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Lorna Doone:
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Lorna Doone:

A Romance of Exmoor. In three volumes.

Published: London: Sampson Low, Son, & Marston, 1869

Stock code: 79856

Price: £4,750

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First edition, first impression of Blackmore’s most famous novel, first issue with the adverts in the third volume correctly dated March 1869; one of only 500 copies printed, this copy with two tipped-in autograph letters signed by Blackmore to the book and manuscript dealers J. Pearson & Co, 5 Pall Mall Place, London SW. The first (Teddington, 25 April 1892) declines a request to sell the original manuscript of Lorna Doone, but expresses a willingness to consider offers for Alice Lorraine (1875) “by reason of heavy losses in the gardening way”. The second letter (9 August 1892) reveals that Pearson attempted but failed to sell the manuscript of Blackmore’s novel Cripps, the Carrier (1876); Blackmore thanks them for its safe return, and promises to consider offering them Lorna Doone in due course. (Pearson ceased trading by 1924, when their stock was sold off at Sotheby’s. The manuscript of Lorna Doone is now in the Huntington Library.) To the lower outer corner of each front pastedown is a bookplate monogrammed AB and with the Latn motto “otium sine literis mors est” (“leisure without books is death”). This is the bookplate of noted essayist and Liberal politician Augustine Birrell (1850-1933), whose “witty and elegant essays on writers he admired, such as Milton, Pope, Carlyle, and Dr Johnson, revealed his passion for literature and his intellectual versatility. He had collected more than 10,000 books for his library by the time he was fifty, observing in his essay ‘Book-buying’ that ‘the man who has a library of his own collection is able to contemplate himself objectively'” (ODNB). His political reputation today rests on his achievements as chief secretary for Ireland in the first six years of his tenure, from 1907 to 1912, though he became increasingly ineffective after the introduction of the Home Rule Bill and took full blame for the Easter Rising in his resignation speech to the House of Commons in May 1916.

3 volumes, octavo. Original blue watered cloth lettered in gilt on spines (Carter’s A binding), sides blocked in blind with thick one-line rule enclosing two-line rule, pale yellow coated endpapers. Each housed in a blue cloth chemise and all in a blue morocco-backed bookform slipcase. Bookplate of Augustine Birrell to lower outer corner of front pastedown in each volume, together with the pencilled ownership inscription of one E. King and his monogram bookplate EK to the centre. Autograph letters signed by Blackmore tipped-in to vol. I initial blank, with autograph envelope laid in. Spines faded and a little cockled in places, joints and extremities rubbed, covers lightly rubbed and marked suggesting skilful removal of library labels, clean within, and overall in very good condition.

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