The Epistles of Phalaris. Translated from the Greek. To which are added, some select epistles of the most eminent Greek writers. By Thomas Francklin

London: Printed for R. Francklin 1749. First edition of the first adequate English translation. Engraved folding frontispiece. Complete with half-title. Select Epistles has a separate title-page, dated 1748. Boards rubbed and a bit worn, old ink signature on front pastedown, lacks front free endpaper. Still, quite a good, clean copy. Quarter contemporary calf over old blue boards, red morocco spine label, edges sprinkled red. Octavo. [16], xxiii, [2], 224 pp (Item ID: 14206)


These letters “…were attributed to Phalaris, a tyrant of Acragas in Sicily (6th cent. BC) with a reputation for extreme cruelty. They were edited by Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery in 1695 and praised by Sir W[illiam] Temple. R[ichard] Bentley proved that they were spurious and dated from perhaps the 2nd cent. AD. There is an echo of the controversy in Swift’s The Battle of the Books” (Oxford Companion to English Literature, 5th ed., edited by Margaret Drabble). Thomas Francklin’s (1721-1784) translation was regarded as the first good translation of these letters. Francklin, a clergyman and a friend of Smollett, Johnson, and Joshua Reynolds, was a respected classical scholar whose other writings included an anonymous translation of Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods (1741), a translation of Sophocles’ tragedies (2 volumes, 1759), and a translation of Lucian’s works (2 volumes, 1780).

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