(London: Printed for A. Millar, 1749). 165 x 102 mm. (6 1/2 x 4"). Six volumes. FIRST EDITION, First State, with all points noted by Cross and Rothschild.
FINE LATE 19TH CENTURY MOTTLED CALF IN THE STYLE OF THE PERIOD BY RIVIERE AND SON (stamp-signed on the front flyleaf of each volume), covers with double fillet borders and rosette corners, raised bands with dotted ruling, spine compartments with palmettes within lobed panels at top and bottom, curled tool cornerpieces, and other small ornaments, densely gilt-rolled turn-ins with dogtooth border, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (each volume very expertly rejointed). Faint contemporaneous owner's signature (of Richard Bayne?). Cross III, 316-17; Rothschild 850. Very tip of corners worn, a bit of rubbing along edges, text a shade less than bright (isolated gathering with a little darker overall toning), but a very pleasing set, the decorative bindings with no serious condition issues, and the text fresh and smooth.
This is a tastefully bound copy of Fielding's 18th century classic and a landmark publication, here complete in the first issue of its first edition. As Cross says, "No one before Fielding had ever written a novel comparable with his in its reliance upon contemporary facts of human nature, and this brilliant and innovative narrative met with such immediate commercial success that the first printing [of 1749] was sold out before its printing could be finished, and at least four more editions were published in the same year as the first." The work is divided into 18 books, each preceded by an introductory essay (wherein can be found some of Fielding's best prose) on some theme more or less connected with the story, in the manner subsequently adopted by Thackeray and George Eliot. The plot begins with the finding and raising of Tom by Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and then follows Tom's adventures, many amorous, after his banishment from the Allworthy house prompted by bad behavior. In the comic ending, mysteries are revealed and relationships set aright. Day says this was the first avowed novel in English (Fielding's precursor, Defoe, claimed his stories were true and Richardson said that his were akin to sermons), and a work that some still call the greatest novel in English because of its attention to characters set against the backdrop of society. Our first issue set has the errata uncorrected in the first five volumes, and volume VI is also in the first state because leaf [B5] is unsigned. The title to volume V is of the earliest setting, with the motto reading "Mores Hominum Multorum." (ST12780b)
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PJP Catalog: Cat 69.144