(London: John Murray, 1832-33). 170 x 106 mm. (6 3/4 x 4 1/4"). Edited by John Wright. 17 volumes. FIRST COMPLETE EDITION.
HANDSOME 19TH CENTURY PURPLE STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, GILT, BY ZAEHNSDORF (ink-stamped on front free endpaper), covers with French fillet border, raised bands, spine compartments with inlaid green morocco oval at center, surrounded by gilt swirls, green morocco labels, turn-ins with plain and decorative gilt rules, top edges gilt. With two facsimiles of letters, one plate, and each volume with engraved frontispiece and engraved title page with vignette. Pastedown of each volume with bookplate of Peggy & Steve Fosset; volume I with pencil ownership signature of Ailsa Bruce dated 1927; most volumes with occasional light pencil markings by a former owner. Light scattered foxing internally, the leaves with other trivial imperfections, but the text altogether very clean and beautifully preserved; some of the spines with scarcely noticeable fading, a few volumes with a couple of light scratches to covers and insignificant wear to extremities, but A VERY ATTRACTIVE SET with excellent shelf appeal.
This is a fine, beautifully bound first edition of Byron's complete works, including his letters and journals, as well as the sympathetic biography written by his friend and literary executor Thomas Moore. DNB admires "the skill with which Moore constructed his portrait" and proclaims his biography "indispensable for students of Byron." (The memoir Byron had entrusted to Moore for publication after his death was determined to be too scandalous to see print and was burned in the presence of Lady Byron and others.) Day notes "the vigor and movement in Byron's letters, a compelling rhythmic prose that sweeps and punches. The man becomes blazingly alive in these incisive and driving letters." And of course, our set contains all of his ground-breaking poetry, the most famous in English after Shakespeare. As Day observed, "he gripped the soul of Western society as no other literary man ever has." John Murray paid £15,000 for the poet's copyrights, and Byron editions became a staple of the firm's output for a considerable number of years. Born in Pest, Hungary, Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-86) served his apprenticeship in Stuttgart, worked at a number of European locations as a journeyman, and then settled in London, where he was hired first by Westley and then by Mackenzie before opening his own workshop in 1842. His son and namesake took over the business at 33, when the senior Joseph died, and the firm flourished under the son's leadership, becoming a leading West End bindery. Over the years, Zaehnsdorf employed a considerable number of distinguished binders, including the Frenchman Louis Genth (who was chief finisher from 1859-84), and trained a number of others, including Roger de Coverly and Sarah Prideaux. A family-run business until 1947, the Zaehnsdorf bindery continued to produce consistently attractive, tasteful, and innovative designs executed with unfailing skill. (ST15124)