Bath: Printed by Richard Cruttwell, St. James's-Street, Bath; and Sold by Cadell and Davies, Strand, Hatchard, Piccadilly, London; and S. Cheyne, Edinburgh, 1810. Two octavo volumes, uniformly bound in full contemporary tree calf, spines decorated and lettered in gilt. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Smith in Fragments; single page of publisher’s advertisements at rear of each volume. Contemporary female ownership signature in Book of Job; presentation inscription in the same hand in Fragments. Frontispiece lightly foxed, lightest shelfwear to bindings.
Second edition of this notable English translation of the Book of Job, first published earlier that year, by the self-taught linguist Elizabeth Smith (1776-1806). As a young child, Smith’s prodigious reading raised fears that “such close application might injure her health.” By her early teens, she was conversant in French, Italian, German and Spanish, and soon turned her attention to the comparative study of ancient languages, including Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew. Smith’s gift for languages is reflected in her pioneering treatment of Job, the first complete English translation of that text produced by a woman. Relying on the popular Hebrew grammar of John Parkhurst, Smith reimagines the Old Testament tale of loss and endurance in a direct lyrical mode: “My days are swifter than a shuttle, / They are finished for want of thread.” The Book of Job is accompanied by an early edition of Smith’s miscellaneous writings, Fragments, first published in 1808, in which she recommends the work of translation to all her readers: “The study of languages . . . gives a much higher relish for the beauties of our own language, by enabling us to feel the force of every expression, which a common reader passes over without observation.” Although offered for sale separately by the publisher, this first volume of Fragments was part of a two-volume set; the second volume, Smith’s translation of the memoirs of Frederick and Margaret Klopstock from the German, is not present. Handsomely bound early editions, in near-fine condition.