The Letters of Pliny the Younger With Observations on each Letter; And an Essay on Pliny's Life, Addressed to Charles Lord Boyle By John Earl of Orrery. Volume I [II].

London: James Bettenham for Paul Vaillant, 1751. Two volumes. 4to, contemporary calf, spines lettered and ruled in gilt, covers gilt-ruled. [iv], lxxxvii, 440, [16(index & plate list)]; [iv], 509, [32(index & plate list)] pp. Copperplate allegorical title-page device by Michael Van der Gucht, twenty-three large head- & tailpieces engraved by Jacob Bonneau after designs by Samuel Wale, and numerous decorative initials. Covers rubbed, joints and hinges cracked but sound, bookplates removed, lacking preliminary blank in Volume I; nonetheless a sound and attractive set. The half-titles are present. First Edition of this translation of the classic letters first issued between c. 100 and c. 109. John Boyle, fifth Earl of Cork, fifth Earl of Orrery, and second Baron Marston (1707-1762) had literary aspirations and became a friend of Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson. But they had no illusions about his intellectual gifts; and Boyle took some revenge on Swift's condescension in Remarks on the Life and Writings of Jonathan Swift (London, 1751). His translation and commentary on the wonderful letters of Pliny the Younger appeared five years after the first translation into English, done by William Melmoth, and were not an improvement. But the letters, which survey the whole range of Roman life and society (including the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the death of Pliny the elder, as well as problems with the upstart Christians), are fascinating; and Boyle's comments are complacently entertaining. The translator's very long introduction describes not only the life of Pliny but many aspects of Roman history, government, laws, and ways of life, including detailed accounts of the baths and gymnasia. Rothschild 1488 (the inscribed dedication copy). (Item Id: 6145)

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