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PERCY, Thomas.

Reliques of Ancient English Poetry:

Consisting of Old Heroic Ballads, Songs, and other Pieces of our earlier Poets, (Chiefly of the Lyric kind.) [Together with] EVANS, Thomas. Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative. London: T. Evans, 1777.

Published: London: for J. Dodsley, 1765

Stock code: 73915

Price: £1,500

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First editions. The dedication, though signed by Percy, was written by Samuel Johnson. Johnson had in fact offered to do much more, but the task of helping Percy select and annotate the material fell instead to Shenstone. “Most of Percy’s contemporaries welcomed the Reliques as a powerful blast of fresh air. ‘Poetry has been absolutely redeemed by it’, wrote Wordsworth (‘Essay supplementary to the preface’, Lyrical Ballads, 1815, 3, 75). Several generations of poets felt its influence: Blake, Coleridge, Keats, Rossetti, Morris, Swinburne, and many lesser lights. Scott, both as novelist and ballad-editor, owed a debt to the book, as did figures such as Bürger, Herder, and the Grimm brothers in Germany, and by extension European Romanticism in general” (ODNB).

5 volumes, foolscap octavo (180 115 mm). Contemporary streaked calf, spines gilt in compartments with flower and star tools, red and green morocco labels, marbled endpapers, single-line rules and cornerpieces gilt. Half-titles in Vols. II and III (all issued); errata at end of Vol. III, advert and notice to the binder not bound in. Engraved frontispiece by C. Grignion after S. Wale, engraved leaf of music at end of Vol. II, title, head- and tail-vignettes. Bookplate to verso of each title page. Some joints starting, head of spine to volume V a little scuffed, occasional light spots but contents generally clean and fresh. An excellent set.

Bibliography: Courtney & Smith, p. 111; Grolier English 45; Rothschild 1521; Tinker 1662.

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