A Handsomely Bound Account of "by Far the Cleverest Woman in England," In Three Volumes Extended to Six, Because Extra-Illustrated with 275 Plates


(London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1865). 222 x 146 mm. (8 3/4 x 5 3/4"). Three volumes extended to six. Edited by Lady Theresa Lewis. FIRST EDITION.

EXCEPTIONALLY PRETTY CRIMSON CRUSHED MOROCCO, HANDSOMELY GILT, BY MORRELL (signed on front inner dentelles), covers bordered with double rules, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments featuring drawer pull and cinquefoil cornerpieces and elegant floral centerpiece, elaborately gilt inner dentelles, top edge gilt, other edges rough trimmed. EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED WITH MORE THAN 275 ENGRAVED PLATES (30 of them views, the rest portraits, four of the plates folding, and eight in color). ◆One plate with small, skillfully repaired tear at fore edge, a few leaves and a dozen plates with sprinkled foxing, isolated light offsetting and minor stains and soiling in the text, but AN EXTREMELY FINE SET, THE LOVELY BINDINGS UNUSUALLY BRIGHT AND VIRTUALLY UNWORN, and internally very fresh and clean.

This lavishly illustrated and handsomely bound set documents the very long and meaningful life of a spinster devoted to her father and her sister—and to literature. Mary Berry (1763-1852) grew up in a family of modest fortune, yet she knew a great many important people, including Princess Caroline of Wales (the estranged wife of the Regent), their daughter Princess Charlotte, and the author Mme. de Stael, who described Mary as "by far the cleverest woman in England." Mary met Lord Byron and Napoleon, but her greatest friend was Horace Walpole, the society wit, letter-writer, and builder of the neo-gothic extravaganza Strawberry Hill. Walpole, who met Berry and her younger sister Agnes when they were in their twenties, became so fascinated by their wit and wisdom that he persuaded them to settle with their father near him at "Little Strawberry Hill," which he bequeathed to them in his will. He left them his manuscripts as well, and Mary Berry became the editor of his works. She also authored a play and a study of English and French society, but our collection of her journal entries and letters, put together by Lady Theresa Lewis (1803-65), is Mary Berry's most enduring legacy. The journal begins when Mary at 20 sets out with her father and Agnes for a tour of Holland, Switzerland, and Italy, where she looks at paintings, attends plays, and records the ups and downs of stagecoach travel. The letters and entries in her journal, written until her death, give a rare picture of her times and her clever and endearing personality. At the same time, some entries are melancholic, in which she attributes falling short of achievements commensurate with the level of her abilities and never experiencing marriage and motherhood. Besides charming portraits of the Berry sisters, the illustrations in our expanded set depict the authors they read (Dryden, for example), the painters whose works they viewed, the many notable figures they met or gossiped about (royalty, politicians, actresses, people of fashion), and views of the places they visited. Our lovely set was produced by the London bindery of W. T. Morrell, established about 1861 as successor to the firm begun by Francis Bedford, who, in turn, had taken over the famous bindery of Charles Lewis. Prideaux in her "Modern Bookbindings," published in 1906, says that Morrell at that time had a very large business that supplied "all the booksellers with bindings designed by his men," bindings that were "remarkable for their variety and merit." The six volumes here look remarkably attractive on the shelf.

Price: $4,800.00