(London: George Routledge and Sons, [ca. 1875]). 260 x 178 mm. (10 1/4 x 7"). Two volumes. Edited by Charles Knight.
Extremely pleasing contemporary light tan three-quarter calf, raised bands, spines elegantly gilt in compartments with lily cornerpieces sporting graceful curling foliage and a large central lozenge formed by botanical stamps, the whole accented by other small tools, two crimson morocco labels on each spine, marbled boards, edges, and endpapers With 340 text illustrations by Sir John Gilbert, A. R. A. Small external defects (edges a bit rubbed, a few tiny abrasions, one small dampstain), but the handsome bindings very lustrous and with no significant wear. Two leaves with minor marginal ink stains, otherwise very fine internally, the text quite fresh, clean, and smooth.
This is the compact edition, in an extremely appealing binding, of the first work written by Charles Knight (1791-1873), an editor and publisher who later gained considerable fame for his popular "Half Hours" series. The DNB tells us that this son of a bookseller "by the age of seventeen . . . Was a confirmed bibliophile, and a buyer and seller of second-hand books and a collector of rare books. A client gave him an imperfect first folio edition of Shakespeare, which he made complete by printing the missing pages from a facsimile edition." His love of Shakespeare never left him, and, according to DNB, "his first major project as an author took shape in 1837, when he resolved to produce [the present] pictorial edition of Shakespeare's works. . . . His background reading led to a deep interest in Shakespeare's life and the edition, published between 1838 and 1841 (he published six later editions of the works of Shakespeare), was prefaced with a one-volume biography. Knight succeeded in contextualizing Shakespeare's life as no biographer except Nathan Drake had done, and in dismissing a couple of the more absurd legends surrounding the playwright's early life." Our copy is illustrated by the lively engravings by Sir John Gilbert (1817-97), which the DNB notes "earned him his greatest fame as an illustrator." The plates, many of which depicted "scenes never before illustrated," are now housed in the print room of the British Museum. (ST11462a-142)