(London: Printed for John Murray, 1814-18). 219 x 137 mm. (8 5/8" x 5 3/8"). Four volumes. FIRST EDITIONS of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," Cantos III and IV.
Pleasing contemporary green straight-grain morocco, elaborately tooled in gilt and blind, covers with frame comprised of tangent cresting gilt and dove-tailed blind rolls and well as intricate floral cornerpieces in blind, raised bands, spine panels filled with animated decoration emanating from central gilt fleuron, all edges gilt. EACH VOLUME WITH AN ATTRACTIVE FORE-EDGE PAINTING depicting a location important to the poet. With folding facsimile leaf of Greek manuscript and 10 engraved plates, including frontispieces (most with tissue guards). Front pastedown to volume I with bookplate and dated signature (14-2-1968) of Alex. Bridge. Inked autograph of Mr. William White, dated December 24th, 1857, on preliminary blanks of volumes I, III, and IV; volume II inscribed and similarly dated to White "from his friend C. E. Combes." First Edition Club Byron Exhibition 5b-c; Randolph, pp. 59-60. Joints and extremities rather rubbed, spines uniformly sunned and a little marked, some light grazes to covers (all of this rather successfully masked with dye), plates with significant foxing to margins (and occasional dampstains), those lacking tissue guards with light offsetting to opposite pages, otherwise a pleasing set, the decorative bindings entirely solid, the text generally quite fresh and clean, and the fore-edge paintings very well preserved.
This is an attractively bound set of an early edition of Byron's "Works," featuring four pleasing fore-edge paintings and the first appearance of Cantos III and IV of the celebrated "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." The fore edge of volume I presents a bucolic tableau of Byron's family home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, the stately manor in the background, pleasure craft in the abbey's Fullarton Lake, fashionable ladies and gentlemen enjoying a break in the rain, the whole beneath a broadly arching rainbow. The painting on the fore edge of volume II reproduces a view of the Bridge of Egnippo on the Greek island of Negropont. Mercantile vessels in the foreground provide significant animation, and detail in the craft as well as the crenelated structures in the middle ground are impressive. The fore-edge scene for volume III shows the Franciscan convent in Athens, filling nearly the entire painted space. And the fore-edge painting to volume IV presents a well-composed view of Verona, featuring a heavily populated broad avenue, many urban structures, a long bridge over the Adige, and a pleasant sky. They uncharacteristically appear to be the work of at least two artists. While all are at least very good, the scene on the edge of the second volume is especially sophisticated work, the painter having demonstrated notable subtlety, convincing representation, a powerful impression of movement, and charming details (like the four gulls alighting on the rocks in the foreground). We know something about the date of our four paintings because they derive from "Finden's Illustrations of the Life and Works of Lord Byron" (first published in 1833-34), involving illustrators and engravers William Westall, Edward and William Finden, Clarkson Stanfield, and Sir Augustus Wall Callcott. Apart from the paintings, this set is important because it contains (in volumes III and IV) the first printings of the final two cantos of "Childe Harold." While the first part of the poem is a fine example of what Day terms Byron's "exuberant Romanticism," the third and fourth cantos demonstrate the "Romantic pessimism" at which Byron excelled. Not usually given to overstatement, Day writes of the third canto: "hardly any other work in literature possesses the same titanic power and grand flourish." The other works in this set include early editions of "The Giaour" (1815), "The Bride of Abydos" (1814), and "The Corsair & Poems" (1815) in volume I; "Lara" (1814), "Hebrew Melodies" (1815), "The Seige of Corinth & Parisina" (1816), and "The Prisoner of Chillon & Other Poems" (1816) in volume II; and the first two cantos of "Childe Harold" in volume III. (ST12696)
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PJP Catalog: 67.150