MAN AND WIFE. Wilkie Collins.


With Illustrations. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1870. 4 pp ads dated July 1870. Original dark purple-brown cloth.

First American (and first illustrated) Edition -- and possibly the first edition overall. The English three­decker -- considered to be the scarcest of all of Collins's UK firsts -- was published in 1870 by F.S. Ellis during the fortnight June 15-30 (priority between the UK edition and this US one is uncertain: first serialization was in Harper's Weekly, December 1869 - August 1870, followed by Cassell's Magazine in the UK a month later). This was a popular novel, praised for the excitement and cleverness of its plot, but it is particularly noteworthy for Collins's preoccupation with marriage law and its injustices. MAN AND WIFE was "Collins's first propaganda novel, in which he draws attention not only to such injustice in both Scottish and Irish marriage law, but also presses for the 'right of a married woman, in England, to possess her own property and keep her own earnings'" [Gasson]. (Collins never married -- didn't believe in the institution -- but split his time between two women: the widow Caroline Graves, whose daughter he provided for as his own, and Martha Rudd, 25 years his junior, with whom he had three children -- and with whom he was known as William Dawson!)

Included in this American edition are 34 illustrations in the text, plus a frontispiece portrait of Collins. Copies were issued in wrappers and in numerous colors and grains of cloth (no precedence); this copy is in dark purple-brown cloth that has a tiny hexagonal grain.

Condition is near-fine (very minor spine-fading as usual with purple); the volume is slightly askew, and there is a tiny pin-hole in the rear joint. The spine gilt remains remarkably bright, the original endpapers are intact, and the leaves are free of foxing. Gasson pp 99-101; Parrish & Miller pp 80-81; Gasson (The Private Library, Summer 1980) pp 68-71. Item #14579

Price: $450.00

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