“A PICTURE OF HUMAN LIFE SO WONDERFUL, SO AWFUL… THAT THE GRIEFS, STRUGGLES, STRANGE ADVENTURES HERE DEPICTED EXCEED ANYTHING THAT ANY OF US COULD IMAGINE”
MAYHEW, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor. London: Charles Griffin, no date [circa 1864]. Three volumes. Octavo, original purple cloth, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, top edges gilt. $1700.
Early edition of Mayhew’s important Victorian-era exposé, richly illustrated with 79 full-page engravings.
A founder and one-time editor of Punch, Mayhew was "the first to strike out the line of philanthropic journalism which takes the poor of London as its theme. His principal work… was London Labour and London Poor, a series of articles, anecdotic and statistical, on the petty trades of London, originally appearing in the Morning Chronicle" (DNB). Thackeray, in a famous review, praised Mayhew's groundbreaking approach, calling it "a picture of human life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and terrible, that the griefs, struggles, strange adventures here depicted exceed anything that any of us could imagine." Originally issued in 63 parts and first published in book form in 1851, Mayhew's influential work laid the groundwork for the developing fields of criminology and sociology. Many of the engravings were based on daguerrotypes selected by Mayhew. "Nothing short of strict accuracy could be tolerated" (Houfe, Dictionary of British Book Illustrators, 149).
All volumes neatly recased in original cloth bindings, with expert restoration to spine ends and corners. An extremely good set in original cloth of this scarce illustrated study.