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The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Comprehending an Account of his Studies and Numerous Works, In Chronological Order; A Series of his Epistolary Correspondence and Conversations with Many Eminent Persons; and Various Original Pieces of His Composition, Never Before Published. The Whole Exhibiting a View of Literature and Literary Men in Great-Britain, for Near Half a Century, During Which He Flourished. In Two Volumes.
London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly, 1791 - 2 volumes, quarto (268 × 205 mm). Contemporary tan calf, red and black morocco labels, gilt rules either side of low raised bands. Light rubbing to spines, rear joint just started at head of vol. II, the others intact, a very handsome copy. Engraved frontispiece, engraved round-robin, text printed on pale blue stock. Contemporary ownership inscriptions of Charles Kerr of Abbotrule written longitudinally in the inner margin of the first leaf of text in each volume; bookplates of William Binns Cowper. 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). The volumes have the rather unusual contemporary ownership inscriptions of Charles Kerr of Abbotrule (1767–1821), Writer to the Signet; he was apprenticed to Walter Scott's father; after misadventures he succeeded to his estate in 1791, the year of publication. Courtney 172; Grolier, English 54; Rothschild 463; Pottle 79; Tinker 338.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington. ABA member]
Last Found On: 2013-11-29           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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