The Vision; or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.
Translated by the Rev. Henry Francis Cary. In three volumes. The second edition corrected. With the life of Dante, additional notes, and an index.printed for Taylor and Hessey, London , 1819 Stock Code: 139502
NotesSecond and best edition of one of the most important translations of Dante of the Romantic era, following the very scarce first edition which appeared in 1814 in such a diminutive format that it was barely legible.
"In January 1797 Cary began his translation of Dante's Divina commedia into blank verse. He started with the Purgatorio in 1797-8, but in 1800 he turned his attention to the Inferno, and it was this part which was published first, in 1805-6, accompanied by the Italian text. Sales were small, but Cary continued, and his translation of the complete Divine Comedy was completed in 1812 Cary was not adept at self-promotion, and his translation initially attracted little attention Then in October 1817 he made the acquaintance by chance of Coleridge at Littlehampton, and the praise which Coleridge gave to Cary's Dante in a lecture early in 1818 (reinforced by a favourable article by Ugo Foscolo in the Edinburgh Review) led to the sale of 1,000 copies of the collected edition in less than three months, and the publication of a second edition in 1819... This work is his chief claim to fame, and it remained a standard text well into the twentieth century, despite the fact that the number of translators of the work between 1782 and 1966 amounted to eighty-four. Cary's version was admired by Wordsworth, Keats, Lamb, Coleridge, Macaulay, and Ruskin, and in 1966 the author of a work on translations of the Divina commedia wrote 'Cary's version still holds its place as a minor classic, thanks to the fact that its author was a competent versifier with some poetic perception' G. F. Cunningham, The 'Divine comedy' in English: a critical bibliography, 2 vols. (1965-6)" (ODNB).
This copy has the large illustrated bookplate of Glasgow magnate John Stewart Templeton to the front pastedowns, showing Knockderry Castle on the shore of Loch Long in Argyll & Bute. The binder preserved the half-titles and also the publisher's advertisements (listing, incidentally, Keats's Endymion, and the debut collection of John Clare, styled "a Lincolnshire peasant" and the book titled "Poems, Chiefly Pastoral" where it would instead be published in 1820 as Poems, Chiefly Rural). The first blank in volume one has an ink inscription, in an earlier hand, quoting Byron: "Shelley always says that reading Dante is unfavourable to writing, for its superiority to all possible composition. Whether he be the first or not, he is certainly the most untranslatable of all Poets. You may give the meaning; but the charm, the simplicity - the classical simplicity, - is lost. You might as well clothe a statue, as attempt to translate Dante. He is better, as an Italian said, 'nudo che vestiti'. Byron".
2 volumes, octavo (215 x 130 mm). Bound c.1900 for Kerr & Richardson Ltd of Glasgow in deep purple half morocco, spines gilt in compartments with raised bands and titles direct, pebbled-grained light purple cloth to sides with double gilt rule, marbled endpapers and edges.
Bound with half-titles in each volume, and 6 pp. publisher's advertisements at the rear of vol. 3.
Spines evenly sunned, some very minor scuffs, a little foxing to early and late leave, a sound and respectable set, very good condition overall.
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