Item #15155 MAN AND WIFE. Wilkie Collins.


With Illustrations. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1870. 4 pp ads dated July 1870. Original violet straight-grain-morocco 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!) The tale also includes a locked-room murder -- of a brutal man, by his abused wife.

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 violet cloth with a straight-morocco grain.

Condition is near-fine, with very little wear or soil (atypically, no chipping of the spine ends); as usual with purple cloth, the spine has faded to a light brown. The original endpapers are intact (the front paste-down bears a bookplate), the leaves are free of foxing, and the spine gilt remains bright (though it doesn't "stand out" well against the light brown spine). Gasson pp 99-101; Parrish & Miller pp 80-81; Gasson (The Private Library, Summer 1980) pp 68-71. Item #15155

Price: $375.00

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