Pickwick Extra-Illustrated with Thomas Onwhyn Plates And Very Attractively Bound by Wood of London

THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS OF THE PICKWICK CLUB.

(London: Chapman and Hall, 1837). 215 x 133 mm. (8 3/4 x 5 1/4"). xiv, [2] (directions to the binder and errata), 609 pp. With the half title. FIRST EDITION IN BOOK FORM.

Attractive dark green crushed morocco, gilt and inlaid to an Arts & Crafts design, by Wood of London, covers with gilt rule border, oblique floral sprig at corners with inlaid red morocco blossom, raised bands, spine compartments with inlaid red flower at center surrounded by graceful gilt stems and leaves, gilt titling, turn-ins with gilt rule and tulip spray at corners, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt. 43 ENGRAVED PLATES (including extra engraved title page), by Robert Buss, Robert Seymour, and Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz") and EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED WITH 31 ETCHED PLATES (of 32) from Thomas Onwhyn's "Illustrations to the Pickwick Club," issued by E. Grattan in 1837. With illustrated original front wrapper of part XVI, dated 1836, bound at front. Eckel, pp. 51-56; Podeschi A-16; Grolier English 78. Frontispiece and engraved title page somewhat soiled and with tears and chips (though the latter affecting no image or text), plates with the typical variable foxing or browning (frequent but never severe), occasional minor thumbing or offsetting, but still an excellent copy despite these imperfections, the contents generally clean and fresh, and the binding lustrous with virtually no signs of wear.

This attractively bound copy of Dickens' funniest book offers us the opportunity to see how different artists envisioned its vivid characters. Written when Dickens (1812-70) was still quite a young man, "The Pickwick Papers" is the work that made him famous. In Eckel's view, "From a literary standpoint the supremacy of this book has been so firmly established that continued debate seems to be a closed incident." It is filled with droll characters and rollicking humor. When two of the original 20 parts of this work had been issued, Robert Seymour, the initial artist employed for "Pickwick," died by suicide. After a false start involving the illustrator Robert William Buss, the fledgling author entrusted the completion of the work's engravings to the unknown Hablot Knight Browne (1815-80)—at not quite 21 years old, two years younger than Dickens himself. Their collaboration lasted many famous years. The text of our copy has "S. Veller" on page 342, line 5; "this friends" for "his friends" on page 400, line 21; and an imperfect "F" in the word "OF" in the headline on page 432 (all first issue points). "Weller" in the sign on the engraved title page is in a later state, changed from "Veller." According to Eckel's standards, 17 of the 43 plates here are in their first state. Our copy is enriched with almost a complete set of the "illegitimate" Pickwick illustrations by which Thomas Onwhyn (1814-86) came to public notice. These etchings were part of a pirated edition of "Pickwick" issued in eight monthly parts by E. Grattan in 1837. Onwhyn was known for "illustrating the comic side of everyday life," according to Houfe's article in DNB, and it is intriguing to contrast his take on Dickens' characters with that of Phiz. The bindery Wood of London was active from the last quarter of the 19th century into the 1930s. Their work ranged from decorative bindings for sets to the kind of fine morocco binding seen here, and was of consistently high quality in materials, design, and execution.
(ST16866x)