"I CANNOT BUT BE GRATIFIED, AT PERCEIVING THAT NO PERSON APPEARS TO HAVE DETECTED ANY INDECENT EXPRESSION IN THESE VOLUMES"
SHAKESPEARE, William. The Family Shakespeare. London: Longman et al., 1825. Ten volumes. 12mo, early full dark purple calf, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, brown morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers and edges. $3200.
Fourth edition of Thomas Bowdler's Family Shakespeare, famously edited to make the plays more appropriate for children, beautifully bound.
Thomas Bowdler's own description of this edition, stated on the title, calls it an edition "in which nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." The first edition, published in 1807, is thought to be mostly the work of Thomas' sister, Henrietta Maria Bowdler; it was published under his name in part because in order to expurgate some of the racier passages, one has to first admit to knowing what they mean, which would have been unacceptable for a woman. Overall, about one tenth of the text was deleted by the Bowdlers. Although very successful, Bowdler's edition was notorious even in the 19th century—indeed, the word "bowdlerize" comes from it—and has often been used as an exemplar of Victorian prudery. The poet Swinburne vigorously disagreed, however, saying that "More nauseous and more foolish cant was never chattered than that which would deride the memory or depreciate the merits of Bowdler. No man ever did better service to Shakespeare than the man who made it possible to put him into the hands of intelligent and imaginative children."
A beautifully bound set in fine condition.