In Three Volumes. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1878. 2 pp undated ads in Vol II. Original brown cloth decorated in black and gilt.
First Edition, which consisted of only 1000 copies. This is Hardy's famous tale of Damon Wildeve of Egdon Heath and the two women who love him, Thomasin Yeobright and Eustacia Vye -- and the return of the native (Thomasin's cousin, Clym Yeobright) from his stint as a diamond merchant in Paris. The book was controversial upon publication, due to its frank treatment of sexuality (including an extramarital affair); present also is Hardy's usual mercilessness of the fates. "The twin triumphs of the book are Eustacia -- rebellious, passionate, longing for another sky and different air -- and Egdon Heath itself" [CGEL].
This is one of the 900 copies in the primary binding, with a blind-stamped two-rule border on the rear covers; Purdy cites a very similar secondary binding that has a three-rule border, used for 100 copies known to have been remaindered in 1882.
This set is in very good-plus condition, perhaps near-fine -- still in the original cloth and endpapers, and without re-backing or any other sort of restoration. As usual there is minor wear at some of the notoriously-brittle spine ends, but the spine gilt remains bright, the covers are clean, and the delicate pale-yellow endpapers are remarkably intact (just one short crack at the top of one hinge); atypically, there is NO evidence of lending-library labels on the front covers.
Copies in the original cloth in this condition are today rather scarce -- since most of the first edition went directly to the lending libraries and were then read to death. This is one of the four novels typically cited as constituting the peak of Hardy's oeuvre -- the others being THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD and TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES. Purdy pp 24-27; Sadleir 1113; Wolff 2989. Housed in a morocco-backed slipcase with inner chemise. Item #14462