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  • Item Category: Books, Paper & Magazines
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Jul 20, 2009
  • Channel: Auction House

William Shakspere [Shakespeare], edited by Charles Knight, The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere. Edited by Charles Knight. (London: The Charles Knight Company, 1839 - 1842). Complete in 8 Large Paper Royal 8vo volumes (9 5/8" x 6 3/4"), Vol. 1, Intro, Histories, 390 pp.; Vol. 2, Histories, 398 pp.; Vol. 3, Comedies, 456 pp.; Vol. 4, Comedies, 453p. ; Vol. 5, Tragedies, 471 pp.; Vol. 6, Tragedies and Poems, 360 + 157 + Postscript XVII.; Vol.. 7, Doubtful Plays & General Index, 495 pp. Vol. 8, Biography, 348 pp. Bound in early, probably original 3/4 deep red calf, marbled oyster shell boards, matching endpapers, all edges marbled. Five raised bands, dual spine titles gilt, compartments heavy gilt, boards ruled in blind. Illustrated throughout with profuse engravings commissioned by Knight, and with Knight's publication comments as preface or postscript as the sequential volumes were released over a period of four years, 1839 to 1842. Jaggard 522. FIRST EDITION.

This is a fine First Edition set of perhaps the most important new edition of Shakespeare to appear in the early 19th century, under the editorship and published by the firm of Charles Knight, with Knight's famed and often republished biographical and literary notes. The Knight "Shakspere" was reprinted often, and often pirated both in England and America. With more extensive and more accurate notes than any previous edition, the 8 volume Knight set is a high point of early Victorian printing and an enduring monument to literary scholarship. by perhaps the most famous and most widely influential of the Victorian Shakespeare editors. "Knight's Shakespeare is, " exercise in popular biography that employs every possible device to ensure the widest readership. Knight writes with clarity and warmth. His chief strength, however, is constructive... Because it has a conscious design add to throughout, Knight's Shakspere is the first work on the subject to reflect the art of literary biography." SCHOENBAUM, SHAKESPEARE'S LIVES.

This matched 8 volume set, in early and probably original 3/4 London hand tooled binding in red polished calf, is lavishly illustrated throughout. The bindings are unsigned, but the work is consistent with ornamentation of Zaehnsdorf of 90 Drury Lane, London. Ramsden gives Zaehnsdorf's first working date under his own firm at 1842. Leather and 24K gold ornamentation is generally bright and sound. All boards are attached with hinges unbroken, though some with scuffing and wear, and some neat internal repair in matching leather at ends of some hinges and some head and tail of spines. Board edges with typical shelf wear. Spine labels are of later vintage. Headcaps and tailcaps are worn on some volumes (see photos). Signatures tight, pages exceptionally clean, untorn, and mostly unfoxed (free of brown age spotting) -- though set does have some scattered foxing at a few prefatory and final pages. No library or ex-library markings, no prior owner signatures or annotations, no stickers or bookplates. No dampstaining. No musty or smoky aroma.

The 8 volume Knight 1st Edition Shakespeare in original London leather is offered elsew by a Philadelphia dealer at $5,000 -- but with an 1843 date on final volume, the Biography. My set is the earlier 1842 issue (see photo). The same respected dealer offers a 7 volume set, without the Biography volume and with, "...light rubbing and occasional small abrasions to the boards." for $3,500. The set has increased in value in recent years -- Boutiette's price guide to Leather Bound Books (Schroeder Publishing, 2005) lists the 1839 -1842 set of Knight's Shakespeare at $1,600. My set is complete, in nicely preserved and minimally restored original leather, very clean and unworn internally. My Ebay "buy-it-now" is reasonable for internet sale. My seller's auction reserve is lower still.

Large 8 volume leather set weighs about 24 pounds. Buyer pays actual U.S. postal Media Mail or Priority Mail and insurance. International Pri...