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‘THE MOST ELEGANT OF ENGLISH EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BOOKS’

HORACE. John PINE (1690–1756), engraver

Quinti Horatii Flacci Opera

London: Aeneis tabulis incidit Iohannes Pine, 1733–37
2 volumes, printed entirely from engraved plates, each plate producing a double page spread, printed recto and verso and signed in 2s. Vol. I: pp. [32] 176 [2] 177–264 [2] (last page blank); vol II pp. [24] 48 [2] 49–94 [2] 95–152 [2] 153–172 [2] 173–191 [1 blank] 14 (last page blank). List of illustrations on 13 unnumbered pages at the end.
Condition: 222 x 133mm. Light foxing in vol. I, faint discolouration and a little light offsetting.
Binding: Crimson morocco, tripple gilt filet borders to sides, gilt spine with raised bands and contrasting lettering pieces, marbled endleaves, green silk markers, gilt edges. Slight rubbing, corners worn.
First (only) edition engraved by Pine, second state of vol. II p. 108 with the inscription on the medal of Augustus Caesar ‘potest’ (corrected from ‘post.est’ in the first state).
Bibliography: ESTC T46226.
£1,600

‘Pine’s Horace’ is perhaps the most famous engraved book, though hardly representative of the genre. Celebrated as ‘the most elegant of English eighteenth-century books in which text and illustrations alike are entirely engraved’ (Ray p. 3) it owes much to French book design, and in turn affected British typography. And though printed entirely from engraved plates it is, paradoxically, a typographic book. The text was first set in type and a proof transferred to the copper plates to be engraved letter by letter, the headpieces, decorated initials, tailpieces and full page illustrations then engraved on the same plates. ‘The brilliancy of this engraved roman text struck a new note, and thus Pine’s Horace may have had a good deal to do with the taste for more “finished” types which waxed as the century waned.’ (Updike II, p. 138.) In this sense, Pine paved the way for Baskerville and Bodoni and, like them, he generously spaced his lines. In his address to the reader, Pine draws attention not only to the brightness (nitore) of his letters but also to the fact that unlike movable type there is no chance of errors being introduced during printing.
A prospectus was issued on 24 February 1731, with a list of subscribers and 67 plates, before the addition of the signature letters (ESTC N39784). The list of subscribers in the first volume, supplemented by that in volume II, brings the total to well over 1000 names, with separate sections for many European countries or capital cities. This must be one of the longest subscription lists in any eighteenth-century book.
As very much a deluxe edition, the book was often bound in elaborate bespoke bindings; this copy however is in a relatively restrained English binding of the period and has no marks of provenance. This is probably a trade binding in which the book was sold over the counter ready bound.
Literature: Gordon Norton Ray, The illustrator and the book in England from 1790 to 1914 (1976); Daniel Berkeley Updike, Printing types, their history, forms and use(3rd edition, 1962).
Keywords:     engraved book    classics