The metrical history of Sir William Wallace, by [HENRY THE…

The metrical history of Sir William Wallace, by [HENRY THE MINSTREL.] BLIND HARRY (c. 1440-1492). < >

The metrical history of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Ellerslie, by Henry, commonly called Blind Harry: Carefully transcribed from the M.S. copy of that work, in the Advocates’ Library, under the eye of the Earl of Buchan. And now printed for the first time, according to the ancient and true orthography. With notes and dissertations. In three volumes. Vol. I [-III]. Perth, Morison, 1790.

First Edition. Three volumes, small 12mo, (147 x 85mm), engraved frontispiece in each volume and pp. [vi], 23, [1], 146; [ii], 171, [1], [12] glossary; [ii], 90, 61, [1], [4] list of subscribers, in contemporary patterned calf, spines gilt in compartments with distinctive urn and snake tooling, red morocco labels lettered in gilt with green morocco labels with central red morocco shields numbered in gilt, with the contemporary Strathallan armorial bookplate.

An attractive copy, with a good Scottish provenance, of the first attempt to produce a scholarly edition of a famous fifteenth century metrical romance, from the unique surviving manuscript source. The first volume has an additional title-page giving the original title in Scottish dialect, ‘Ye Actis and Deidis of ye Illuster and Vailzeand Campioun, Shyr Wilham Wallace, Knycht off Elrisle’, also dated Perth, 1790.
The four page list of subscribers in the third volume includes Robert Burns, who always professed a great love for this poem. Burns described the lines ‘A false usurper sinks in every foe / And liberty returns with every blow’ as ‘a couplet worthy of Homer’ and incorporated them in his own poem ‘Robert Bruce’s Address to his Army at Bannockburn’. The introductory material to the text includes a dedication to the Earl of Buchan, a short account of the preparation of this edition, with its revised division into twelve books, ‘An Account of Henry, commonly called Blind Harry, author of the Historical Poem of the life of Sir William Wallace’ (pp. 5-20) and a brief essay examining the involvement of John Blair, ‘Of the Historical Relations ascribed to Arnald Blair’ (pp. 21-23). The second volume also contains a twelve page glossary.

ESTC t71686.

Keywords: English Literature
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