Details
HERMAN MELVILLE – COWLEY, Abraham (1618-1667). The Works. London: Jacob Tonson, 1707-11.

"Studying his craft": Melville's annotated copy of Cowley's poetry and essays, with his ownership inscription to each volume. In The Civil War World of Herman Melville, Stanton Garner notes that in the winter of 1862, while in New York City, "Herman made his usual circuit of the city's bookshops," buying widely, from Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, William Hazlitt's Lectures on the English Comic Writers and Lectures on the English Poets (see lots 604 and 605), and, "studying his craft," a great deal of poetry, including Matthew Arnold, Lord Bryon, and the works Abraham Cowley. After the beginning of the Civil War, Melville would publish only poetry. The collection Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War appeared in 1866, followed by Clarel in 1876, John Marr in 1888, and finally, Timoleon, just before his death in 1891. It was during Melville's time in New York City during the war that he found inspiration for many of the poems that would fill Battle-Pieces.

Annotations are found on approximately 140 pages in total, chiefly in volumes one and two; of these, 124 pages have pencil scores, check marks, underlining, or other emphasis marks and 15 pages are annotated with one or more words, for a total of about 50 words. These include references to fellow poets Alexander Pope and John Dryden. Reese notes that Melville "heavily marked the passage in the introduction speaking of Cowley's 'earnest Affection for Obscurity and Retirement.'" In volume one is his ownership inscription: “H Melville March 21st 1862 NY” on the front pastedown, and in volumes two and three simply “H Melville,” also on the front pastedowns. Cowley was one of the leading English poets of his time and his Works went through numerous printings; as such, the present copy is a mixed set, with volumes one and two being the 10th edition and volume three comprised of the 9th edition of the second part and the 4th edition of the third part. It is possible that a few markings are in the hand of another, earlier owner. Garner, chapter 3; Sealts 160a.

Three volumes, octavo. Numerous engraved plates (inner corner of title page of vol.1 torn and renewed affecting imprint, small loss renewed to inner corner of frontis in vol.1, vol. 2 frontis margin extended). Contemporary calf (similarly though not uniformly bound; rebacked with original spines laid down). Custom quarter morocco clamshell boxes. Provenance: Herman Melville (annotations, ownership signatures in all three volumes) – John F. Fleming (his sale, Christie’s New York, 18 November 1988, lot 236).

Exhibited: "A Herman Melville Collection ... on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death, from the collection of William S. Reese," Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 1991, no. 32
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