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BASKERVILLE, John (printer).

The Book of Common Prayer,

and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, According to the Use of the Church of England: together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, Pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches.

Cambridge: Printed by John Baskerville, Printer to the University; by whom they are sold, and by B. Dod, London, 1761 Stock Code: 133632
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"As perfect as I can make it"

Second Baskerville edition (first published the previous year), this the preferred of two impressions, with the lozenge-and-star border framing each page; here in a particularly elegant binding, possibly executed by the leading German binder John Baumgarten.

John Baskerville (1706-1775) was the most significant English typographer of the 18th century, and the typeface that carries his name remains widely in use today. Baskerville took considerable care in every aspect of the design and production of his books, with the aim of creating a beautiful and accessible text. Opting for utility and clarity, he employed a clear and bold typeface without unnecessary flourish and ornamentation, a design choice which acted as a major influence on the course of book history. However, the projects to produce a prayer book and folio Bible "were far from remunerative. Baskerville paid the university 20 for every 1000 copies of the octavo prayer book. Moreover in granting him his title, which he had leave to use only on these two projects, the university did not restrict the output of their existing university printer, Joseph Bentham, who continued to print prayer books and a folio Bible with the Cambridge imprint" (ODNB). In what is still perhaps the best short introduction to Baskerville, Josiah H. Benton notes that the printer was at pains to ensure that the prayer book was "as perfect as I can make it" (Benton p. 32) his prayer books are certainly models of beauty, elegance and legibility. The very handsome binding may be a product of the workshop of John Baumgarten, a leading émigré German binder who employed both Walther and Kalthoeber. The column tool used on the spine is very close to that illustrated in Maggs, Bookbinding in the British Isles, on a Cambridge Bible of 1773 which they describe as being "in the style of John Baumgarten" (Catalogue 1212, Part II, Summer 1996, 152).

Provenance: attractive engraved armorial bookplate of John Symmons (1745-1831), "well connected in London society: he was a member of the Noblemen and Gentlemen's Catch Club, whose select membership included the Prince of Wales and a number of the royal dukes. He was also a cultivated man with a great passion for science, for the arts and for books. The breadth of his interests (and patronage) can be seen in the learned societies of which he was a member. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, a founder member of the Royal Institution and of the Linnean Society, and a member of numerous other societies including the Horticultural Society, the Literary Society and the Society of Antiquaries... His library comprised upwards of 30,000 volumes, including many rare and early printed books. He married four times, the last occasion being in 1828 at the age of 83. Towards the end of his life, Symmons went bankrupt, perhaps in part because of the generosity for which he was known, including to his younger brother Charles. In order to avoid imprisonment, John fled the country, and his book and art collections were auctioned in 1828. John resided in the Low Countries or northern France until his death in 1831" (University of Leeds, Special Collections, retrieved 23.05.19). The catalogue for the sale of his books by Phillips, Son & Neale at his home at Paddington House was entitled "Catalogue of the genuine, extensive and valuable library... in almost every language, principally well and handsomely bound, and of choice editions".

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Tall octavo (246 x 150 mm). Contemporary green morocco, smooth spine divided into seven compartments by a metope-and-pentaglyph roll, prettily and ornately tooled with baskets, urn, columns and foliate sprigs, red morocco label, sides with metope-and-pentaglyph border enclosing a broad frame of alternating urns and vases (the latter within a spray of weeping willow), cornerpieces of neoclassical ovals within a foliate border suspended by a trefoil ribbon, gilt edge roll of alternating thick-and-thin bands, gilt turn-ins with pretty trailing foliate roll, gilt edges, "Antique Spot" marbled endpapers.


Printed in double columns within lozenge-and-star borders.


Early 19th century annotations at P2v, y4v, and Z2r, "Read always by Geo. H. Phillips". Very light rubbing at extremities and very minor markings to covers, sporadic faint foxing but generally clean internally. A lovely copy, in a particularly well-preserved binding.


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