FORTESCUE, The Hon. J. W.
A History of the British Army.
Publication began in 1899 and the final volume was first published in 1930; in this set volumes I and II are of the second edition of 1910, the continuation being in firsts. Here this magisterial history – which truly deserves such treatment and very rarely receives it – has been extremely handsomely bound, and is also inscribed by Fortsescue on the front free endpaper of volume I with a paraphrase of Ecclesiasticus XLIV:1; “Laudemus viros gloriosus, et patres nostros in generatione sua [Now let us praise famous men, and our country – rather than “parentes”/fathers – that begat us] Eccles. XLIV.I J.W. Fortescue, May, 1910”. “A choice set”, as it might have been described in a previous era. Truly a lifetime’s work, and to this day an irreplaceable source, written “vigourously, lucidly, and graphically” (DNB), and covering the period 1100 to 1870. Described by Brian Bond as ” …the product of indefatigable research in original documents, a determination to present a clear, accurate, and readable narrative of military operations, and a close personal knowledge of the battlefields, which enabled him to elucidate his account with excellent maps. Most important, however, was his motivation: namely, a lifelong affection for the old, long-service, pre-Cardwell army, the spirit of the regiments of which it largely consisted, and the value of its traditions to the nation.” A beautifully presented set of this important work, bound for Cora Colgate Strafford – her monogram, surmounted by the countess’s coronet, gilt to the tail of the spines, her engraved bookplate to the front pastedowns – one of the “Dollar Princesses” of the Gilded Age, Cora was the widow of the soap magnate Samuel J. Colgate, on his death in 1897 inheriting a fortune which would be worth around $250 million today, and the following year marrying Henry William George Byng, 4th Earl of Strafford.
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13 volumes octavo bound as 19 (217 142 mm), 14 text volumes and 5 map volumes, the maps to volume IV in an end-pocket rather than as a separate volume, contemporary blond half calf, marbled boards, red morocco lettering-pieces, black morocco numbering-pieces, narrow, low bands with a single fine dotted roll, floral lozenge centre-tools to the compartments, arabesqued floral corner pieces linked by a fine dotted roll, dog-tooth roll in blind to the spine and corner edges, top edge gilt, marbled endpapers. Numerous folding coloured maps as called for. A little light shelfwear, pale toning to the text, but overall very good indeed.