Poems by Allan Ramsay. The fourth edition.

  • Ramsay, Allan
  • Edinburgh: Printed by Mr. Thomas Ruddiman, for and sold by the Author 1727
  • ESTC T132821; Foxon p. 660; Burns Martin 94.


SKU: 3936 Category: Tags: , ,


12mo, pp. xvi, 88, 93-164, 173-196, 201-242, 245-260, 265-346, 365-382, [2] + frontispiece. Irregular pagination as issued (see below). Original sprinkled calf, spine gilt in compartments, red morocco label. Some spotting and light soiling, small wormhole to lower margin at beginning. Rubbed, a bit worn and scratched, joints just cracking at ends, label defective.


Ramsay, originally apprenticed as a wigmaker, transitioned into bookselling over the course of the 1710s, also publishing his own poetry. In 1720 he produced a title-page, 'Poems, by Allan Ramsay', to accompany gatherings-up of stock of individual poems which he had been publishing separately for some time. The experiment was evidently a success as he continued the process through several more editions, tacking gently in the direction of regularising the contents: the first versions had separate pagination for most poems, then parts were reset as necessary and pagination altered. In later editions pagination was theoretically continuous - except that volumes were still assembled from whichever parts happened to be on hand, while individual poems were sold off separately and may have run out of stock. As a result no two copies have exactly the same contents, and none match the table of contents. Furthermore, the individual poems have their own title-pages with dates that can vary individually from copy to copy.
Burns Martin and Foxon each go into some detail of the constituent parts of the earlier editions, and this fourth edition follows exactly that pattern: the contents leaf at the end lists six poems not present in this volume - with corresponding gaps in pagination - but there are an similar number of poems unlisted in the contents present. (Burns Martin records: 'The system of pagination is even more amazing than in the other two octavos'.) Ramsay clearly continued reprinting and issuing copies for some years, with several poems in this volume having dates later than the general title-page: 'The morning interview' is dated 1731; 'Tartana' 1732; and 'Scriblers lash'd' and 'Content' 1728. The portrait frontispiece, furthermore, is an engraving of a drawing done by Ramsay's son in 1729 and so could not have been issued with the edition if it had been produced in 1727. Ramsay must have continued generating copies using his 1727 title-page for at least five years afterward.
This copy provides additional bibliographical interest (and proof that the contents are as intended) by means of its binding, which has identical tooling to that of several other surviving copies, though here in wholly unrestored state. Furthermore, the third compartment has its centre left blank, and it appears to have either been numbered in blind or had a numbering piece (now lost), most likely with the number 'I' - which would correspond with the fact that a 'second volume' was issued, entirely separately but intended (as per Martin) to accompany this one, in 1729.

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