Third Edition. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1859. 16 pp undated Vol I ads. Original blindstamped cinnamon brown cloth.
"Third Edition" of George Eliot's first novel, preceded only by her collection of sketches, SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE (and by a couple of translations).
She told her publisher that it was going to be a country story -- and indeed it is one of the best in English fiction -- but the impulse for the plot was the account her aunt, Elizabeth Evans, a Methodist preacher, gave her of the night she spent in the condemned cell of Nottingham Jail with a girl who was hanged on the following morning for the murder of her child... ADAM BEDE, by any standards, and in spite of any faults, is a novel of fine quality; in its day it must have been astonishing... Her evocation of authentic rural England presented the reader with something new -- in place of dainty shepherdesses and merry peasants, her country people are real, hard-working men and women [CGEL].
It is noteworthy that more than thirty years before Thomas Hardy was roundly criticized for writing so openly about Tess Durbeyfield, here was George Eliot writing about Hetty Sorrel, impregnated and then discarded by the local squire, and then condemned to hang for the baby's death.
The first edition (2,101 copies, of which 1,000 went to Mudie's lending library) was published on 7 February 1959; not expecting the demand and requiring the type elsewhere, the publisher distributed the type and thus had to re-set for the second edition (three volumes, 788 copies published on 15 April 1859). A day later (16 April) the publisher observed "The demand seems so brisk that we have given orders to reprint again" -- in this case the type for one volume had been retained, but the other two had to be re-set, for this final three-volume edition (527 copies, 2 May 1859). There would then be six two-volume "editions" -- four before the end of 1859, plus one in 1860 and one in 1861.
As in the "second edition," the 16-page ad catalogue is here in the first volume, whereas in the first printing it is in the third. This set is in very good condition (minor shelf-wear at the extremities, a bit of the usual wrinkling of the spine cloth, delicate original endpapers cracked, faint shadows where front-cover lending-library labels once resided). Baker & Ross A4.3; for the first printing see Sadleir 812; Wolff 2056; Parrish pp 12-13. Item #14819