London: William Bentley, 1650. Hardcover. Translation by Thomas May. Two volumes. 24mo. Rebound in half black calf with marbled paper over boards, gilt, compartments. (10pp), 261pp; (8pp), 122pp. All edges gilt. Very good. Tight and quite handsome. Frontispiece (Volume I), Volume II engraved title page, marbled endpapers. Miniscule "Tout Binder" inkstamped on inner flyleaf of each volume. Item #32827
Tight and handsome pair of the fourth enlarged and corrected edition of this 1627 work. A poem by May's friend Ben Johnson ("To my chosen Friend, The learned Translator of Lucan, Thomas May, Esquire") follows the brief biography of Lucan that opens the first volume. Bookplate of noted collector William S. Stone on the front flyleaf of each volume and, more interesting, the bookplate of H. Buxton Forman graces each front pastedown -- likely a printed reproduction of Forman's engraved bookplate, added by Anderson Galleries when they auctioned off Forman's books in April 1920. Forman (1842-1917) was an English bibliographer of Keats and Shelley and antiquarian bookseller who entered the ranks of book collecting infamy when he partnered with notorious collector Thomas J. Wise in creating phony literary pamphlets featuring previously-unknown first appearances of poems by many noted poets of the day, which were then sold for substantial sums; their large-scale fraud wouldn't be widely known until Graham Pollard and John Carter's 1934 "An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets" spelled it all out in detail. Forman's bookplate features a profile image of a full-bearded young Forman in his study surrounded by books and a bust of Shelley, apparently transcribing a text with quill pen. An inner flyleaf in each volume bears Forman's pencilled initials and the date "13-10-90"; a neatly, boldly pencilled note on the verso of this leaf in Volume I, likely in his hand, notes: "Fourth Edition enlarged by the author. A very popular work highly praised by Ben Johnson. This edition appeared the year of his death, which was caused by an undue fondness for conviviality. Marvell penned the following words to him. 'As one put drink into the packet boat, John [sic] May was hurried hence and did not know't.'" May (1595-1650) was an English poet, playwright and parliamentarian historian, and Lucan (39-65 A.D.) was a Spanish-born Roman poet and one-time Nero favorite who got on the emperor's bad side and ended up committing suicide, his epic poem "Pharsalia" being his sole surviving work. While it's not known for painstaking historical accuracy, it is highly regarded for its exciting conveyance of the horrors of civil war. A beautiful and quite scarce pair in handsome late 19th century bindings.