"IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES": HANDSOMELY BOUND FIRST EDITION OF DICKENS' TALE OF TWO CITIES
DICKENS, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. London: Chapman and Hall, 1859. Octavo, 20th-century full tan calf, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, black and burgundy morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $7900.
First edition, first issue, bound from parts, of Dickens' second historical novel, one of his most enduring works—a powerful tale of self-sacrifice and rebirth amid the turmoil of the French Revolution—handsomely bound by Stewart-Kidd.
"Dickens had always admired Carlyle's History of the French Revolution and asked him to recommend suitable books from which he could research the period; in reply Carlyle sent him a 'cartload' of volumes… So great was [Dickens'] enthusiasm for the story that it had indeed 'taken in possession' of him… The force of the novel springs from its exploration of darkness and death but its beauty derives from Dickens' real sense of transcendence, from his ability to see the sweep of destiny" (Ackroyd, 858). A Tale of Two Cities is the last of Dickens' books to be illustrated by H.K. Browne ("Phiz"), with 16 engraved plates by him. "Browne, for 23 years responsible for all the etchings which had so successfully embellished these [Dickens] books, produced his last drawings for the present work… Bradbury and Evans, the printers of all and publishers of five of Dickens' works as issued in monthly parts, had ceased to act in this dual capacity after completion of Little Dorrit… [resulting] in the return of Chapman and Hall as publishers of this and all succeeding works" (Hatton & Cleaver, 333). First issue, with page 213 misnumbered as 113 and other first-issue points as called for. Originally published as a serial in Dickens' weekly journal All the Year Round, issued in eight parts from June to December 1859. Smith I:13. Eckel, 86-90. Hatton & Cleaver, 333-42. Gimbel A143. Leather bookplates.
Interior generally fresh and clean, tape repair to plate list, faint paperclip residue to front blank endpapers and blank frontispiece recto. Very attractive calf-gilt binding with expert repair to joints and spine ends.