Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. First Edition, London: Chapman and Hall, 1861.
You can view our first edition of Great Expectations here.
Presented by Sammy Jay, Rare Books Specialist at Peter Harrington Rare Books.
3 volumes, octavo. Original violet wavy-grained cloth, the covers with floral decoration within linear border stamped in blind, spines lettered in gilt, yellow endpapers. Housed in a blue calf-backed book-form folding case, the back gilt with red and green labels (joints rubbed), unsigned but probably by Bayntun. With 32pp. publisher’s adverts at end of Vol. III dated May 1861. Ownership inscription “Amy Dunster, July 25th 1896”, to front free endpaper of Vol. I. Spines and edges a little faded as usual (the violet dye is liable to fading), extremities just worn in places, front board of Vol. I with two small black marks, rear board with pale stain at upper outer corner, inner hinges with superficial cracks, a number of leaves creased where turned down to mark the place, overall a very good set, without any restoration or repair or library markings: rare thus.
First edition, first impression, published on 6 July 1861, one of 1,000 copies thus. The first edition was divided into five impressions, with distinct title pages labelling them as five editions, perhaps to imply rapid sales. The modern bibliographical authority is generally agreed to be the table given in Appendix D to the Clarendon edition, 1993, based on line-by-line collation of six 1861 copies, with additional spot checks from other copies, in which Margaret Cardwell agrees with the traditional conclusion that the same setting of type was used for all five impressions: “there is no warrant for treating the five impressions as distinct editions” (p. 491). However, she deduces that the impressions were sequential and that minor corrections and gradual deterioration of type can be shown across the five impressions. This copy has all of Cardwell’s points for the first impression. Cardwell notes two variable points in Vol. III: in some copies, on p. 103, the page-number 3 is missing; and p. 193, line 23, the initial i in inflexible is missing. In this copy both are present.
The first impression of Great Expectations is a famously rare book. Robert L. Patten, Charles Dickens and His Publishers (Clarendon 1978) states that 1,000 copies of the first impression and 750 of the second were printed and that probably most of the first and more than half of the second (1,400 copies in all) were published by Mudie’s Select Library, where as circulating library copies they inevitably suffered a high rate of attrition. This copy of the first impression is remarkable in being entirely unsophisticated, unrestored, and without the usual marks of Mudie’s labels on the front covers.