• Fine Printed Books and Manuscr auction at Christies

    Sale 2227

    Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 7

    BURNS, Robert (1759-1796). Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Kilmarnock: Printed by John Wilson 1786.

    Price Realised  


    BURNS, Robert (1759-1796). Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Kilmarnock: Printed by John Wilson 1786.

    8o (196 x 122 mm.) Mid-nineteenth-century polished forest green calf, covers sparingly paneled, spine gilt in six compartments, gilt-lettered in one, gilt edges and inner denteles, stamp signed by the binder Andrew Grieve of Edinburgh on front pastedown (raised bands and top and base of spine very slightly rubbed, otherwise in very fine condition); chemise and dark green morocco pull-off case. Provenance: Gilbert Burns, brother of the poet, with a thin strip of paper bearing the inscription "GBurns, Knockmaroon Lodge, near Dublin," pasted to 2pp., laid in.

    FIRST EDITION OF BURNS'S FIRST BOOK, one of 612 copies printed. AN IMPORTANT ASSOCIATION COPY, evidently owned by the poet's brother, Gilbert, and containing a bound-in manuscript of Dr. Hugh Blair, Burns's Edinburgh friend, entitled "Observations on Mr. Burns's Poems" (3 pages, 12o). For the preparation of a second collection, Blair has compiled a list of seven suggested revisions, each with a page reference and a frank explanation of his reasoning in making the emendations. Following those specific points, he adds more general comments, naming poems he would like to see added to a new edition and identifying poems he believes unsuitable for publication: "Of the proposed additions to the New Edition some are very good. The best, I think, are - "John Barleycorn" - "Death & Dr, Hornbook" - "The Winter Night" - the verses left in a friend's house where the Author slept. There are a few which in my opinion ought not to be published. The two stanzas to the tune of "Gilliecrankie", which refer to the death of Zimir and Cozbi as related in the book of Numbers, are beyond doubt quite inadmissible. The Verses entitled "The Prophet" and "God's Complaint", from the 15th Ch. of Jeremiah, are also inadmissible. They would be considered burlesquing the Scriptures. The Whole of what is called the Cantata, the Song of the Beggars and their Doxies with the Grace at the end of them, are altogether unfit in my opinion for publication. They are by much too licentious; and fall below the dignity which Mr Burns possesses in the rest of his poems & would rather degrade them." Finally, Blair reassures Burns that "These observations are Submitted by one who is a great friend to Mr Burn's Poems and wishes him to preserve the fame of Virtuous Sensibility, & of humorous fun, without offence." These criticisms were published, probably from the present manuscript, in 1932 in The Burns Chronicle. On page 4 of Blair's "Observations" are endorsements in Burns's hand: "Dr. Blair," and "Dr. Blair to be copied." Ashley 1: 141; Egerer 1; Grolier English 61; Rothschild 555.

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