Acquisitions at the Pirie Sale

PRINTED BOOKS ACQUIRED AT THE PIRIE SALE

Stephen Ferguson
Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections

“I’d never intended to practice law,” said Robert S. Pirie (1934–2015), a prominent New York lawyer and investment banker. “I wanted to become the rare book curator.” Pirie was the youngest in a cohort of twentieth-century American collectors of early English literature, among whom Robert H. Taylor (1909–1985) was the oldest. Long-time Princeton resident and major antiquarian bookseller John Brett-Smith (1917–2003), although British-born, was also a member of this cohort. There were many commonalities among the three. All had a bond and loyalty to the legendary New York antiquarian bookshop Seven Gables, which supplied each of them with tasteful, distinguished, and provenance-rich copies of major and minor monuments of England’s literary greats. (For more on the Seven Gables cohort, see Nicolas Barker, “Robert S. Pirie, 1934–2015,” The Book Collector 64.2 [Summer 2015]: 202–10.) Furthermore, their collective imagination and achievement projected their reputations beyond the Northeast and clear across to Britain. In some respects, the attainments of two members of this group are preserved in the Princeton University Library. Robert Taylor’s bequest is well known. Perhaps less well known is the work of John Brett-Smith, who, as bookseller and sometimes donor, augmented, supplied, and extended our collections of English literature. Therefore, when the Pirie collection came to auction in December 2015, we had another—and perhaps the last—opportunity to capture some of the glory of this remarkable group of twentieth-century collectors. Guiding our bidding decisions were themes already strong in the Taylor collection: annotated books, books of notable provenance, and extraordinary books signaling the literary taste of early modern England. The fifteen books purchased at the Pirie sale are listed below.

PIRIE

ANNOTATED BOOKS

Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Points of Husbandry (London, 1580); annotated by Gabriel Harvey (1552/3–1631).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War [in Greek] (Venice: Aldus, 1502), bound with Pausanias, Works (Venice: Aldus, 1516); annotated by Roger Ascham (1515–1568) and Richard Morison (c. 1514–1556) (pictured above).

Ben Jonson, Works (London, 1692), and John Suckling, Fragmenta Aurea (London, 1646); both annotated by Charles Lamb (1775–1834).

Pliny, Epistolae (Venice: Aldus, 1508); annotated by Nicholas Udall (1505–1556).

Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 4th ed. (London, 1658); annotated by Browne (1605–1682).

Matthias Eberhart, Scholastica (Wittenberg, 1572); annotated by Robert Burton (1577–1640).

Erycius Puteanus, Comus (Oxford, 1634); annotated by Leigh Hunt (1784–1859).

BOOKS OF NOTABLE PROVENANCE

Arthur Duck, Vita Henrici Chichele (Oxford, 1617); with the initials of Isaak Walton (1593–1683).

Michel Montaigne, Les Essais (Paris, 1625); with a note in the hand of Abraham Cowley (1618–1687) and bookplates of later notable owners.

Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum (London, 1626); with supralibros of H[enry] G[oodere] and labels of other owners.

Elkanah Settle, Thalia Triumphans (London, 1717); binding with the arms of Henry Fiennes Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln (1684–1728).

Abbe d’Aubignac, Pratique du théâtre (Paris, 1657); with the signature of William Congreve (1670–1729) on the title page.

William Burton, Description of Leicester Shire (London, 1622); binding with the crest of Robert Glascock.

A MARKER OF LITERARY TASTES

A Sammelband, in a contemporary binding, of eight English translations from Ovid, by George Chapman (1559?–1634), Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593), Thomas Heywood (c. 1574–1641), and others, all published between c. 1625 and 1640.

 

MANUSCRIPTS ACQUIRED AT THE PIRIE SALE

Don C. Skemer
Curator of Manuscripts

Pirie3The Manuscripts Division acquired three works at the Pirie auction: an Elizabethan prayer book c. 1580; a 1666 scribal copy of “The Second and Third Advice to a Painter,” a text that Professor of English Nigel Smith attributes to Andrew Marvell (1621–1678); and the 1660s memoir of an English woman named Mary Whitelocke. The daughter of London merchant Bigley Carleton, Whitelocke penned a fascinating 175-page memoir of her life and intimate thoughts for her eldest son. She traces her life from the time of her first marriage at the age of sixteen to Rowland Wilson (d. 1650), Member of Parliament, also from a London mercantile family. Whitelocke’s second marriage in 1650 was to the prominent Puritan lawyer, politician, and diplomat Bulstrode Whitelocke (1605–1675), a Member of Parliament and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, with whom Mary had seven children. Much of the memoir relates to Mary’s family, home, and religious beliefs. Particularly interesting is Whitelocke’s poignant account of a miscarriage that occurred during her first marriage. There is some discussion of public affairs and events, particularly in her defense of Bulstrode Whitelocke’s public life. The manuscript has been in private collections since 1860, when it was cited and quoted in a biography of Bulstrode Whitelocke. All three manuscripts have been added to the Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature (RTC 01).

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