London, South Kensington
25 November 2014
PURCELL, Henry (1659-1695). Orpheus Britannicus. A Collection of all the Choicest Songs for One, Two, and Three Voices. London: for Henry Playford, 1698-1702.
2 volumes in one, 2° (319 x 199 mm). Titles printed in red and black. Engraved frontispiece portrait by White after Closterman. (Some faint browning.) Near-contemporary speckled calf paneled in gilt and lettered on front cover ‘Willliam Denison’, gilt edges (rebacked retaining original gilt backstrip, minor repairs at corners). Provenance: Jo. ?Beas (flyleaf signature) – William Denison (possibly Principal of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, the Elder, 1745-55, succeeded by the Younger, 1755-86, or wealthy Leeds merchant of Ossington Hall, 1714-82; binding) – John R.B. Brett-Smith (his sale Sotheby's, 27 May 2004, lot 472).
FIRST EDITION. Prepared under the direction of Purcell's widow, this collection is the first attempt to gather together all of his songs. Among those printed here for the first time are ‘Hark! Hark! Each tree’ (from the Ode on St Cecilia’s Day, 1692, in full score) and ‘Music for a While’; ‘Ah Belinda’ is the earliest surviving, and only contemporary, source for the music of his opera Dido and Aeneas. Day & Murrie 166 & 200; RISM P 5979 & 5983; Wing P-4218.
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