Reliques of Ancient English Poetry:
Consisting of Old Heroic Ballads, Songs, and other Pieces of our earlier Poets. Together with some few of a later Date.
First published 1765, this a lovely set of the third edition in which Percy “corrected such Mistakes as he had detected … [and] also inserted such further Illustrations as had either occurred to himself, or been communicated to him” (Advertisement to the Third Edition). 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).
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3 volumes, foolscap octavo (172 107 mm) Slightly later dark blue straight-grained morocco, titles direct to the spines, flat bands with narrow rope-twist roll, small tool of overlapping dotted circles and quatrefoils to the first and fifth compartments, rolled panel of overlapped alternate dotted and solid circles within a panel of a broad and narrow fillet, dotted edge-tooling to the corners, all edges gilt, narrow foliate roll to the turn-ins, light buff endpapers. Engraved frontispiece to volume I, also an uncalled for engraved author portrait tipped in before the preface, emblematic title-page vignettes to all, each volume with two illustrative section heads, and a similar tail-piece, one page of musical notation. Very light shelf-wear, light browning, occasional foxing, particularly in volume III, an extremely pretty Regency binding in excellent, unrestored state.