“TO BLEND AMUSEMENT WITH INSTRUCTION”: THE COMIC HISTORIES OF ENGLAND AND ROME, RICHLY ILLUSTRATED WITH 30 HAND-COLORED PLATES BY JOHN LEECH, FIRST EDITIONS IN THE ORIGINAL PARTS
A'BECKETT, Gilbert A. The Comic History of England. WITH: The Comic History of Rome. London: Punch Office; Bradbury & Evans, July 1846-February 1848; May 1851-January 1852. Twenty parts; ten parts in nine. Octavo, original blue printed paper wrappers, uncut. Housed in two custom boxes. $1500.
First editions—in the scarce original serialized parts—of these irreverent recountings of British and Roman histories, illustrated with hundreds of in-text woodcuts and 30 hand-colored etchings by famous satirical artist John Leech.
"The first point to be made about Victorian laughter is simply that there was so much of it" (Donald J. Gray)—a truth borne out by these mirthful and much-illustrated volumes, which aim, as the Preface states, "to blend amusement with instruction by serving up, in as palatable a shape as [the author] could, the facts of English [and, later, Roman] history." "One of the wittiest writers of the day" (Allibone, 152), writer Becket worked with illustrator Leech on the staff of the poplar and influential humor magazine Punch. Leech's "humor is as keen, his sense of fun as marked [as George Cruikshank's]… [Leech's pictures] are of the most graphic and mirth-producing kind, and yet the raillery is invariably good-humored" (DNB).
Comic History of England text and illustrations are complete; all ads called for by Tooley are present with the exception of a single slip advertising Charles Dickens' The Battle of Life in Part 6. The rear wrapper for Part 18 has been substituted with the rear wrapper from Part 6. The final two parts, 19 and 20—issued together in one part—have here been bound in two, with Part 19 in the front wrapper from Part 7 and the rear wrapper from Part 17, and Part 20 in the front and rear wrappers from Part 8, with the numbers on the front wrappers altered to correspond with the text. Comic History of Rome—"more rare than the Comic History of England" (Tooley)—text and illustrations complete, in all original wrappers, with four-page Advertiser and 16-page Guild of Literature and Art prospectus in Part I; slip advertising "A New Story" by Dickens in Part 7; slip for "Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour" in Part 8; slip for "Bleak House" in Part 9/10. Tooley 296, 298. Bookplate in England.
England with smudging to a few wrappers only, spines expertly restored, minor restoration to front wrapper edges of Part 1 only. Rome with some soiling to wrappers, restoration to a few spines, spine of Part I partly perished, stitching holding. Together, a very good set of these comic works, quite scarce in the original parts.