Antiquarian Booksellers Association
Unsworth's Booksellers
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

Author: Prior, Matthew:

Title: Poems on Several Occasions.

Publication: London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, and John Barber, 1718.

Description: Large Paper Copy (460 x 280mm). Folio, pp. [xlii], 506, [vi], including engraved frontispiece. Paper with Strasburg bend watermark (fleur-de-lys surmounting a shield), which generally denotes a subscriber's copy, as normal copies were issued with the London arms watermark.. Finely engraved title-page vignette, head-and tail-pieces, ornaments and initials. Occasional offsetting, a little light marginal foxing, some leaves a bit toned (e.g. 5F), ink stain to p.8 showing through to p.7 but not obscuring text. Contemporary Cambridge-style panelled calf, neatly rebacked, spine heavily gilt with raised bands and red morocco label, edges sprinkled red; corners, some edges and a scrape to lower board neatly repaired. Horizontal closed tear to headcap, lightly rubbed, inner hinges repaired, a few spots and smudges to endpapers and three dots of red sealing wax to each paste-down. A very handsome copy of the finest edition of this work. Early 18th-century Jacobean style armorial bookplate with arms of the Tryon family to front paste-down, with 'M.8.' pencilled beneath. Rowland Tryon Esq. and William Tryon Esq. both appear in the List of Subscribers. Rowland Tryon was a nephew of Sir Philip Warwick and inherited Frognal House in Bromley from him in 1691. Though his family were from working class origins, Rowland had made his fortune trading in the West Indies. He died in 1720 and left the house to his brother William, a wealthy City financier and philanthropist. To the title-page verso, bookplate of Sir Peter Thompson in the Chippendale style, with the motto 'Nil Conscire Sibi', signed Mynde. Thompson (16981770) was a successful merchant and enthusiatic book collector. 'Much of his posthumous claim to fame rests on his book collection which included the pioneering topographical works of William Borlase and William Stukeley, and many manuscripts and annotated works of contemporary antiquaries, particularly Joseph Ames and John Lewis. Books bearing his bookplate are to be found in several major libraries. He left his library to his namesake, Captain Peter Thompson of the Dorset militia, who was his godson and relative, and who kept the books packed up in boxes in the house until 1781. However, the collection remained intact until 1815 when it was sold by E. H. Evans.' (ODNB)

Having been questioned by a secret committee investigating corruption and treason in the Tory party in 1715, Prior found himself confined in the home of the serjeant-at-arms of the House of Commons for more than a year before being released 26th June 1716. Upon his release, his political career irretrievably over, he was in a desparate situation financially. 'To assist him, Bathurst and Lord Harley conceived the scheme of bringing out his poems in a subscription edition. Details of the plan were worked out at a meeting in January 1717, at which Bathurst, Harley, Prior, Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot, and Erasmus Lewis were present. Jacob Tonson, who was much experienced in subscription publication, was to be its publisher, and Alexander Pope, who had himself recently brought out his Iliad in a very successful subscription, would be a valuable adviser. When the volume finally appeared in mid-March 1719, it was a large, handsome folio, 1 foot across and 1 yard tall, 500 pages long, with a list of 1445 persons who had subscribed for 1786 books. The book reprinted and reordered all the poems from the 1709 edition of Poems on Several Occasions and added a number of poems written since that time, notably Solomon and Alma. Though he probably did not make as much money as is commonly cited (4000 guineas), Prior undeniably made a small fortune by this publication and found himself comfortably off for the rest of his life, independently wealthy and no longer dependent on repayments from a remiss and recalcitrant government.' (ODNB) The size of this volume, the largest issued, has often attracted comment. In his note to the 1905 edition of Poems on Several Occasions, its editor A.R. Waller writes: 'This folio was issued in three sizes [...] Of these eighteenth-century examples of large-paper issues Mr Austin Dobson remarks, "with the small copy of 1718 Johnson might have knocked down Osborne the bookseller; with the same work in its tallest form... Osborne the bookseller might have laid prostrate the 'Great Lexicographer' himself." Those who have seen the "greatest" copy will not doubt the truth of this statement. Desirous of being suitably equipped in the "Battle of the Books", I have used a medium copy measuring 16 3/8 ins. x 10 3/4 ins.' In imperial terms, the copy here measures 18 1/2 ins. x 11 3/4.

Bibliography: ESTC T75639; Foxon 641

Reference Number: [52035]

Price: £600

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