Sketches by "Boz," [First and Second Series]

Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People.

DICKENS, Charles


DICKENS, Charles Sketches by "Boz," [First and Second Series] Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People.

John Macrone, 1836.

First editions. Three volumes. The first series in original dark green cloth with gilt titles on the spine, with variant orange coated endpapers; the second series in peach coloured cloth lettered in gilt to the spine and yellow coated endpapers. The second series in Sadleir's earlier state, with no list of plates after the contents, the frontispiece bound in the text and 'Vol III' still present on each of the plates. Twenty-six steel engraved plates by George Cruikshank (sixteen in the first series and ten in the second). A fine set, the cloth notably bright and crisp. A small closed tear to the head of the spine of the Second Series and a trace of wear to the corners, but entirely without repair or meaningful deficiency, which is most unusual for this book. Internally exceptionally clean and fresh, with just some offsetting to the coated endpapers of the First Series and a little looseness between the initial sections, but all hinges perfect. All housed in an elaborate full morocco box with drop-down side and mechanical catch. An exceptional set, seldom seen in such uniformly excellent condition.

Dickens's career as a writer of fiction began in 1833, when as a political journalist, he wrote a series of 'sketches' or observations on society, under the pen name of Boz, to be published in The Monthly Magazine. In 1835, acquaintance and young publisher John Macrone approached Dickens with the idea of publishing his stories in book form, offering £100 for the copyright. As Dickens's income at the time was £382 a year, this was a princely sum, and he approached the project with some enthusiasm, rewriting a number of the previously published stories and adding some new ones, notably 'A Visit to Newgate' and 'The Black Veil'. A further feather in the caps of both author and publisher was securing the services of the much better known George Cruikshank to illustrate the book, which instigated a relationship that was to be mutually fruitful throughout much of Dickens's and Cruikshank's careers.
Sketches by Boz was published in 1836, to glowing reviews, helped in no small way by Dickens's own literary and journalistic contacts, and sold smartly, so that a second edition was published within the year, followed by a third in the following year. The book was the catalyst to Dickens's meteoric rise to literary fame that would in due course lead to him being regarded as the foremost writer of the Victorian age.
It is likely that 'Sketches' was originally conceived as a three volume work, but that Dickens wanted to include more material than would comfortably fit into a uniform third volume, so it was decided to issue two volumes followed by a separate 'second series' some ten months later.
Exact publication numbers are unknown, but Macrone was a small establishment, so it is unlikely that each edition consisted of more that a couple of thousand copies. Sadleir ranked them first and second in his list of comparative scarcities for Dickens in original cloth and nice copies are now very infrequently encountered.

PROVENANCE: J. Steele (Noted Dickensian, whose collection seems notable for the exceptional condition of copies in original cloth. Bookplate to each volume and box).

Smith 1&2; Sadleir 699

Stock ID: 40860


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