A Tutor to Penmanship,

AYRES John ([?1698])

£7500.00  [First Edition]

or, The writing master a copy book shewing all the variety of penmanship and clerkship as now practised in England.


First Edition. Oblong Folio (276 x 376mm). Two Parts in One Volume. [1 leaf., engraved portrait of the author by John Sturt], 26 engraved calligraphic leaves, [3pp, letterpress preface "The Art of Writing" and "The Engraver to the Lovers of Writing"], 24 engraved calligraphic leaves, 1 engraved advertisement leaf. Mid-18th-century vellum-backed marbled boards, spine lettered in manuscript (corners a little bumped and spine a little dirty but otherwise very good).


London: At the Hand & Pen in St P[au]ls Ch[urchya]rd. Sold by ye Author, [?1698]

Rare. Heal, English Writing-Masters p. 150. Wing A4306 (British Library, Cambridge [x2; one in the Pepys Library] and Bodley; eight locations in the USA; a number of these - the Folger, Harvard and Clark Library copies - are in some way defective). This copy collates exactly with the copy reproduced on EEBO (the copy at Cambridge University Library) except the two letter press leaves are bound after the engraved title-page to the second part and not before.

 Samuel Pepys' favourite penman: "the most eminent writing-master of his day".

A magnificent series of engraved plates illustrating the work of the great English penman, Philip Ayes (d. c.1704). Ayres reminds the reader in his preface that the art of printing destroyed the trade of the scribe but notes "'tis certain that the Art of Fair Writing is a useful and excellent accomplishment, and procures the Industrious Masters of it, great Honor and Respect in all Offices and Imployments". Pepys borrowed heavily from this essay by Ayres in a preface he attached to his own collection of Ayres's works (now in the Pepys library at Magdalen College, Cambridge). The book is dedicated to William III, while some of the other plates are dedicated to famous penmen, e.g. "Mr John Smith Penman to Christs Hospital",  "Mr Tho. Oliffe Penman in Loond", "Mr William Bridgman Penman in London".

"There is considerable difficulty — and indeed diversity — in listing the major works of Ayres, for reasons that are common to many of the writing books of the period. They were for the most part issued with either a printed or an engraved title-page — sometimes with both — and usually included some pages of text in which the writing-master made clear his attitudes and aims. Popular works, such as those of Ayres, were frequently reissued. In these instances there would often be a new letterpress title-page, and possibly new text, but the original engraved plates which contained the calligraphic examples would remain unchanged. A detailed examination of several copies of a work is often required to decide on the original date and edition — and, not surprisingly in books intended for daily practical use, they have not always survived in sufficient numbers. The five works collected by Pepys (The ala mode secretarie, 1681; The Accomplisht Clerk, 1683; The Penmans Daily Practise, 1692; A Tutor to Penmanship, 1698; and The Accomplish'd Clerk Regraved, 1700) would make a more valuable contribution to the study of Ayres, and other penmen, if he had not preserved only the engraved plates and thrown out all printed matter — title-page, text, and, more importantly, often the date as well. Even the engraved titles have been found to differ on occasions from the original printed version, thus making the work of the bibliographer doubly difficult" (ODNB).

No copies of any of Ayres's works recorded at any recent auction. A copy of Ayres's The New A-La-Mode Secretaire [c.1682] was sold at Sotheby's 26th March, 1956 (to Maggs for £48).

Provenance: Earls of Macclesfield, Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, with small armorial blindstamp on the first few leaves and ink shelfmarks [no bookplate]. This copy had been intended for Part X of the Macclesfield sales at Sotheby's in 2007 but was withdrawn by the family and retained, until sold privately recently.

Stock Code: 228422

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