London: Ric. Everingham, for R. Bently at the Post-house in Russel-Street, in Covent-Garden, 1694. Quarto, measuring 7.75 x 6.25 inches: , 129, , 248. Contemporary calf, sympathetically rebacked, raised bands, spine compartments decorated and lettered in gilt. Pencil note to front pastedown: “Dr. Bliss’s copy, also Kemble’s copy,” ink note to front free endpaper: “Sale at Sothebys.” Bookplate to front pastedown. Occasional stray mark to text, expert restoration to binding.
First edition of Thomas Pope Blount’s diverting crowd-sourced guide to poetry: the genres, the terms, the controversies, the names to know. More a reader than a writer, Blount was known as a synthesizer of other people’s observations, and the “remarks upon poetry” offered here are almost entirely those of his contemporaries: John Dryden, René Rapin, Thomas Rymer, Nicolas Boileau, and the Earl of Rochester, among others. Most of the volume is devoted to opinions on more than sixty important poets, from ancient Greece to the English Restoration, a brisk survey of literary tastemaking at the close of the seventeenth century. A note in this volume identifies it as “Dr. Bliss’s copy, also Kemble’s copy.” English actor John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), known for his tragic Shakespearean roles, was a serious book collector. In 1798, Thomas Mathias wrote: “his fondness for obsolete books has obtained him, among the book auction cognoscenti, the name of Black Letter Jack.” De Re Poetica appears as lot 170 in the 1821 auction of Kemble’s books, an event that lasted ten days, best remembered for the sale of Kemble’s First Folio to the son of James Boswell for £112 (Evans, A Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Miscellaneous Library . . . of John Philip Kemble, Esq). Philip Bliss (1787-1857) was an Oxford librarian and bibliographer who corresponded with Kemble; the bookplate is that of Shakespeare scholar H.B. Charlton (1890-1961). Wing B3347. A very good copy, with compelling provenance.