(MARLBOROUGH, Duke of.) COXE, William.
Memoirs of the Duke of Marlborough,
With his Original Correspondence: collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and other Authentic Sources, illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans.
First edition. Coxe was “the first biographer to use Marlborough’s correspondence … the best early biography” (Bruce). This was a book that helped to establish Coxe’s reputation as a historian, leading J.H. Plumb, the eminent historian of the eighteenth century “to bracket him with T. B. Macaulay and Dr Johnson as one of the fathers of modern biography” (ODNB). Marlborough seems effectively to have become one of the lost figures of British history, somewhat like James Wolfe, and similarly to the victor of Quebec, Marlborough’s importance relates to his victory in a campaign which truly redefined the balance of world power. As his illustrious descendant Winston Churchill expatiated; “‘There are few successful commanders,’ says Creasy, ‘on whom Fame has shone so unwillingly as upon John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.’ I believe this is true; and it is an interesting historical study to examine the causes which have made so great a contrast between the glory and importance of his deeds and the small regard of his countrymen for his memory … he never fought a battle that he did not win, nor besieged a fortress he did not take. Amid all the chances and baffling accidents of war he produced victory with almost mechanical certainty… he never rode off any field except as victor. He quitted war invincible”. Bookplates of the Cullen House Library of the countess of Seaforth to the front pastedowns, inked inscriptions to the title pages of each. The binder Alexander Milne “died on 22 February 1849 in his 70th year. Mr Milne belonged to a family of Milne, in the parish of Urquhart … Mr Milne went to Forres about 1798 as master of the Grammar School. He subsequently started as a bookseller. I have not been able to find out when he made the transition from dominie to bookbinder, but one of his bookbindings in the National Library of Scotland has a donor’s inscription of 1814, so it must have been before that date” (NLS Scottish Book Trade Index). A well-provenanced, wide-margined copy in an unsophisticated – in both possible senses – Scottish binding.
Three volumes, quarto (269 212 mm). Contemporary calf by A Milne of Forres, ink-stamps to front pastedowns, red lettering- and green numbering-pieces, flat spine, compartments formed by triple fillet rolls containing a quatrefoil tool gilt, edges marbled. Portrait frontispiece to each, 3 other portraits, and 4 further plates, 7 pages of facsimile manuscript, 15 maps, 9 folding with dispositions in colour, one of these with a situational overlay, one with a double overlay, one folding uncoloured, 3 full-page genealogical tables, 2 illustrations to the text. Half-titles bound in to volumes II and III. Slightly rubbed, a couple of small chips from labels, one map misfolded and standing proud at the fore-edge, light browning throughout, a little heavier to the maps and plates which have off-set to the text, but overall a very good set.
Bibliography: Bruce 1788Don't understand our descriptions? Try reading our Glossary