A Fine Large-Paper Copy of the First Edition

Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (70-19 B.C.); Dryden, John (1631-1700)

THE WORKS OF VIRGIL: Containing His PASTORALS , GEORGICS, AND ÆNEIS. Translated into English Verse; By Mr. Dryden. Adorn’d with a Hundred Sculptures.

London: Printed for Jacob Tonson 1697


Folio: 44.6 x 28.7 cm. [ ]2, A2, *4, **4, ***2, ****2, *****2, †2, ††2 x1, B-G4, [¶]4, [¶¶]2, H-T4, U2; (a)-(f)4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Zzz4, Aaaa-Ffff4, Gggg2, Hhhh-Iiii4, Kkkk2.


An exceptional, and exceptionally large, “large paper” copy. This copy is complete with the engraved frontispiece, the extra plate depicting Vergil reading the Aeneid to Augustus, and all 101 of the magnificent engraved plates by W. Hollar called for in this edition: ten in the Bucolics, twenty in the Georgics, and seventy-one in the Aeneid. Bound in 17th-century paneled calf, very nicely rebacked in the 18th-century. The spine is separated into eight compartments, ruled and tooled in gold, by raised bands. There are two spine labels, one in red and one in green morocco, tooled in gold. The boards are framed by a single gold fillet. Internally, this copy is in superb condition with very little of the browning associated with this edition. The great majority of leaves are crisp, lily-white and wide margined. In fact, this is the largest, and cleanest copy that we have had the pleasure to handle. There are a few incidental marginal tears, only one of which –now mended- enters an engraving (opposite p. 261.) The final leaf is ink-stained.

“Dryden’s translation of Vergil” says Pope, (whose own translation of Homer was inspired by Dryden’s work) “is the most noble and spirited translation I know in any language.”

“The book was published by subscription, a system of joint-stock patronage now coming into vogue. Dryden’s correspondence with [his publisher] Tonson showed a good many bickerings during the publication. One cause of quarrel was Tonson’s desire that the book should be dedicated to William III. Dryden honourably refused; but Tonson had the engravings adapted for the purpose by giving to Aeneas the hooked nose of William (Dryden, Letter to his son, 3 Sept. 1697).” (DNB)

“Shakespeare probably knew at least the earlier books of the ‘Aeneid’ in Latin, while Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ attempts to provide an English equivalent not only for Vergil’s epic themes but even for his syntax, diction, and as far as possible, meter. But in Britain he was also particularly well-served by translations. In the seventeenth-century the epic was translated by Dryden.” (Gian Biagio Conte’s “Latin Literature, A History”)

Wing V-616; Macdonald 33A; Wither to Prior #325; Malone I.1.313; See John Barnard “The Large- and Small-Paper Copies of Dryden’s The Works of Virgil (1697)” in “Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America” {Columbia, SC} 92, no. 3 (1998 Sept): p. 259-71.