Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect.

BURNS Robert (1787)


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Second (First Edinburgh) Edition. 8vo (210 x 125mm).  xlviii, 368 pp., half-title and engraved portrait of Burns. Some very light browning in places but otherwise fine. Contemporary speckled calf, covers with a gilt filet border, smooth spine with gilt tooled bands, dark green morocco and gilt label, plain endleaves, yellow edges, green ribbon marker (joints very slightly rubbed, upper headcap a little scuffed).


Edinburgh: printed for the Author and sold by William Creech, 

Egerer, Burns, no. 2. Rothschild Catalogue, no. 556.  Published a year after the first (Kilmarnock) edition. The second printing with the incorrect but later spelling "stinking" on p. 263 (sheet Ii).


A very handsome copy of Burns' collection of iconic Scottish verse.


"Published in an edition of about 3000 copies, the 408-page Edinburgh volume of his poems was an immediate success, with ploughman Burns cannily presenting what his preface called 'my wild, artless notes'. Among the new poems added to the volume were the vigorous, slyly modulated Scots poems 'Address to the Unco Guid' and 'Death and Dr Hornbook', as well as the 'Address to Edinburgh', in which Burns on his best behaviour delivers a paean to 'Edina! Scotia's darling seat!'" (ODNB). 


The Edinburgh edition is also the first to included Burns' 'Address to a Haggis'.


The much-cited "Boxburgh" for "Roxburgh" misprint in the subscribers' list is not an issue point as it is found in all copies. Edwin Wolf II, "'Skinking' or 'Stinking'? A Bibliographical Study of the 1787 Edinburgh Edition of Burns' Poems" in Library Chronicle of the University of Pennsylvania Library, Vol. XIV (April to October 1947), p. 1-14. See also, Patrick Scott & Craig Lamont, "Skinking and Stinking: "The Printing and Proofing of Robert Burns's Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect" (Edinburgh, 1787)" in The Book Collector (Winter 2016), pp. 601-16.


The subscribers' list includes 1625 names subscribing for 2876 copies. Such was the pre-publication demand that three-quarters of the way through printing the number of copies had to be increased and this necessitated the entire resetting of all the early text sheets (A-Mm) except Kk, about three-quarters of the book beside the preliminaries which were printed last, as the type had been redistributed. In effect the reset sheets amount to a new edition and Burns himself referred to it in this way in a letter to Mrs Dunlop, dated 22 March 1787: "I have both a second and third Edition going on, as the second was begun with too small a number of copies - the whole I have printed is three thousand." Sheets A-Fh & Hh, Ii & Mm are all in the second setting as listed by Wolf, while sheet Gg (p. 241, line 1 'Thou' is in the first setting. It is thought that around 3000 to 3250 copies were printed in all, perhaps 1500 from the first "skinking" setting and up to another 1750 with "stinking". Copies are found consisting entirely of the first printing here, entirely of the second printing or with mixed sheets as here. A third edition, so called on the title-page, was published in London by Strahan and Cadell in the same year.


Provenance: Sir Edmund Antrobus, Bt., with mid-19th century engraved armorial bookplate on the front pastedown with a manuscript shelf number in ink. 

Stock Code: 215754

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