1700s Fables by Mr. Gay, 2 Volume, Engravings

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Language by English


Written by  John Gay


Volume 1 Published by printed in London, M DCC XXIX, published by J. Tonson and J. Watts, 1729.

Volume 2 Published by J & P Knapton and T Cox, printed at Ludgate-Street, London, under the Royal-Exchange, 1738. 

DESCRIPTION: Fables by Mr. Gay & Fables by the late Mr. Gay, with a Life of the Author, complete in 2-volumes, illustrated with elaborate engravings, 3rd edition Volume 1(1729) & 1st edition Volume 2 (1738).

One of the marvels of antiquarian English literature, this is a very rare, illustrated, 2-volume edition of the marvellous and delightfully worded fables by John Gay (30 June 1685 - 4 December 1732). “The first edition of Gay's Fables was published in two series, the first by Tonson and Watts in 1727 with illustrations after Gravelot, the second by J & P Knapton and T Cox, in 1738, with illustrations after J Wootton and W Kent. The work was very popular (and) editions were issued in quick succession.” (British Museum, 1871,0812.2719).

Volume 1 of this set is a 3rd edition, printed in London, M DCC XXIX, published by J. Tonson and J. Watts, with a dedication to His Highness William duke of Cumberland.

Volume 2, is a 1st edition, printed at Ludgate-Street, London, under the Royal-Exchange, and added to the complete collection, M DCC XXXVIII, published posthumously by J & P Knapton and T Cox. Volume 2 has an advertisement with a post-humous eulogy, dedicating the second volume from the Duke of Queensberry to the audience.

Calf leather bindings of both volumes with delightful line-work. Intricately woven, gold-gilt designs and tooling embellishes the long ago re-backed spines. Ex-libris bookplate of Charles D. Armstrong.

Both volumes are impressively illustrated with numerous detailed B & W engravings. An engraving is given for each fable. Volume 2 with full-length engravings. Both volumes with a title engraving, and Volume 2 also with an engraved frontispiece. Some of the earliest of these very rare & one-of-kind original engravings. 8vo. 


Good condition; both volumes were re-backed quite a long time ago, retaining the boards; contents are complete, the pages are clean and the plates are excellent; occasional foxing and no evidence of any major stains; the contemporary leather boards have moderate to heavy age & edge scuffing & bumped corners, as well as tenderness and cracking of the long ago re-backed board joints of both the volumes; a major stain (not affecting text) darkens the lower inside corner of the leather on the front covers of both volumes, as well as a smaller similar stain on the back cover of Volume 2; the leather of the back cover of volume 1 is without a stain, but the leather of the rebacked spine has major scuffs along the rear-most edge.


Total Length: (Vol. 1) viii, 194, (Vol. 2) v, 155