GRAY, THOMAS. 1716-1771.

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Lot 1
GRAY, THOMAS. 1716-1771.

Sold for US$ 81,250 inc. premium

Fine Literature

11 Apr 2016, 10:00 EDT

New York

GRAY, THOMAS. 1716-1771.
Autograph Manuscript Signed ("T. Gray"), being a proforma letterpress Naturalist's Journal accomplished by Gray in manuscript, 4 annual volumes bound in one, various places, chiefly Cambridge, also London and the Lake District, 1767-1770, oblong 4to (158 x 292 mm), in sepia ink. Later green morocco, gilt by Clarke & Redford, a.e.g. Covers slightly rubbed and scuffed, very light soiling of a few leaves; together with two pages (a page of calculations and a plant sketch on gray paper) affixed to the recto of the back free endpaper.
Provenance: Thomas Gray; sold by his heirs at auction, "Most Interesting Collection of Manuscripts and Books of the Poet Gray," S. Leigh Sotheby & John Wilkinson, London, August 28, 1851, Lot 97; sold at Christie's New York, February 12, 1982, lot 89.

Next to Alexander Pope, Thomas Gray, as the author of "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751), was the most important English poet of the 18th century. Although greatly admired in his day (he turned down the offer to be Poet Laureate), he was also one of the least prolific writers of his stature. He was a poet infused with a love of the English Countryside, in fact an early Romantic. So it is of no surprise that he would have used a naturalist's journal to carry around and record data on his rambles through the countryside. The various columns give space to record the date, place, weather, plants and animals, as well as any miscellaneous observations, phenomena and observations. Gray evidently kept a second journal of his trip through the Lake District from September 30 to October 14, 1769; it was published posthumously in The Poems of Mr Gray (1775) and profoundly influenced English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. This example of his Naturalist's Journal expands on that 1769 record by covering January 1, 1767 through May 18, 1771; it concludes just two months prior to his death at his home in Cambridge. Sotheby & Wilkins 1851 catalog noted in the introduction: "In addition to the Books instanced above, and to the Autograph Manuscripts ... there are four other articles in the Collection, scarcely less deserving of the utmost attention ... and, by no means the least in interest, the 'Naturalist's Journal,' (97)." The original 1851 entry beautifully summarizes its literary importance:

"The Entries in this very interesting volume commence Jan. 1st, 1767 and extend, with scarcely an intermission, to May 18th, 1771; in fact, they form a Diary of Gray's Life for that period, the various columns on each page likewise being filled in Manuscript, with the Notices of Natural Phenomena, etc.; for which purpose the work was printed, all executed in Gray's neat and careful way.

"Description however profuse or precise would fail to produce the feeling of interest which this volume merits to be regarded with; the most careful examination can alone do justice to its varied contents. Without reference to the hand that has penned them, the observations, so minutely yet copiously noted from day to day, cannot fail to excite admiration, and impart information of value to the Naturalist, while the general Reader will also meet with many entries of great interest; those particularly which relate to the routes of several journeys made by Gray, the distances traveled each day, the Inns where a stop was made for the night, the fare met with, descriptions of Scenery, and Antiquities; in short, every object worthy of a notice, has found a pleasing record in the pages of this Journal."
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