COLLINS, Wilkie Armadale

Smith Elder & Co., 1866.

First edition. Two volumes, original publisher's brown morocco grained cloth with gilt vignette to the upper cover and gilt titles and ornamental design to the spine. Blind triple ruled border to covers. Author's presentation copy, inscribed by Collins on the dedication page to François Joseph Regnier, "Monsieur Regnier / De la Comedie Française / from his friend and admirer Wilkie Collins September 1866". Twenty engraved plates by George Thomas. A fine set, fresh and bright with just the slightest tanning to the spine and a trace of wear at the head.

An exceptional presentation copy of one of Collins' rarest works, in fine condition.
François Joseph Regnier (1807-1885) to whom the book is inscribed, was a noted French actor and playwright, who at the time of the inscription was the dean of the Comedie Française, the French state theatre. He met Collins when in Paris in 1856 visiting Dickens,
"At various functions they met leading figures in French literature and drama, many of whom were known to Dickens already. Wilkie too made a number of friends. Among them was Emile Forgues, editor of the Revue des Deux Mondes... and Regnier, of the Comedie Frangaise, who subsequently collaborated with him in a dramatisation of Armadale." - Kenneth Robinson (Wilkie Collins, A Biography)
The pair became good friends and it is significant that it is this book which they worked on together to create a French dramatic version in Paris. Regnier was also the dedicatee of Collins' later detective novel, The Law and the Lady.
Armadale is the third of Collins' four great novels of the 1860s, which spanned from The Woman in White in 1860 to The Moonstone in 1868, when Collins was at the height of his powers as a sensational novelist. T.S.Eliot wrote of the novel, "The one of Collins's novels which we should choose as the most typical, or as the best of the more typical, and which we should recommend as a specimen of the melodramatic fiction of the epoch, is Armadale. It has no merit beyond melodrama, and it has every merit that melodrama can have."
As a first edition, it is the scarcest of the four, Sadlier listing it as the third rarest of Collins' works. This is further born out by only one other copy in original cloth (described as cracked and worn) being offered at auction in the last 75 years. Furthermore, Wilkie Collins presentation copies are of the utmost scarcity in commerce. Only four inscribed first editions are recorded at auction in the last fifty years, and a brief census of institutionally held presentation copies, shows but a mere handful more and also strongly indicates that Collins only inscribed to close friends.

Sadlier 588 "the only fine copy of this book I have seen".

Stock ID: 44350


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