single Edition, but form'd from an exact Collation of the two original ones of the Author, compar'd in the three last Books with the first Folio printed at London in 1609, which has furnish'd Corrections of some Mistakes in the 4to of 1596. Nothing therefore now remains for the Honour of our Poet, and the Satisfaction of the Public, but that the Learned and Ingenious unite their Labours towards such a Commentary upon his admirable Poem, as Mr. JORTIN has oblig'd the World with a Specimen of his Remarks, printed in 1734" (from Birch's Life of Spenser, herein).
The superb double-page illustrations are by William Kent (1685-1748) an eminent English architect, landscape architect, painter and furniture designer of the early 18th century. He is important as an illustrator of the poem because he was the first designer to respond imaginatively to the possibilities of Spenser’s landscape and, as a result, had a major influence on later eighteenth-century taste. Spenser’s reputation as an English gothic poet owes much to Kent’s influence, but Kent was a sophisticated enough artist and reader of the poem to respond also to the Italianate elements in Spenser’s work, which strongly corresponded with his own interests. Kent introduced the Palladian style of architecture into England with the villa at Chiswick House, and also originated the 'natural' style of gardening known as the English landscape garden at Chiswick, Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, and Rousham House in Oxfordshire. He complemented his houses and gardens with stately furniture for major buildings including Hampton Court Palace, Chiswick House, Devonshire House and Rousham. His book designs show the results of his extensive travels, decorative sense, and the influence of picturesque landscape design which reached its height in the mid-eighteenth century.
The Faerie Queene is an English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I–III were first published in 1590, then republished in 1596 together with books IV–VI. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it is one of the longest poems in the English language; it is also the work in which Spenser invented the verse form known as the Spenserian stanza.On a literal level, the poem follows several knights as a means to examine different virtues, and though the text is primarily an allegorical work, it can be read on several levels of allegory, including as praise (or, later, criticism) of Queen Elizabeth I. In Spenser's "Letter of the Authors", he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in Allegorical devices", and that the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline".
Edmund Spenser [1552-1599] presented the first three books of The Faerie Queene to Elizabeth I in 1589, probably sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh. The poem was a clear effort to gain court favour, and as a reward Elizabeth granted Spenser a pension for life amounting to £50 a year, though there is no further evidence that Elizabeth I ever read any of the poem. This royal patronage elevated the poem to a level of success that made it Spenser's defining work.
Book I is centered on the virtue of holiness as embodied in the Redcrosse Knight; Book II is centered on the virtue of Temperance as embodied in Sir Guyon, who is tempted by the fleeing Archimago into nearly attacking the Redcrosse Knight; Book III is centered on the virtue of Chastity as embodied in Britomart, a lady knight. Book IV is largely a continuation of events begun in Book III; Book V is centered on the virtue of Justice as embodied in Sir Artegall; and Book VI is centered on the virtue of Courtesy as embodied in Sir Calidore. In addition to the six virtues Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy, the Letter to Raleigh suggests that Arthur represents the virtue of Magnificence, which ("according to Aristotle and the rest") is "the perfection of all the rest, and containeth in it them all"; and that the Faerie Queene herself represents Glory (hence her name, Gloriana). The unfinished seventh book (the Cantos of Mutability) appears to have represented the virtue of "constancy."
Graesse, p. 465; Lowndes, V, 2477; Allibone, 2203; ESTC T35152; Alston 3:93.