“A MASTERPIECE… AN EPIC POEM IN PROSE ABOUT GOD, HUMANITY AND HUGO”: TRUE FIRST EDITION OF LES MISÉRABLES, 1862
HUGO, Victor. Les Misérables. Bruxelles [Brussels]: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven, 1862. Ten volumes. Octavo, contemporary half calf gilt, raised bands, marbled edges. Housed in two matching clamshell boxes. $13,500.
True first edition, preceding the Paris edition, of Hugo’s greatest work “and one of the most influential novels ever written,” in a contemporary binding. A handsome, wide-margined set.
Hugo's "great novel has been hailed as a masterpiece of popular literature, an epic poem in prose about God, humanity and Hugo… Hugo hoped that Les Misérables would be one of if not the 'principal summits' of his body of works. Despite its length, complexity and occasionally unbelievable plot and characterization, it remains a masterpiece of popular literature. It anticipates Balzac in its realism, but in its flights of imagination and lyricism, its theme of redemption and its melding of myth and history, it is uniquely Hugo" (Dolbow, 149, 214). "It had taken Hugo 17 years to produce what would become his magnum opus and one of the most influential novels ever written. By now, he was well aware of his worth and when his [French] publisher Hetzel was unable to meet his demand of 300,000 francs, Hugo turned to the Belgian publishing house Lacroix and Verboeckhoven… It was an instant success and sales clearly showed that Hugo had managed to do something that no one had done before; he had reached the masses with a work of serious fiction. Everybody, all over the world, was reading the story of Jean Valjean, Fantine, Javert and Cosette. In Paris, the different parts sold out within hours" (Michaux). Text in French. Michaux, L'edition originale des "Misérables," 110-116. Mahaffey, 166. Each volume with original owner's name "A. Dumba" stamped on front cover.
Minor foxing at the very beginning of Volume IV, else interiors clean and fine; contemporary calf spines a bit dry, corners rubbed, front joint of Volume IX with short split near foot of spine, but overall sound and attractive. An exceptionally good set, desirable in contemporary bindings.