POPE, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock. An heroi-comical poem. In five canto’s. London: Bernard Lintott, 1714.
8° (208 x 134mm; 8.1 x 5.3in). Title in red and black. Engraved frontispiece and 5 plates by Claude du Bosc after Louis de Guernier, engraved headpieces, tailpiece and initial letter by Simon Gribelin. (Spotting to text, occasional light soiling.) Contemporary gilt-panelled calf, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (rebacked, preserving old spine decorations, light scuff marks to covers); quarter red morocco slipcase by James Mcdonald. Provenance: Samuel Rolle June 15, 1714 (first owner’s inscription on front blank); E. Hubert Litchfield (19th-century armorial bookplate); Rex V. Clements (bookplate); Rosenbach (typed description on loosely inserted label, with manuscript collation and note of purchase on verso: “May 1964 450.00 Fleming ….”).
FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE FIVE CANTO VERSION, PROUDLY BARING THE AUTHOR'S NAME, AND POSSIBLY HIS GREATEST SINGLE ACHIEVEMENT, now just passed the tercentenary of its first publication on 4 March 1714. LARGE PAPER COPY with “Th’” catchword on page 8. Pope, who was paid £15 by Lintott for the additions enlarging his mock epic from two cantos, expressed particular satisfaction over his introduction of “the machinery” of sylphs and gnomes (see the dedicatory letter to Arabella Fermor). Also new to the poem are the coming of the epic hero feminised into a make-up session (canto I); the epic voyage as a boat trip on the Thames (canto II); heroic sports reduced to a titillating and sexually aggressive game of ombre (Canto III); and the Cave of Spleen which manifests the psychological consequences of female repression (canto IV). This “was much the most successful of Pope’s early poems” says Foxon who calculates that the first three editions totalled more than 6000 copies, “surprisingly large figures for verse”. According to Pope’s correspondence 3000 copies were sold in the first four days alone, and by only 1715 this great comic poem had reached its “fourth” edition. Foxon, in Pope and the Eighteenth-Century Book Trade (42-43), notes that this was probably the first use of the engraved headpieces, tailpiece and initial letter, hitherto reserved for pompous folios, in an octavo book of English verse. Above all it is the text, so often quoted, which makes its first appearance such AN EPOCH-MAKING EVENT IN LITERARY HISTORY. Large paper copies were advertised as being “printed to order only.” Foxon P942; Griffith 30; Halsband 1-23; Rothschild 1570.