Poems and Ballads.

Sypher 1.jpg
Sypher 2.jpg


Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909).


Poems and Ballads.




Edward Moxon & Co. [John Camden Hotten’s issue]




Provenance: Noted bibliophile John Quinn.

Poems and Ballads presents Swinburne’s most characteristic writing, rich with classical inspiration. Moxon published the book in July 1866, but soon suppressed it when reviewers assailed its sensuality. Hotten purchased Moxon’s stock, canceled the title-page, and issued the volumes with a new title-page bearing Hotten’s imprint, but still in the original green cloth binding with Moxon’s name on the spine and monogram on the front cover. The collector John Quinn (1870–1924), whose library was sold at Anderson Galleries in 1923–24, penciled in this copy: “This is the genuine Moxon Edn … a rarity.”

As a student at Columbia I became interested in Swinburne. I bought this first edition especially for Quinn’s bookplate, with its evocative Irish scene by Jack Butler Yeats (initials among stones at right). But I soon discovered—as Quinn evidently did not realize—that the apparent Moxon title-page is a fake, with defective serifs and different line spacing, inserted to replace Hotten’s title. However, Hotten’s half-title was retained, thus letting the cat out of the bag, since Moxon had issued his volumes with no half-title.


Francis J. Sypher, Jr.