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The Life of Samuel Johnson,
London: by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly,, 1791. Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order… The Whole Exhibiting a View of Literature and Literary Men in Great Britain for Near a Century During Which He Flourished. In Two Volumes. 2 volumes, quarto (270 × 212 mm). Contemporary full tree calf, spines gilt in compartments with two coloured morocco labels to each, sides bordered with a gilt roll, red speckled edges. Portrait frontispiece engraved by James Heath after Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2 engraved facsimile plates by H. Shepherd. Neat 19th-century rebacking to style, slight rubbing to extremities and a few scratches to boards, edges a little darkened, some very few spots to occasional leaves and mild offsetting at the endpapers, faint residue of removed bookplates to both volumes; still a very good copy, sound and presentable. First edition, first state, of the most famous biography in any language. The immense task of compiling the thousands of notes Boswell had recorded on "the great man's talk, habits and opinions" was begun after Johnson's death in 1784. Made up of trifling incidents as well as the significant events in Johnson's life, the work remains a masterpiece of portraiture. "Homer is not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakespeare is not more decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not more decidedly the first of orators, than Boswell is the first of biographers" (Macaulay). Boswell's reputation was further enhanced by the discovery in the early part of the 20th century of the Boswell Papers, which were stored in the Malahide Castle of Ireland for generations. What resulted from this discovery was the revelation of Boswell as an extraordinary personality in his own right; a far more complex, eccentric genius than the mere recorder of Johnson's conversations. This copy has p. 135, vol. 1, in the uncorrected first state, reading "gve". Some copies were corrected in the press to "give", and 1,750 copies in either state were available on publication day, 16 May 1791 (800 were sold in the first two weeks).
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2016-06-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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