(London: Printed [by Thomas Davison] for G. B. Whittaker, 1824). 204 x 126 mm. (8 x 5"). Three volumes.
Publisher's drab paper boards, paper title label on spines, edges untrimmed. Front pastedown with the bookplate of H. Bradley Martin; pencilled note on front flyleaf identifying this as the Bellew copy (see below for both). Boards with a scattering of small faint spots, negligible rubbing to joints, spine ends bumped (as always), trivial thin worm trail at inner margin of one quire, but AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY, the insubstantial bindings with nothing approaching a significant imperfection, and the text clean, fresh, and bright, and with generous margins.
This Victorian "three-decker" was issued at a time when publisher's temporary boards, intended to be replaced by a binding of the buyer's choosing, were giving way to publisher's cloth bindings that were "library-ready." With content that is reflected in the work's title, "Ramses" is one of two "exotic" novels by bookseller and orientalist Edward Upham (1776-1834), who was known and respected for his non-fiction works on Buddhism and the history of Ceylon. A pencilled note on the front flyleaf says that this copy was once owned by the meticulous Irish collector Christopher Bellew, whose library specialized in books in original boards. Dublin bookseller M. J. MacManus was charged with selling the collection in the 1930s; in his catalogue he observed that Bellew "stored his books in specially-constructed cupboards, dust-proof and damp-proof. Many of them he did not live to read, but even those which he read suffered nothing in the process. . . . Here is a wide range of uncommon and attractive volumes, offered in a condition so dazzlingly fine that by their very appearance they will lend distinction to the bookshelves of the most fastidious collector." The noted collector and bibliographer of 19th century fiction Michael Sadleir was nearly propelled into ecstasy at reading the Bellew catalogue, assuring us that "it would hardly be possible to over-state the perfection of Bellew condition." Unsurprisingly, this set found its way into the library of the fastidious H. Bradley Martin (1906-88), an American bibliophile who was extraordinarily discriminating. His copy of any book will always be distinguished as having been a part of a library chosen by one of the most discerning of modern collectors. The heir to a steel fortune and a director at a leading New York investment bank, Martin was a member of the Grolier Club for 50 years and was one of the great American book collectors of the 20th century. His library of 10,000 volumes was sold at Sotheby's in nine sales that took place in 1989-90. (ST12968)