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Book of Nonsense, A - LEAR, Edward | - 1846. 
1846. first edition. There was an old Derry down Derry,Who loved to see little folks merry:So he made them a Book,And with laughter they shook,At the fun of that Derry down Derry!"LEAR, Edward. A Book of Nonsense by Derry Down Derry. London: Thos. McLean, 1846. First edition. Two volumes bound in one. Small quarto (5 5/8 x 8 1/4 inches; 142 x 209 mm.). Two title-pages and seventy-two lithographed plates drawn by Edward Lear. First title-leaf very slightly worn at edges but with imprint complete. Mild to moderate foxing and staining throughout but far less than is usually seen. Overall an amazing copy of this cornerstone of children's literature.Contemporary half red hard-grain morocco over marbled boards ruled in gilt. Spine with four raised bands, decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, matching marbled end-papers, all edges gilt. Expertly re-backed with the original spine laid-down. Armorial bookplate of Thomas William Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall, near Northendon, Cheshire, on front paste-down. Housed in a custom made, full maroon straight-grain morocco clamshell case, decoratively tooled in gilt.Exceptionally rare first edition in a mid 1840s binding of this high-spot in Children's Literature, of which very rarely do any copies appear on the market for sale. This copy was unknown when surviving first editions were recorded for Nonsensus (1988) which sites just eleven complete copies and twelve incomplete, more than half preserved in institutional libraries. In this, the original first edition of A Book of Nonsense, "Lear has hand-drawn all of the illustrations and lettered each verse caption on lithographic stone, only the [two] title-page vignette[s] (type-set) and three others (Wrecken, Cadiz and Kildaire) are written out in the familiar 5-line format and set in capitals; all the others are captioned in 3 elongated lines (they became 5 lines in the 1855 second edition). This [first edition] contains the three limericks which were later suppressed: Compton, Kildaire, and New York. (Justin Schiller. Edward Lear. Catalogue 48 (1996))."Lear did not invent the limerick, a verse-form whose origins are lost in the mists of folklore. The earliest published limericks had appeared in The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women? Exhibiting Their Principal Eccentricities and Amusements (London: J. Harris, (1820) and two companion volumes, Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentlemen and A Peep at the Geography of Europe (both London: E. Marshall, ca 1821-24). There is no evidence that Lear knew either the first or third works cited, though a limerick in the former recounts an old woman named Towl who went to sea with her owl which in the hand-coloured engraving has them in a pea-green boat not dissimilar to the "Owl and Pussycat". The second work sandwiched between them (Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentlemen) Lear knew, and amplifies two of its limericks with his own nonsense drawings in the earliest of his recorded manuscripts?He [Lear] tells us that "in days when much of my time was passed in a country house, where children and mirth abounded, the lines beginning 'There was an Old Man of Tobago,' were suggested to me by a valued friend, as a form of verse lending itself to limitless variety for Rhymes and Pictures; and thenceforth the greater part of the original drawings and verses for the first Book of Nonsense were struck off with a pen, no assistance ever having been given me in any way but that of uproarious delight and welcome at the appearance of every new absurdity."The country house was Knowlsley near Liverpool, home of the Earls of Derby, where Lear was working as a natural history illustrator making drawings of the birds and animals in the menagerie which had been built up by Lord Stanley, later the 13th Earl. The atmosphere of jollity centred around the 12th Earl, of whom a contemporary wrote: "Dear old man! his joyous temperament, and his love of society and good cheer made his guests as happy and merry as himself. He constantly bantered the young ladies on their good looks, and about their lovers, which, though not always in the refined taste of modern times, so evidently proceeded from a natural gaietÃ© de coeur and kindness, that no one could possibly have been offended."It was against the deadlier aspects of those refined tastes that Lear rebelled with his limericks, for he wrote from Knowlsley: "The uniform apathetic tone assumed by lofty society irks me dreadfully; nothing I long for half so much as to giggle heartily and to hop on one leg down the great gallery -- but I dare not." Instead, as Lord Derby's Fool, he could up-end the stultifying conventions which grew from the langour of refinement, and engage instead in his own personal Saturnalia as he shared with the many children of the household the sheer joy of being alive. It was of course a vicarious abandon in which he indulged. He did not himself spin on his nose and his chin (unlike the Old Man of the West) nor go in one prance from Turkey to France (as did the Old Man of Coblenz). Instead he created a world in which his absurd Old Men and Young Ladies could do the clownish tumbling for any child who might find itself stifled by propriety. Here the grownups indulge in unseemly and unfashionable excess; they are immense and immoderate, strange and impulsive in what they do and eat and wear. Perhaps part of their charm for the Victorian child was that, despite their incongruity, the limericks revealed fundamental truths which were lacking in the improving literature of the time. Lear's characters do not seek to deceive; instead they share with children the reality of the human characteristics they display: carelessness, greed, despair, generosity, humour. Nowadays it is perhaps difficult for us to realise the impact such robust and genial folly had upon children of the nineteenth century." (Vivien Noakes. Nonsensus, introduction).Most copies of the first edition of A Book of Nonsense seem to have been read to pieces. Even those that survive are usually in deplorable condition" (Gordon Ray)."Why are these verses called limericks? No one really knows, though scholars continue to form hypotheses, both related and unrelated to the County of Limerick in Ireland. The first edition of A Book of Nonsense? is a book of the very greatest rarity. Some scholars feel that its bibliographical complexities are almost as mysterious as the origins of the limerick." (Pierpont Morgan Library)."The title of Lear's first book for children A Book of Nonsense, was a small stroke of genius, for it showed the children of 1846 -- the year of its original publication -- that here was an author who considered it his business solely to entertain them, and, plagued as they were by the inheritors of the Puritan mantle, such a reassurance compelled success." (Percy Muir. English Children's Books 1600 to 1900, pp. 134/135)."The nonsense literature of Lear has provided animals and things with a mad life of their own which in no way corresponds to the natural world. The child-reader is led away from reality into a world of fantasy." (Bettina HÃ¼rlimann. Three Centuries of Children's Books in Europe, p. 74).There Was An Old Derry Down Derry (First Title)1. There Was An Old Man Of Coblenz, The Length Of Whose Legs Was Immense2. There Was An Old Man Of Peru, Who Watched His Wife Making A Stew3. There Was An Old Man Of The Hague, Whose Ideas Were Excessively Vague4. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Leghorn, The Smallest As Ever Was Born5. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Bute, Who Played On A Silver Gilt Flute6. There Was An Old Man Of Calcutta, Who Perpetually Ate Bread & Butter7. There Was An Old Person Of Chester, Whom Several Small Children Did Pester8. There Was A Young Lady Whose Eyes, Were Unique As To Colour And Size9. There Was An Old Man Of Kilkenny, Who Never Had More Than A Penny10. There Was An Old Man Of Kamschatka, Who Possessed A Remarkably Fat Cur11. There Was An Old Man Of Columbia, Who Was Thirsty, And Called Out For Some Beer12. There Was An Old Man Of Berlin, Whose Form Was Uncommonly Thin13. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Tartary, Who Divided His Jugular Artery14. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The Cape, Who Possessed A Large Barbary Ape15. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Burton, Whose Answers Were Rather Uncertain16. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Vienna, Who Lived Upon Tincture Of Senna17. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The 'Abruzzi, So Blind That He Could?nt His Foot See18. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Corfu, Who Never Knew What He Should Do19. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Marseilles, Whose Daughters Wore Bottle-Green Veils20. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Nepaul. From His Horse, Had A Terrible Fall21. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The Isles, Whose Face Was Pervaded With Smiles22. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Moldavia, Who Had The Most Curious Behaviour23. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Vesuvius, Who Studied The Works Of Vetruvius24. There Was An Old Lady OfÂ Tyre, Who Swept The Loud Chords Of A Lyre25. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Rheims, Who Was Troubled With Horrible Dreams26. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Hull, Who Was Chased By A Virulent Bull27. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Quebec, A Beetle Ran Over His Neck28. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Gretna, Who Rushed Down The Crater Of Etna29. There Was An Old Person Of Prague, Who Was Suddenly Seized By The Plague30. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The Dee, Who Was Sadly Annoyed By A Flea31. There Was An Old Man Of The West, Who Wore A Pale Plum-Coloured Vest32. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Peru, Who Never Knew What He Should Do33. There Was A Young Lady Of Troy, Whom Several Large Flies Did Annoy34. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Clare, Who Was Sadly Pursued By A Bear35. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Norway, Who Casually Sat In A Doorway36. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Sweden, Who Went By The Slow Train To WeedonThere Was An OldÂ Derry Down Derry (Second Title)37. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The South, Who Had An Immoderate Mouth38. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Ischia, Whose Conduct Grew Friskier And Friskier39. There Was A Young Lady Whose Nose, Was So Long That It Reached To Her Toes40. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Madras, Who Rode On A Cream Coloured Ass41. There Was An Old Lady Whose Folly, Induced Her To Sit In A Holly42. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The Coast, Who Placidly Sat On A Post43. There Was An Old Person Of Troy, Whose Drink Was Warm Brandy & Soy44. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Buda, Whose Conduct Grew Ruder And Ruder45. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Sparta, Who Had 25 Sons And One Daughter46. There Was An Old Sailor OfÂ Compton, Whose Vessel A Rock It Once Bump?d On47. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Apulia, Whose Conduct Was Very Peculiar48. There Was An Old Person OfÂ Hurst, Who Drank When He Was Not Athirst49. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Turkey, Who Wept When The Weather When Murky50. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Dorking, Who Bought A Large Bonnet For Walking51. There Was An OldÂ PersonÂ OfÂ Rhodes, Who Strongly Objected To Toads52. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Cape Horn, Who Wished He Had Never Been Born53. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Jamaica, Who Suddenly Married A Quaker54. There Was An Old Man Of The West, Who Never Could Get Any Rest55. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The East, Who Gave All His Children A Feast56. There Was A Young Lady of Poole, Whose Soup Was Excessively Cool57. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Dundee, Who Frequented The Top Of A Tree58. There Was An Old Man OfÂ New York, Who Murdered Himself With A Fork59. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The North, Who Fell Into A Basin Of Broth60. There Was A Young Lady Of Wales, Who Caught A Large Fish Without Scales61. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The Nile, Who Sharpened His Nails With A File62. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Bohemia, Whose Daughter Was Christened Euphemia63. There Was An Old Man OfÂ The Wrekin, Whose Shoes Made A Horrible Creaking64. There Was An OldÂ PersonÂ OfÂ Cheadle, Who Was Put In The Stocks By The Beadle65. There Was An Old Person Of Ems, Who Casually Fell In The Thames66. There Was A Young Lady Of Welling, Whose Praise All The World Was A Telling67. There Was An Old Lady Of Prague, Whose Language Was Horribly Vague68. There Was An OldÂ PersonÂ OfÂ Cadiz, Who Was Always Polite To All Ladies69. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Russia, Who Screamed So That No One Could Hush Her70. There Was A Young Lady OfÂ Parma, Whose Conduct Grew Calmer & Calmer71. There Was A Young Girl OfÂ Majorca, Whose Aunt Was A Very Fast Walker72. There Was An Old Man OfÂ Kildare, Who Climbed Into A Very High ChairGrolier One Hundred Books Famous in Children's Literature. #32 (pp. 150/151); Gordon Ray. The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914. # 92 (pp. 59-60); Pierpont Morgan Library. Early Children's Books and their Illustrations. # 215 (p. 242); Percy Muir. English Children's Books 1600 to 1900, pp. 134/135.
[Bookseller: David Brass Rare Books, Inc.]
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