(London: Charles Knight and Co., [1839?]-1843). 254 x 171 mm. (10 x 6 3/4"). Eight volumes.
Attractive contemporary rose-colored pebble-grain morocco, covers with blind-ruled border and central gilt armorial crest featuring three stags on an azured escutcheon, the whole surrounded by plumes, ribbons, and foliage, raised bands, elaborate floral gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With approximately 900 steel engravings and woodcuts, many of them full-page, consisting of views, characters in costume, stage settings, etc. Jaggard, p. 185. Slight soiling to leather, some joints and extremities just a bit rubbed (one joint with short crack just beginning), occasional minor foxing and other trivial imperfections, but an excellent set, with clean, fresh text, in solid and appealing bindings showing little wear.
There is a great deal in addition to Shakespeare contained in this, the first issued work by editor and publisher Charles Knight (1791-1873), later to gain fame for his "Half Hours" series, which made English history and literature more widely available to the common reader. DNB tells us that this son of a bookseller was already a bibliophile at 17. He obtained "an imperfect first folio edition of Shakespeare, which he made complete by printing the missing pages from a facsimile edition," and his love of Shakespeare never left him. 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 . . . was prefaced with a one-volume biography [the biography was actually printed in 1843, and appears as the last volume in our set]. Knight succeeded in contextualizing Shakespeare's life as no biographer except Nathan Drake had done." Our copy, in very appealing contemporary morocco, is an early printing of the complete plays (divided into "Histories," "Comedies," and "Tragedies," each section comprising two volumes) and a first edition of the biography. There is also a supplemental volume here that contains "doubtful" plays; a "History of Opinion," covering the Shakespeare studies and criticism of Pope, Johnson, Steevens, and others; and an account of the enthusiasm for the plays in Germany. The biography ends with notes on Shakespeare's will, facsimiles of his signature, and an overview of portraits depicting the playwright. (ST15557-8)
Add to Cart Price: $2,500.00
PJP Catalog: 75.260