Great Expectations

DICKENS, Charles

DICKENS, Charles Great Expectations

Chapman & Hall, 1861.

First edition, first impression. Three volumes, bound in contemporary polished calf with flat spines ruled in gilt and morocco title and volume labels. Bound without terminal adverts to vol. III, though Smith states that not all copies were issued with adverts. Edges speckled. A fine copy with trivial wear to the corners and spine ends. Endpapers and prelims foxed, but text block bright. An exceptionally well preserved set, seldom encountered in a contemporary binding.

The first printing of Dickens' gothic masterpiece, now considered his best constructed and most popular novel and one of the great works of nineteenth century literature.
"Great Expectations... is altogether something different. It did not come from research or the theatre but out of a deep place in Dickens's imagination which he never chose to explain... It is set, like so many of his books, in the period of his own childhood and youth... Great Expectations is not a realistic account of how the world was but a visionary novel, close to ballad or folk tale..." - Claire Tomalin (Charles Dickens A Life)
Only 1000 copies of Great Expectations were bound for the first impression on 6 July 1861. Four further so called editions (in reality impressions or issues), were bound up and issued up to 30 October 1861, carrying edition statements to the title pages to "imply and encourage a rapid sale" (Smith). It is likely, however, that some later issues were supplied with unaltered title pages, either by the publisher or by Victorian book collectors. Research for appendix D of the 1993 Clarendon edition established 124 textual points distinguishing the five issues, enabling modern collectors to distinguish true first printings from later ones with first edition title pages. This copy collates to all points required for the first issue.
The scarcity of this work is further exacerbated by the fact that majority of the first printing were sold to libraries so whilst copies do survive in the original cloth, they are usually well used and with the stamps and stickers commensurate with library circulation, or have been rebound in modern bindings. Copies in good order in contemporary bindings are rare.

PROVENANCE: John Gordon of Aikenhead (1815-1897; Scottish landowner, bookplates to front pastedowns). Bookseller/binder's label to pastedown of vol I of John Smith & Sons, 70 St Vincent Street, Glasgow. The firm was at this address between 1835 and 1874.

Smith I: 14; Great Expectations (Clarendon Press, 1993) Appendix D.

Stock ID: 40861

£45,000.00

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