"ONE OF THE BEST UNFINISHED MYSTERY STORIES IN LITERATURE"
DICKENS, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. London: Chapman & Hall, 1870. Six parts (all published). Octavo, original green paper wrappers. Housed in a custom chemise and half morocco slipcase. $2650.
First edition in original parts of Dickens' last book, a tantalizingly incomplete murder mystery, illustrated with 14 engraved plates after designs by Luke Fildes and with the wrapper of Part VI in the earliest state.
"There are few of [Dickens'] stories which are superior in the matter of composition… [It is] one of the best unfinished mystery stories in literature" (Eckel, 96-97). At the time of his death (June 9, 1870), Dickens had written only six parts, three of which had been published. The remaining three were published posthumously. Dickens kept the outlines of the plot a secret, even from his close friends, and to this day the identity of Edwin Drood's murderer remains fertile ground for speculation (including a 1985 Broadway musical, Drood, in which each audience's vote determines that performance's conclusion). Dickens's novels had always been much concerned with secrets, with dual identities and masks; but here these matters "are enlarged and strengthened in the pursuit of a larger vision, a vision which depicts the 'lanes of light' between the dark pillars of a crypt and which reflects upon 'that mysterious fire which lurks in everything" (Ackroyd, 1056). "The design for the front [wrapper] was by C.A. Collins (brother of Wilkie Collins), and therein are depicted eight incidents of the story, which it is frequently suggested have a bearing on the eventual solution" (Hatton & Cleaver, 373). With the rare "cork" advertisement in Part Two in pristine condition. With all advertisements called for except the first leaf of advertisements in Part II, which has been neatly cut out; Parts I and VI both have double sets of the Chapman and Co. advertisements. With Wilcox & Gibbs advertisement in state 1A ("A New World at Home"); the two states are found in roughly equal proportions in copies of Part VI. With wrapper of Part VI in the earliest state, with "Eighteenpence" slip pasted over the printed text, "Price One Shilling." Hatton & Cleaver, 373-384. Eckel, 96-98. Morocco bookplate to chemise.
Interior fine and fresh, expert restoration to fragile paper spines. A very attractive copy.