A Fine Copy of the Ogilby Odyssey. With 24 full-paged Engraved Illustrations

Homer; Ogilby, John (1600-1676), translator

Homer His Odysses Translated, Adorn'd with Sculpture, and Illustrated with Annotations, by John Ogilby, Esq; Master of His Majesties Revells in the Kingdom of Ireland.

London: Printed by Thomas Roycroft, for the Author, 1665


Large Folio: 40 x 26 cm. π2 +1 (printed title page, privilege, dedication), A-C2, D-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa1 (lacking final blank Aaa2). With an added engraved frontispiece (signed “Abr. Van Diepenbeck Inv.”), a full-paged engraved portrait of John Ogilby (by William Faithorne after the portrait by Peter Lely), full-paged engraved portrait of James Duke of Ormond (found only in a few copies), and 24 full-paged engraved plates, three of which are signed by Diepenbeeck. The engravers are Loggan, Willems, Hertoch, Caukercken, and Meyssens. The book was published by subscription.

FIRST EDITION of John Ogilby’s translation of Homer’s “Odyssey”.

A fine, large copy, containing all of the elements called for in Schuchard’s bibliography, including the rare portrait of James Duke of Ormond. This copy is bound in contemporary paneled calf, rebacked with a richly tooled spine.

“John Ogilby studied the heroic epics, translated them faithfully, and included the numerous scholarly marginalia necessary to make his work respectable. But he had been an actor and impresario before becoming a translator and he retained an interest in the depiction of a scene as well as a sense of line and design. His emphasis on picture or illustration was unusually lavish for his time. Numerous engravings (‘sculps’) decorated all his volumes except for the first, and were prominently noted on their title pages. Furthermore, he paid constant attention to obtaining fine paper, to using clear and harmonious typefaces and to the employment of wide margins and running heads… He used expert artists and engravers… First through association with famous printers, then by obtaining a license for his own press, Ogilby contributed to the art of fine book making in England, a country that then lagged behind the continent in this craft. He created or at least helped to develop a taste for such volumes among the upper classes, who were now steadily expanding their libraries.”(Katherine S. Van Eerde, “John Ogilby and the taste of his times”, pp. 11-12)

“Ogilby printed many splendid books, mostly in folio; several were illustrated, or, as he expressed it, ‘adorned with sculpture’ by Hollar and other eminent engravers. On May 25, 1665, the king, on his petition, issued a proclamation forbidding anyone for fifteen years to reprint or to ‘counterfeit the sculpture in them’. To facilitate the sale of them, Ogilby established about 1664, under royal patronage, a lottery in which all the prizes were books of his own editing and printing or publishing. The plague and the great fire of London greatly interfered with the working of this scheme and he subsequently opened a new “standing lottery”… Pepys, who collected Ogilby’s publications, relates his success in this lottery (Diary, ed. 1849, iii 159)… Of his translation of Homer, the ‘Iliad’ appeared in 1660, and the ‘Odyssey’ in 1665, both on imperial paper, and with plates by Hollar and others. According to Spence (Anecdotes p. 276) it was this illustrated edition that first allured Pope to read the Iliad when he was a boy at school. Though Pope sneered at Ogilby, he did not disdain to borrow from his translation of Homer” (DNB)

Schuchard, “A Descriptive Bibliography of The Works of John Ogilby and William Morgan”, No. 12, pp. 50-1; Wing H 2554