Complete Works of William Shakspeare

Samuel JOHNSON   |   William SHAKESPEARE

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THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, 1846, FEATURING A PREFACE BY SAMUEL JOHNSON, SPLENDIDLY BOUND IN FULL MOROCCO-GILT WITH BEAUTIFUL AND SCARCE DOUBLE FORE-EDGE PAINTING FEATURING QUEEN ELIZABETH AND THE GLOBE THEATRE AND SHAKESPEARE AND STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

SHAKESPEARE, William. Complete Works of William Shakspeare, with A Selection of Notes, and Preface by Dr. Johnson. London: J.J. Chidley, 1846. Thick octavo, 19th-century full black morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and covers, all edges gilt, double fore-edge painting.

Later edition of Shakespeare's complete dramatic and poetic works, with Samuel Johnson's famed preface from his 1765 edition and with frontispiece portrait of Shakespeare, beautifully bound in full morocco-gilt with a scarce double (bi-directional) fore-edge painting depicting, from one direction, Queen Elizabeth and the Globe Theatre and, from the other, Shakespeare and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

"Shakespeare is the Canon. He sets the standard and the limits of literature" (Harold Bloom). This edition of his complete works includes his plays, his sonnets, and lengthy explanatory notes at the rear, as well as Samuel Johnson's celebrated preface derived from 1765 edition he collaborated on with George Steevens, "considered the best edition that had appeared up to that time, and… long regarded as the standard" (Grolier Shakespeare's Plays, 19). "Although marking the fore-edge of a book had been done for centuries, it is often thought the development of the hidden fore-edge painting began in the mid-17th century by London bookbinders Stephen and Thomas Lewis. It grew more renowned under the auspices of King Charles II's royal bookbinder… The popularization of the art form, however, is most closely associated with Edwards of Halifax, an 18th–early 19th-century bookbinding family located in Pall Mall, London. Bookbinders like Edwards of Halifax hired artists to paint scenes on the edges. These artists would use watercolor, and then the edges were typically decorated in gilt… There is nothing quite like seeing a fore-edge painting seemingly appear out of nowhere. It is even more astonishing when fanning the pages in one direction and seeing an image appear, and then seeing a completely different painting when fanning the pages in the opposite direction. These are rightly called double fore-edge paintings… [T]here are not many surviving books with double fore-edge paintings" (New York Public Library). Fore-edge paintings continued to be produced well into the 20th century. This rare and lovely double fore-edge painting includes (in one direction) a circle-framed portrait of Queen Elizabeth I set again a labeled view of The Globe Theatre and (in the other direction) a circle-framed portrait of Shakespeare set against a labeled view of Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Contemporary owner gift inscription to 15-year-old Robert Walters, later a barrister at the Inner Temple and J.P. for Hertfordshire, to his friend, 17-year-old John Blencowe Robinson, 8th Robinson baronet of London, upon the latter's departure from Eton. Ink title page owner signature of Winifred Robinson, a relative of John Blencowe Robinson.

Slight foxing mainly to preliminaries, light rubbing to binding. A nearly fine copy.

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