Homer’s Odyssey, translated by Alexander Pope, in two volumes. 

London, John Bell, 1774. 

Two vols, 8vo, pp. I: [4], 263, [1 (blank)], II: [4], 236; with half-titles; offsetting from turn-ins, half-titles a little dust-stained, occasional light thumbing; in contemporary sheep, spines gilt in compartments; worn, splits to spine and upper joint of vol. I, front board of vol. II detached, spine labels lost; contemporary ink ownership inscriptions ‘O Dickinson’ to front pastedown of both volumes, ink inscription ‘James Cogan / Islington / 1817’ to final page  and rear pastedown of vol. II.


US $566€524

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Homer’s Odyssey, translated by Alexander Pope, in two volumes. 

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First and only Bell edition of Pope’s Odyssey, extremely rare.  Pope’s immensely popular version of the Odyssey, penned in collaboration with William Broome and Elijah Fenton, was first published by Bernard Lintot in 1726.  The work brought Pope around £5600 in profits, and he would write in 1737 that it was ‘(thanks to Homer) … I live and thrive, / Indebted to no Prince or Peer alive’ (Epistle 2, ii.68–9, Poems, 4.169). 

Perhaps a precursor to his Poets of Great Britain series, this small-format edition was published by John Bell (1745–1831), one of the most successful booksellers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  He is credited with introducing ‘modern’ face into English printing (Knight, pp. 276-7) and with discarding the long ‘s’ in typography; according to Timperley, ‘few men have contributed more, by their industry and good taste, to the improvement of the graphic and typographic arts’ (Timperley, p. 916, quoted in ODNB).  The present work was an early venture, alongside Pope’s Iliad in the same year, and here the long ‘s’ survives unscathed; both the Odyssey and Iliad are notably absent from the four volumes of Pope in Bell’s Poets, by which time the long ‘s’ is lost. 

ESTC N69885, listing two copies only (Pennsylvania and Yale).  We find two further copies in the UK, one at Dundee (vol. I only) and the other preserved in an eighteenth-century Scottish working men’s subscription library, the Leadhills Miners’ Library in South Lanarkshire. 

See The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope IV (ed. Butt, 1939), Knight, Shadows of the Old Booksellers (1865), and Timperley, A Dictionary of Printers and Printing (1839). 

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