The British Poets
Edinburgh: A. Kincaid, W. Creech and J. Balfour, 1773-1776. 44 volumes, small 8vo. (5 7/8 x 3 5/8 inches). Vol. 44 without the general title, as issued.
Contemporary red morocco, flat spines gilt with green morocco labels, marbled endpapers, gilt edges
Provenance: Augustus Phipps (armorial bookplate); Maria Thellusson Phipps (contemporary note inserted in front of vol. 1); Robert Tyndall Hamilton Bruce (gilt stamp on each cover)
Creech & Balfour's celebrated British Poets: a lovely set in a decorative 18th century binding.
Among the earliest uniform editions of various authors' works and an important contribution to the creation of the canon of English literature. "From the outset, Creech and Balfour saw The British Poets as a vital national enterprise ... The publishers solicited advice from Hugh Blair, Professor of Rhetoric and Belle Lettres at the University of Edinburgh" (Bonnell). Blair would write to Creech following publication that "he does believe [the set to be] the most Elegant Edition of any, and shall not fail to recommend it, and avow his having had a hand in the Selection." The first volume contains Milton's Paradise Lost and the final volume the verses of James Beattie of Aberdeen.
For a detailed look at the tortuous publication history of this work, see chapter three of Bonnell. The set is scarce complete in all forty-four volumes in such a lovely contemporary binding.
NCBEL II, 435; cf. Thomas F. Bonnell, The Most Disreputable Trade: Publishing the Classics of English Poetry 1765-1810 (Oxford University Press, 2008).