[the FINE Lord Esher set] In Three Volumes. [Vol. I Third Impression.] London: Chapman and Hall, 1866. Original blind-stamped scarlet cloth.
First Edition, mixed issue (Vol. I is a copy from the "Third Edition," which is the third and last printing of the first edition; Vols. II and III are from the first printing). The first printing was issued in December 1865 (though dated 1866), and the second and third printings were issued by March 1866. After that, the first one-volume (and first illustrated) edition was issued later in 1866.
In no other novel is the essence of Trollope so concentrated... He fills three volumes with the matrimonial dilemma of Clara Amedroz, who has to choose between the uncouth farmer Will Belton -- to whom has passed her thriftless father's estate -- and the polished, self-seeking Captain Aylmer... The theme is commonplace; the incidents unsensational; the treatment unassuming and serene... To a reader in sympathy with the Trollopian method and mentality, the book is a delight for its smoothness, its subtlety and its faultless adjustment of character and circumstance. [Sadleir, quoted by Gerould]
The first printing of THE BELTON ESTATE was issued in bright scarlet cloth, and the third printing was issued both in that same cloth and in a dull rose cloth with a different blind-stamping: this Vol. I is in the primary binding, which is to say, matching the other two volumes.
Condition: There is evidence of erasure on the title page of Volume I -- where once was printed "Third Edition" (we can tell it was the Third and not the Second, because the miscreant who effected the erasure did not notice that the two words had very lightly offset onto the free endpaper!). We also know that this was done a long time ago: each volume bears the bookplate of the fastidious book collector Oliver Brett (1881-1963, the 3rd Viscount Esher) and, according to an old loosely-inserted Maggs. Bros. description of this set, a salesroom announcement about this erasure was made at the sale of Lord Esher's library. One can see why Lord Esher was drawn to this set: the volumes are very bright and nearly fine (some cracking of the original endpapers, but scarcely any external wear or soil).
THE BELTON ESTATE is one of Trollope's scarcest first editions: among Trollope's 52 novels Sadleir rates this one seventh in scarcity: "First editions of this novel in any form are rare, and in original cloth very rare indeed. THE BELTON ESTATE in first edition through some hazard of publishing history which I cannot explain, has simply disappeared." We have never seen a complete set of the first printing in original cloth. Sadleir (TROLLOPE) 22; Sadleir XIX p. 382. Housed in three (worn) calf-backed cases. Item #12458