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PARKES, Bessie Rayner.

The History of Our Cat Aspasia.

Second edition. Illustrated by Annie Leigh Smith.

London: Bosworth and Harrison, [1856?] Stock Code: 126743
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Second edition, following the first of 1855; conspicuously uncommon: Library Hub cites copies at only British Library, Oxford and Scotland among British and Irish institutional libraries, with WorldCat adding no further copies in international holdings; of the first edition Library Hub notes just two copies (Cambridge, Standen House). Bessie Rayner Parkes, later Belloc (1829-1925), was a journalist and prominent campaigner for women's rights; she sent George Eliot a copy of this book and Eliot wrote saying "thank you for 'Aspasia.' I think her charming, and only wish you had given her more adventures. But the episode of the sucking pigs is best of all". The illustrator, Annie Leigh Smith, was the sister of Barbara Leigh Smith, later Bodichon, described by Bessie Parkes as "the most powerful woman I have ever known" (ODNB). At page 14 Parkes explains the reason behind the name of her pet cat: "Now it happened that... I had been reading a very beautiful book by Mr. Walter Savage Landor, called Pericles and Aspasia 1836". Aspasia of Miletus was "a key figure in the intellectual history of fifth century Athens, and is without question the most important woman of that era" (Madeleine M. Henry, Prisoner of History: Aspasia of Miletus and Her Biographical Tradition, OUP 1995, p. 3). A pretty little book, attractively printed by William Clowes.

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Small square octavo, pp. 46. Original pale orange decorative wrappers.


2 plates wood-engraved plates and illustrations throughout by Annie Leigh Smith.


Portions of fabric missing from spine but binding sound, light signs of handling, scattered foxing to endpapers otherwise a very good copy.


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