GREAT EXPECTATIONS. In Three Volumes. Charles Dickens.


[in original cloth] Second Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1861. Original wavy-grain blind-stamped violet cloth with gilt-decorated spines.

"Second Edition," so-called on the three title pages (technically the second of the five slightly-differing 1861 impressions of the first edition). GREAT EXPECTATIONS was one of the few Dickens novels that did not first appear in monthly serial parts; instead it appeared in 36 weekly numbers of Dickens's periodical All The Year Round. Also, GREAT EXPECTATIONS was one of only two Dickens novels not to be illustrated as a first edition (the other being HARD TIMES).

The five "editions" of this three-decker all have title pages dated 1861; the first (with no mention of an "Edition" on the title pages) was in the public's hands by July 6th; this "Second" was published on August 5th, followed by the "Third" on August 17th, the "Fourth" on September 21st, and the "Fifth" on October 30th. Although Walter Smith (in 1982) stated "these first five issues were probably printed at a single impression and published with altered title pages to imply and encourage a rapid sale," it has since been shown (the 1993 Clarendon Edition analysis by Margaret Cardwell) that there are subtle differences among the five issues, many of them instances of type slippage. (There are only four issue points that involve actual re-setting of the type, as opposed to type deterioration (see Clarendon p. 493) -- in this "Second Edition" they read "in" on Vol I page 259 line 7, "gto et" on Vol II page 205 line 20, "there's" on Vol III page 173 line 26, and "himself very | carefully" on Vol III page 192 lines 11-12.)

This set is still in the original publisher's wavy-grain violet cloth, blind-stamped on the covers and decorated in gilt on the spines; GREAT EXPECTATIONS was published without half-titles, and in this set none of the three volumes has an ad catalogue.

Condition is good-to-very good: the volumes are (unnecessarily) re-backed, with just a bit of darker cloth peeking through where there is minor wear at some spine ends, and with un-original (but quite early) light-yellow endpapers applied over the original paste-downs; also the top edge is gilded. The Vol III spine gilt is a little brighter than that on Vol II, which in turn is not as rubbed as Vol I. An old engraved portrait of Dickens is applied to the Vol I rear paste-down.

The actual first issue of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, without an "Edition" cited on the title pages, is the Holy Grail for Dickens collectors, since it is virtually impossible to find in fine condition in original cloth (most copies having gone directly from the publisher to Mudie's Select Library, where they were rented out fortnightly). The first issue, fine in original cloth, now brings more than $100,000 when such a copy surfaces (seldom); even rebound, it is a major investment. Thus these subsequent "editions," in the same binding and bearing the same date as the first, are greatly sought-after for the majority of us seeking the primary format without such a cost. Smith I pp 99-104. Item #14553

Price: $6,250.00

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