1771. London: Printed for T. Becket and P.A. De Hondt, in the Strand, MDCCLXXI .
4to, (viii), 291, (9), (1, ads) pp. Original mottled calf, rebacked preserving much of the elaborately paneled backstrip and black morocco label, marbled endpapers. Calf worn, title page foxed, but the whole sound and the pages generally clean and bright with only occasional foxing. Old signature on endpaper, armorial bookplate of James Walnyn.
§ First edition. Published when Macpherson was in his mid-30s and largely withdrawn from the storm his Ossian translations had provoked, the work inevitably has a strong Celtic tilt, focussing almost entirely on pre-Roman times and ending with the rise of the Anglo-Saxons. He takes considerable care to discuss the origins of the ancient Britons, Scots and Irish, and to refute such theories as “the Spanish extraction of the Irish” and the Irish extraction of the Scots. Later chapters discuss the religion, recreations, language, and government of the ancient British nations. An Irish edition was published in the same year and enlarged editions appeared in 1772 and 1773. The later editions are much more commonly seen -- we can find just one auction record for the first edition (Bonham’s 2006). Macpherson’s Ossianic works had a considerable influence on William Blake, both their spirit and style (see Pierre Berger, 1914, 373-375pp.) and it is not unlikely Blake read this work also. ESTC T96381. Item #105525