“ON THE LIBRARY WALL… HANG TWO CROSSED SWORDS”: FIRST EDITION IN THE ORIGINAL 24 PARTS OF THACKERAY’S VIRGINIANS, 1857-59, THE FINAL BOOK ILLUSTRATED BY THACKERAY HIMSELF
THACKERAY, William Makepeace. The Virginians: A Tale of the Last Century. London: Bradbury and Evans, 185759. Octavo, 24 original parts in original yellow printed wrappers, uncut and occasionally unopened. Housed in custom clamshell box. $1500.
First edition in original parts, first issues, complete with all plates and advertisements, of Thackeray’s tale of brethren divided during the American Revolution, the last book the author himself illustrated.
Like his contemporary (and rival) Charles Dickens, Thackeray visited the United States (first in 1852-53, again in 1855-56); unlike his fellow novelist, however, Thackeray "had on the whole a happy time… He was willing, as Dickens had not been, to see the greatness of the country and recognize that the promise of the future atoned for the shortcomings of the present… Impressions of the second tour were worked into The Virginians," Thackeray's continuation of the family saga he began in The History of Henry Esmond (1852) (Baugh et al., 1358-59). Here, the author traces the fortunes of Henry Esmond's grandsons as the Revolutionary War divides them. With 48 engraved plates and several small in-text woodcuts by Thackeray—the last book he himself illustrated. First issue, with the first word on page 207, line 15 from the bottom (in No. 7) misprinted "actresses" (corrected in later editions to "ancestresses"); in part 12, chapters XLVII-XLVIII misnumbered XLVIII-XLIX. All ads present, including the tipped explanatory slip in part 20, regarding omitted plates; an additional advertising leaf present in No. 1. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the bibliographer's copy, which has a publisher's catalogue at rear, may be anomalous. Afterward published in book form (two clothbound volumes, dated 1858 and 1859). Van Duzer 232. No. 14 with previous owner's initials to front wrapper, pencil notations to rear of advertising slip. Nos. 21 and 22 with previous owner's signature to front wrapper.
Closed tear to first plate in No. 6; modest foxing to the plates in Nos. 7, 8,16 and 17; minor loss to lower corners of plates in No. 23. Interiors with scattered light foxing and marginal soiling, light age-wear and soiling to wrappers; minor creasing to final few leaves of No. 13; small closed tear to front wrapper of No. 24, repaired. An excellent copy in near-fine condition.