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STRICKLAND, Agnes [& Elizabeth].

Lives of the Queens of England,

from the Norman Conquest; with anecdotes of their courts, now first published from official records and other authentic documents, private as well as public.

London: Henry Colburn, 1840-48 Stock Code: 138341
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An attractively bound set of one of the "most popular of all Victorian historical publications" (ODNB)

First edition of the Strickland sisters' best-known work, an important landmark in the development of the biographical genre.

By the early 1830s Agnes (1796-1874) and Elizabeth Strickland (1794-1875), each in their own right enjoying successful literary careers, chose to move towards "a new field of authorship, popular history: they had decided to collaborate on a series of biographies of the queens of England. By the early 1830s Agnes and Elizabeth were devoting part of the morning to reading historical manuscripts in the British Museum Library, with instruction in palaeography from the staff. 'Facts not opinions' was the motto adopted by the sisters, and their manuscript research was both pioneering and intensive" (ODNB). They lobbied politicians to secure entry into the State Paper Office, which did not normally admit women, making them the first women to gain access. The resulting twelve-volume Lives of the Queens of England (1840-48), published by Henry Colburn, "covered enough new ground to be genuinely innovative. Their general thesis was that queens as rulers had been important historical agents (not, as some historians had argued, usually nothing but tools for the ambition and abilities of men) and that queens as women had exercised a civilizing feminine influence as instruments of moral and religious improvement" (Orlando). Like the sisters' numerous other historical biographies it was published under Agnes's name only, by joint agreement, to suit Elizabeth's reclusive nature. "They were undoubtedly key figures in the development of writing on women's history, playing a role in creating a tradition of female worthies which can be seen as the first step towards fuller scholarly investigation" (ODNB).

This set has an interesting provenance which points to its circulation in Southwold, Suffolk, the sisters' childhood home and the place to which Agnes would return to live until her death. Several of the volumes bear the bookplate and ownership signature of Georgina Gertrude Foster (née Cubitt; 1850-1922), who lived in Strickland House in Southwold and whose daughter Georgiana Fanny Julia Foster (1891-1975) inherited a large collection of Strickland material.

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12 volumes, octavo (188 x 116 mm). Rebound to style in 20th-century tan half calf, twin red and black spine labels, raised bands, gilt-tooled floral motifs to compartments, yellow marbled boards, endpapers, and edges.


Engraved frontispiece and facing vignette title page to each volume, numerous facsimile signatures and drawings in text.


Bookplates of Georgina Gertrude Foster (illustrated by T. Rough) to front pastedowns of vols. I, VII-XII; ownership signatures of Agnes Cubitt and G. G. Foster, Southwold to front free endpaper versos of vols. I and III respectively. Contents clean excepting the occasional instance of foxing, some vols. more toned than others. A very good set, uniformly bound.


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