Pall-Mall, London: Pr. at Strawberry-Hill for R. and J. Dodsley, 1757. Fine Binding. 8vo (8.8 in, 22.9 cm). [15 blank leaves] 21 [1 blank leaf] [4 blank leaves] [1 blank leaf]; illus.
First edition: Unique extra-illustrated first issue (with "Ilissus" at 8:19 and a comma after "Swarm" at 16:20) to be printed by the famous private press established by Horace Walpole at his villa Strawberry Hill in 1757. Walpole describes Gray's Odes as "the first-fruits of my press" and was delighted to be off to an honorable start. Strawberry Hill operated for 32 years as practically 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 931. Cave 31-34. Riviere & Son crimson crushed levant morocco; five gilt-ruled raised bands with six gilt-titled, dated, and decorated compartments; covers with triple-ruled borders, double edge-rolled with wide turn-ins. Binding signed on 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 hand 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 verso of half-title. Verso 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, and clean. Near fine. Item #867