Pall-Mall, London: Pr. at Strawberry-Hill for R. and J. Dodsley, 1757. Fine Binding. 4to (8.8 in, 22.4 cm). [30 blanks] 22  ; illus.
First thus: First issue (p.8 line 19: "Ilissus," p.16 line 20: "Swarm,") of the first book to be printed by the famous private press established by Horace Walpole at his villa Strawberry Hill in 1757. Walpole describes Gray's two Odes as "the first-fruits of my press" and was delighted to be off to an honorable start. The printer was William Robinson. Strawberry Hill operated for 32 years as almost the only private press of importance in 18th-century England. Provenance: Front pastedown with small calligraphic bookplate of Norman J. Sondheim, American collector of major fine English presses.
ESTC T42023. NCBEL 579. Northup 180. Lowndes p. 931. Cave pp. 31-34. Riviere & Son crimson crushed levant morocco, gilt-titled and dated spine with gilt-decorated compartments, triple-ruled borders to covers, double-ruled cover edges with wide turn-ins. Binding signed in lower edge of front turn-in. Top edge gilt. All gilt bright. Vignette on title-page and extra-illustrated throughout with thirteen late 18th- and early 19th-century engravings of portraits and two views. There is an opening portrait over a biography of Thomas Gray as well as an article discussing the merits of Gray's Odes, both incorporated into their respective pages. A facsimile Autograph Deed of Assignment in Thomas Gray's writing with an actual clipped reference to its value are tipped-in, as are the other engravings. Marbled endpapers. Minimal marginalia neatly scripted in Greek then Latin on pp. 7, 14, and 15 of Odes. Expected light offset of turn-ins onto endpapers, engravings onto paper guards, and title-page vignette onto back of half-title. Back of front free endpaper with subtle residual blank paper of bookplate, two rear engravings with patina of pale foxing. The original Strawberry Hill Odes by Thomas Gray is well-preserved in the middle of the book. A stunning production remarkably well-preserved, tight, square, and clean. Near fine. Item #867