The History of Tom Jones

A Foundling


FIELDING, Henry The History of Tom Jones A Foundling

Printed for A. Millar, 1749.

First edition, first issue with all points called for by Rothschild. Six volumes all bound in contemporary speckled brown calf, with raised bands, title labels, gilt rules and volume numbers to the spines. Page edges speckled red. A near fine set, sometime neatly rebacked to style. The contents generally clean and fresh, with a small chip to the lower margin of leaves M2 and R3 in volume three, affecting the text in neither case though grazing the initial in the former. Repaired closed tears to the title pages of volumes two and four.

The author's masterpiece, which along with 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Gulliver', form the three great novels of the eighteenth century. It was Fielding's novel however, which established the genre as we know it today. Fielding was the first major novelist to unabashedly write fiction, at the same time undertaking an initial critical theory of the new form he was creating. The introductory chapters preceding the individual books in Tom Jones constitute the first extended body of work in English which attempts to define and explain the novel as a literary genre. A "heroical, historical prosaic poem" (IV, 1) or a form of "prosai-comi-epic writing" (V, 1). In defining the novel as an epic genre, Fielding emphasized its function in presenting a broad picture of an era, but one, unlike verse epic, in which the weaknesses of humanity are put on display. Although he termed his new style of writing "history," his definition of the budding genre still influences our understanding of novelistic fiction.
Such was the demand for this novel that the 2000 copies of the first edition and a proportion of the 1500 copy second edition all sold out before publication.

PROVENANCE: T. Fletcher, faint contemporary ownership inscription to the title page of each volume; Robert Parker, F.A.S. (1754-1837), uncle to Percy Bysshe Shelley, with his bookplate to each pastedown. Parker's 'Letters On Atheism', the correspondence he sent to his nephew, constitute the most comprehensive contemporary reply to Shelley's notorious 1811 pamphlet 'The Necessity Of Atheism'.

Rothschild 850; Grolier 100 (English) 48

Stock ID: 40424


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