Item #15077 THE BISHOP'S APRON. A Study in the Origins of a Great Family. W. Somerset Maugham.

THE BISHOP'S APRON. A Study in the Origins of a Great Family.

London: Chapman and Hall, 1906. Original rose linen-grain cloth.

First Edition, believed to have consisted of no more than 1500 copies. In 1900 Punch Magazine had asked Maugham to contribute a couple of stories, one of which was "Cupid and the Vicar of Swale." Over the next few years he converted this story in two ways: into the play LOAVES AND FISHES (written in 1902 but not performed until 1911 and not published until 1924), and into this full-length novel THE BISHOP'S APRON -- which describes

Canon Spratte's campaign to wed a beer heiress and obtain a bishopric. The tone was farcical, the dialogue epigrammatic. This insipid period piece... found favor with reviewers. The Bookman in its April [1906] issue said "the whole book is an admirable blend of cynical gaiety and broadly farcical comedy; it is the smartest and most genuinely humourous novel that the season has yet given us." The Punch reviewer... said on February 21 that it was "the best clerical novel since BARCHESTER TOWERS." [Morgan]

Toole Stott points out that "No record is now available of the number [of copies] of the first edition. The author believed it was 1,500 but the book's scarcity suggests it was small." The book did not sell well; yet there are some of these 1,500 copies (not this one) with "Second Edition," "Third Edition" or "Fourth Edition" added to the title page. This anomaly is explained by the fact that careful examination of the type shows all four "editions" were printed from the same casting of type at the same time -- in other words, the publisher added such "Edition"s to the title page to deceive the public into thinking this was a hot-selling book they should buy.

The primary binding for this novel was red cloth, lettered in gilt on the front cover and spine, and with "Chapman & Hall" at the foot of the spine. This is a binding variant of rose linen-grain cloth, with no print on the front cover, and with the author's full name but no publisher's name on the spine. The existence of such a secondary binding (plus another bearing only Maugham's last name) lends further credence that this book did not sell well, with C&H binding up copies ever more cheaply in an effort to move them. Condition is near-fine -- fine except for the inevitable fading of the spine and the presence of a former owner's blind-stamp on several leaves including the title. Toole Stott A9a (no mention of this variant binding). Item #15077

Price: $1,350.00

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