A Tale.London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1880 Stock Code: 106245
First edition in book form of Hardy's great novel of the Napoleonic war, written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Trafalgar. The story was first published in slightly bowdlerized form in Good Words, Jan-Dec 1880, with the book edition published on 26 October 1880 "in an edition of 1000 copies" (Purdy), though sales were slow and 250 sets of sheets were eventually remaindered to W. Glaisher, wholesale bookseller, in 1882. Volumes I and II represent Purdy and Sadleir's binding variant A, the original state, with the two-line border to the rear covers and the full stop between Smith and Elder in the spine-imprint centred rather than on the base line; volume III bears the three-line border and the base-line full stop indicative of scarcer variant B, a secondary binding dating from the Glaisher sale. The triple-decker format was largely adopted for sale to lending libraries, meaning that sets retaining the original cloth in anything approaching collectable condition are uncommon.
3 volumes, octavo. Original red diagonal-fine-ribbed cloth, front covers with pictorial design in black (encampment and mill, from a drawing by the author) and lettered in black, rear covers blocked in blind with two-line border to vols. I-II and three-line border to vol. III, spines gilt and black with design of standard, sword and bugle, cream endpapers. Housed in a dark red leather entry slipcase.
From the library of Walter E. Smith, the pre-eminent modern bibliographer of 19th-century fiction, with his pencilled ownership inscription to the front free endpaper of the first volume. Extremities lightly bumped and rubbed, spines darkened and gently rolled, rear covers of vols. I-II slightly marked, portion of light wear to head of front cover of vol. III, very occasional light spotting chiefly restricted to margins and endleaves; subtle restoration of free endpapers vols. I and III along gutter, though vol. I with remnants of old adhesive evident on contents leaf and verso of title-page and rear pastedown rather soiled, upper outer corner of vol. I sig. G3 reattached; vol. II with effaced ownership inscription to front pastedown, inner hinge starting at head, surface-splitting to foot of rear joint and old repair to head. A very good set.
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