8vo (155 x 95 mm). , 296 pp. Title printed in red and black, woodcut initials, type ornament headpiece. Some soiling and discoloration, corners softened at front and back, a few small edge chips. Contemporary sheep, covers simply ruled with double blind fillets, no upper pastedown, lower pastedown from a 16th-century edition of a Latin patristic(?) text in two columns, with a small attached flap cut from the same edition (part of a metcalcut initial visible on its verso); speckled edges (corners bumped, gouges on rear cover, some old repairs to spine). Provenance: Robert S. Pirie, bookplate, sale Sotheby’s NY, 2 Dec. 2015.***
First edition of an important proverb collection by the naturalist and theologian, containing numerous proverbs that were expurgated from later editions. Ray assembled his multilingual proverb collection over ten years, giving much thought to the principles of classification. In his preface to the reader he argues against a classification scheme based solely on the use of “heads” or subject categories, but also rejects a straight alphabetical arrangement, in favor of a system of classification by form: proverbial sentences (i.e., proverbs that are full sentences), proverbial phrases, proverbial similes, etc. Within each section the proverbs are alphabetically arranged by what we would now call keywords. At the end are several miscellaneous collections, including a collection of Scottish proverbs adapted from David Ferguson. Ray’s analyses of the proverbs’ origins, and of the validity of those relating to health, husbandry, and other practical matters, reflect his rational scientific training. He traces many proverbs to Latin, Italian, Greek or French sources, which are cited and analyzed, making the book a fascinating read still today. Later editions were enlarged by readers’ contributions, but some of the cruder or racier proverbs appeared only in this edition.
This copy has an unusual printed waste pastedown with a flap from the same text, presumably on the sheet that was cut up by the binder, who did not bother to remove it.
ESTC R13689; Wing R386; G. Keynes, John Ray, 10. Item #2773b