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Grolier Club Exhibitions

David A. Harper

I began collecting after attending a course or two at the Rare Book School at UVA, where my interest in archival research was not sparked, but ignited. I began by collecting works I use in my research and teaching as Head of the English & Philosophy Department at West Point. Early eighteenth-century editions of John Milton’s works were my first purchases, to include Elijah Fenton’s 1725 edition and Richard Bentley’s infamous 1731 edition. I chose to share my 1695 edition of Milton’s Works here because it contains the first Annotations upon Paradise Lost. I referred to this edition as I researched the author of annotations and correctly identified this important founder of English literary scholarship.

Later, as I became more interested in printing and dabbled in printing on my own, I discovered fine press editions of Milton. The jewel of my collection thus far is the Doves Paradise Lost on vellum displayed here, but I own a variety of fine press and rare editions of this poem as well as Milton’s other works (particularly Areopagitica).

My collecting focus continues to be fine and rare books by and concerning Milton, but I also have a collection of association copies from authors who have spoken to our cadets at West Point (to include Toni Morrison, Ta-nehisi Coates, and even Francis Ford Coppola). The collateral benefits to collecting have been worldwide connections in the book trade and new ways to enrich the education of my students and myself.

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Paradise Lost.

John Milton. Hammersmith, U.K. Doves Press, 1902.

This edition of the Doves Paradise Lost, printed in the distinctive Doves type with calligraphy by Edward Johnson, is one of 25 copies printed on vellum. This volume boasts one the most iconic of fine press first pages. Surprisingly, despite being a rare vellum copy, this specimen remains bound in Doves familiar limp vellum binding. T.J. Cobden-Sanderson famously destroyed the Doves type by clandestinely throwing punches, matrices, and type into the Thames between 1913 and 1917.

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The Poetical Works.

John Milton. London: Jacob Tonson, 1695.

The third of the grand folios of Milton produced by Jacob Tonson, the 1695 volume was enhanced by the inclusion of 321 pages of tightly packed notes on Milton’s epic. Attributed only to “P.H.,” these annotations are among the earliest commentaries on any vernacular English piece of literature. The owner of this volume has identified “P.H.” as Peter Hume, a servant in the Royal Household following the Restoration.