"THE GRAND FINALE IN A GREAT DRAMA": FIRST EDITION OF FOX'S HISTORY OF JAMES II, EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED, ONE OF ONLY 50 LARGE-PAPER COPIES
(JAMES II) FOX, Charles James. A History of the Early Part of the Reign of James the Second; With an Introductory Chapter. London: William Miller, 1808. Large quarto (11-1/2 by 14 inches), contemporary full polished calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, red morocco spine label, Hyett emblem in gilt on covers, marbled endpapers and edges. $3000.
First edition, very scarce large-paper issue, of Fox’s well-known History of James II, whose controversial reign ended with England's Glorious Revolution, laying the "ground rules for the British constitutional monarchy." An excellent, wide-margined copy in contemporary calf, extra-illustrated with three contemporary engravings, from the library at Painswick House, with the Hyett emblem in gilt on the covers.
From the moment James II was crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1685 to the conclusion of his ill-fated reign with England's Glorious Revolution, much of the nation became certain its "Protestant institutions and liberties were about to be overturned." When James II was forced from the throne, it "was the grand finale in the great drama of the struggle between the Stuart kings and Parliament which had taken center stage for so much of the 17th century. It laid the ground rules for the British constitutional monarchy" (Fraser, 380-84). This well-regarded history by Charles Fox "represents the chief aim of James to be the establishment of civil despotism rather than the overthrow of the Church of England" (DNB). Scrupulously researched, it was written by a man who also knew controversy. "A brilliant orator… Charles Fox never fulfilled his immense potential as a politician." Yet his advocacy "of "civil and religious reformers inspired many later reformers" and after Fox's death in 1806, this first edition of his History was published posthumously (Cannon, 390). This is one of 50 copies Lowndes notes as printed on "elephant paper." With engraved frontispiece, as issued; this copy extra-illustrated with three engravings mounted on paper and bound in (another portrait of Fox, an image of Rye House, and a depiction of Argyll's execution). Lowndes, 827. Allibone I:624. From the library at Painswick House, with the Hyett family crest as a gilt centerpiece on the covers. Painswick House, surrounded by a rococo garden, was built in the 1730s by Charles Hyett to escape the smog of Gloucester, though he died not long after moving there, in 1738. Occasional penciled marginalia; three pages of manuscript notes in pencil (on one bifolio) laid in.
Mild foxing to frontispiece; text quite clean and fine. Front joint expertly repaired, lower corners with expert restoration. An excellent, very handsome, large-paper copy with distinguished provenance.