17 June 2003
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
[GRAY, Thomas (1716-1771)]. An Elegy wrote in a Country Church Yard. London: for R. Dodsley, and sold by M. Cooper, 1751.
4o (230 x 176 mm). Title between woodcut rules with emblems of death, the upper rule repeated at head of poem. (The "F" and the second "i" of 'Finis' are, as often, punched through but present.) Modern blue morocco, by Zaehnsdorf (front cover detached). Provenance: Charles C. Auchincloss (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF GRAY'S MASTERPIECE, with the word "Yard" in title well impressed, "r" in the catchword "for" on B1 in perfect alignment, and line 4 of page 10 reading "Some hidden Spirit shall inquire thy fate" instead of "kindred Spirit" as in later editions. Begun in 1742, Gray's great meditative poem had circulated freely in manuscript after being finished in 1750. However, the threat of piracy led to it being rushed into print in no more than six days. It was published at sixpence on 15 February 1751, one day before its appearance in The Magazine of Magazines. Ashley II, p. 159; Grolier English 49; Hayward 173; Northup 492; Rothschild 1056; Stokes p. 27; Tinker 1165.
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