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GRAY, Thomas (1716--1771)
[Designs by Mr. R. Bentley. 1775]
Designs by Mr. R. Bentley, for six poems by Mr. T. Gray.
London: printed for J. Dodsley, 1775.
[8] p., 35, [1] leaves, [2], 39--55, [1] p., [6] etch. pl. : etch. init., hd-pcs and tl-pcs ; 35.2 cm. (4°)

First published in 1753 for Horace Walpole (1717--1797), who contributed the brief 'Explanation of the Prints' at the end (see A.T. Hazen, A bibliography of Horace Walpole, 1948, no.42, p.113) and commissioned and paid for the printing of what was in effect the first collected edition of his old school friend's poems. The book's elaborately emblematic rococo-gothick illustrations so dominate - and to some degree parody - the poems however, that Gray insisted the illustrator's name should precede his on the title-page. Richard Bentley (1708--1782) was a member of the three-man 'Committee of Taste' formed by Walpole in 1751 to redesign and decorate his house at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. Walpole championed Bentley as an artist and designer who would surpass the achievements of Lord Burlington's 'proper priest' William Kent, allow Walpole to cast himself in the role of a new 'Apollo of the arts' and transform Strawberry Hill into the Gothic equivalent of Burlington's Palladian villa at Chiswick. His confidence in his protégé's abilities as an architect however was hugely misplaced, and it is only really as the illustrator of this edition of Gray's poems that Bentley is remembered today. Bentley's finished drawings for the illustrations (which were etched by professional London engravers J.S. Müller and Charles Grignion) are held by the Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Connecticut (see A.T. Hazen, A catalogue of Horace Walpole's Library (1969), vol. II, no. 3698). For a full study of their iconography see Loftus Jestin's The answer to the lyre: Richard Bentley's illustrations for Thomas Gray's poems (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990).

James Dodsley first reprinted the book in 1765 with three additional odes that had first appeared in 1757. One of these - 'The Bard' - is illustrated with a new tail-piece designed by Bentley; the other two are unillustrated. Further Dodsley reprints appeared in 1776, 1775 (this edition) and 1789 (q.v.). The 'Explanation of the Prints' is printed on un-numbered recto and verso pages preceding the poems; Gray's original six poems are printed on un-numbered recto pages only; the additional three 'Odes' are printed on recto and verso pages numbered 39--55. See A.T. Hazen, A bibliography of Horace Walpole, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948, no.42. ESTC t129266; Hooked on Books 7.1

Copy Notes Inscribed in pencil on front free-endpaper N-----1.1.0.

Binding Original C18th grey paper boards, later brown paper spine, original printed paper spine-label lettered in ink retained but fragmentary.

Reference Number 1683


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