“A MASTERPIECE… AN EPIC POEM IN PROSE ABOUT GOD, HUMANITY AND HUGO”: VICTOR HUGO’S LES MISÉRABLES, 1862
HUGO, Victor. Les Misérables. Bruxelles [Brussels]: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven, 1862. Ten volumes bound as five. Small octavo, period-style three quarter blue morocco gilt, marbled boards. $5500.
Early Brussels edition, issued the same year as the first, of Hugo’s greatest work “and one of the most influential novels ever written.”
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). First published in the same year, by the same publishers, in a taller octavo format with a different collation. The original Lacroix & Verboeckhoven Brussels edition preceded the Paris first. Text in French. Michaux, L'edition originale des "Misérables," 110-116. Mahaffey, 166.