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    Alexandre Dumas. Le Comte de Monte-Christo. Volumes I-VI, VIII: Bruxelles: Société Belge de Librairie, 1845-1846. Volume VII: Bruxelles et Leipzig: Meline, Cans et Compagnie, 1846. Early Belgian pirated editions. Eight volumes. Individually paginated: complete and continuous. The spelling of the title as "Christo" was consistent to both the true first edition (in French) as well as early pirated editions of this title. Volumes I-VI bound in half burgundy sheep over marbled boards, spine stamped in gilt with four raised bands; Volumes VII and VIII bound with an attempt to match, but with minor differences in marbled boards and gilt lettering. All volumes with stylized monogram beneath a crown, stamped in gilt to the upper board, likely in conjunction with binding for Volumes VII and VIII. Corners just bumped and rubbed, moderate edgewear, spines sunned. Volume I-VI with yellow endpapers, Volumes VII and VIII with later gray endpapers; some hinges starting, penciled bookseller's notations (some effaced) to Volume I endpapers. Internally generally clean and tight, all edges trimmed and sprinkled, green ribbon markers; minor offsetting from ribbon markers, minor intermittent foxing chiefly to the front and back of the text block, text block edges lightly toned, staining to pages 70-75 of Volume IV, light dampstaining to the half-title page of Volumes I-V and the half-title and title page of Volume VI. Very good.

    Much in the same way as his mysterious, charismatic Count, Dumas was in high-demand across the European continent at this time. Widely regarded as amiable, engaging, sharp-of-tongue and of mind, Dumas' own popularity was perhaps only out-shadowed by the popularity of his writing. However, due to complex copyright and censorship laws around this time period, many writers, including Dumas, found their work pirated almost as fast as they were published. "Pirate publishers played two key roles in this context: they printed censored texts, and they introduced cheap reprints that reached new reading publics. Both actions fueled the development of a deliberative public sphere in Europe and the transfer of knowledge between more and less privileged social groups and regions" (Balázs). As seen here, many of these pirated editions were nearly a perfect match for each other, with continuous volumes and pagination.

    But these pirated editions merely added fuel to the fire; the following years saw an endless stream of translations and editions from Europe across America. Even when it seemed like the Count already existed on bookshelves the world over, his larger than life personality (and that of his creator) quickly bled into other medias. Dumas himself helped adapt his novel for the stage as early as the late 1840s and later launched a newspaper, Le Monte Cristo, in 1857. After that, it was but a hop, skip, and a jump to the silver screen, starting with a silent film adaptation in 1908 (starring Hobart Bosworth), the first "talkie" in 1934 (starring Robert Donat), and countless film and television adaptations that continue to be produced to this day.

    "Like d'Artagnan and the Musketeers, Monte Cristo has fascinated readers (and, latterly, cinema-goers and television audiences) across the globe for over a hundred and fifty years. His exploitation by other media has doubtless extended his longevity. But the appeal of Dantès, victim of injustice, who turns into Monte Cristo, the avenger and hand of Providence, owes most to the extraordinary imagination of his creator. Master of disguise and Man of Mystery, Monte Cristo long ago ceased to be a Romantic hero rooted in his time but constantly leaps into ours, whatever year it happens to be. He is a vulnerable but rustproof model of honest if muscular endeavour, an emblem of civilized values, who is saved from his baser self at the last moment, a cipher for the way we might all live our lives. 'I say he is a myth,' says Albert de Morcerf, 'and never had an existence. 'And what may a myth be?' enquired Pastrini. 'The explanation would be too long, my dear landlord,' replied Franz. And too dreary. The simplest course is to admit to the plain truth that Monte Cristo is quite simply irresistible," (Coward).

    Balázs, Coda: A Short History of Book Piracy, page 399; Coward, "Introduction," Oxford World Classics edition (2008), Munro (1981), pages 155-159.

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