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War and Peace.

I. Before Tilsit; II. The Invasion; III. The French at Moscow.

London: Vizetelly & Co., 1886 Stock Code: 137493
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First English edition, in original cloth

First English edition of War and Peace, rare in commerce, published in October 1886 in the first flush of enthusiasm for previously disregarded Russian novelists. Russomania was first detectable in France, where Vizetelly had spent 12 years of his working life. After his return to England in 1878, the output of his new firm, Vizetelly & Co., consisted primarily of translations of French novelists (notably and controversially Zola), to which he next added the Russians, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Lermentov, thereby helping establish the Russian canon for an English-speaking audience.

The first translation of War and Peace (1865-9) from the Russian was into French by Princess Irina Ivanovna Paskevich in 1879, published in St Petersburg and sold in Paris. It was Turgenev who found a French publisher and urged the translation on Zola, Flaubert, and Daudet. The second edition was published in Paris in 1884. It was this edition that was hailed in de Vogüé's influential survey, Le Roman Russe (1886) and used as the basis for the English translation. The English translator Clara Bell, née Poynter (18351927), was fluent in eight other languages: George du Maurier thought her "the cleverest woman of our acquaintance". Although resident in London, she was regularly published in New York by William S. Gottsberger, who had already issued many of her translations to great acclaim.

Vizetelly used Clara Bell's translation, published in New York in six volumes in Jan-Aug 1886, as the basis for his text, with some changes, and added to it a translation of the introduction from Le Roman Russe (June 1886) by the marquis de Vogüé, most likely from the original form of that essay in Revue des deux mondes (15 July 1884).

The first volume only, "Before Tilsit", was bound in an experimental manner that proved a failure, the gatherings being stitched with metal staples. The few surviving examples are fragile, show rusting in the gutter, and are inclined to spring; they are ink stamped on the rear free endpaper recto as the work of E. Symmons & Sons, London. As in the Sadleir set, the first volume here is resewn, recased, relined with uncoloured endpapers, and the top edge trimmed. There are neither advertisement leaves nor binder's stamp. The boards are very slightly smaller and the cloth is nipped in tighter over the board edges. The work appears to be have been well executed at an early date (there are no rust stains in the gutter). The title page and sheets are all those of the first edition. The second and third volumes were always conventionally stitched and so did not require similar treatment.

Complete sets with each volume in first edition are rare. As Vizetelly's edition was long thought to precede the much more common six-volume New York edition as the first in English, it has always been much sought-after and commanded higher prices. By clothing Tolstoy's unruly novel in the standard three-decker of mainstream Victorian fiction, Vizetelly familiarized the Russian master for an English readership.

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3 volumes, crown octavo. Original moderate yellow green (sage) cloth, spines lettered in red, front covers lettered in red and black, front covers with four-line bands at head and tail blocked in black, running onto spines, and continued on rear covers in blind, vol. I trimmed at head and with plain endpapers, the case a little shorter than vols. II and III, which are untrimmed at head and have purple endpapers.


Vol. II with initial advert leaf for Disenchantment and Vizetelly & Co.'s one-volume novels, and 32 pp. adverts dated September 1886 inserted at end; vol. III with 4 pp. conjugate adverts at end.


Contemporary ownership inscription of Mrs [Sarah Norris Beveridge] Markheim, 20 Lennox Street, Edinburgh, at head of vol. II title page, without any other marks of ownership. Spines darkened, black spine-lettering rubbed on first two vols., extremities a little rubbed, but the bindings firm and sound, the cloth without nicks or tears; superficial crack to front inside hinge of vol. II; the text generally clean and fresh; overall a very good copy of a novel rarely found complete in first edition thus.


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