First Edition in the Original Monthly PartsCharles Dickens. Bleak House. With Illustrations by H. K. Browne. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1853.
First edition, in the original twenty numbers bound in nineteen monthly parts (March 1852-September 1853). Octavo (8.875 x 5.5625 inches; 226 x 143 mm.). xvi, 624 pages. Forty inserted plates, including frontispiece and added vignette title, after etchings by H. K. Browne ("Phiz"). Some plates with the original tissue guards.
In the original blue wrappers printed in black with a design by "Phiz" on the outside front wrapper, and advertisements on the inside front and inside and outside back wrappers. This set has most of the eighty-two advertisements and slips called for by Hatton and Cleaver, including the apology slip to follow the plate in Part IX ("An accident having happened to the Plate, it has been necessary to cancel one of the Illustrations to the present Number. It will be supplied in the next Monthly Part") and the scarce "The Village Pastor" booklet (8 pages) in Part XV. The "Bleak House Advertiser" is present and correct in each part. Part I lacks the "W. Mott" (2 pages) and "Norton's Camomile Pills" (4 pages) ads at back; and the "Waterlow & Sons" ad contains only 2 pages; Part IV lacks the "Household Words" slip to follow the plates, the "Cheap Edition of the Works of Charles Dickens" slip follows the plates, and the "John Cassell's Publications" (4 pages) at back appears in duplicate; Part V lacks the "Household Words" slip to follow the plates; In Part VIII the "Waterlow's Patent Improved Autographic Press" (2 pages) at back appears in duplicate; Part X the back ads are bound in a different order than that in Hatton and Cleaver; Part XIX/XX lacks "New Periodical Work...The Newcomes" slip to precede the "Advertiser". In Part VI, the "New Serial by Mr. Charles Lever" slip at back is printed on blue paper; in Part XIV, "Ali Ahmed's Treasures of the Desert" (8 pages) at back is printed on light green paper, and "New Geographical and Educational Works" (2 pages) is printed on yellow paper (now browned). In Part III, the "Crochet Cotton" slip is the first variant, with a five-line heading, with "page 285, Nov. 22nd, 1851"; in Part VI, the "Crochet Cotton" slip at back is the fourth variant, with four-line heading and no page or date quoted. Embossed stamp at the head of the front wrapper of Part V: "J. B. Gilpin / Bookseller / & Stationer / Wholesale / & Retail / 59 Dame St. / Dublin." Small bookseller's ticket on the front wrapper of Part XIX/XX: "T. Shackelford / Bookseller & Stationer / Clifton Library, / Brighton." The plates are in excellent condition, with only very occasional minor foxing to a few plates. Overall, a very good, nearly complete set. Housed in a green cloth chemise and half brown morocco book-backed pull-off case with spine lettered in gilt.
"[I]n Bleak House for the first time [society] is seen as an absurdity, an irrelevance, almost a madness. A dark force from which the real people must escape in order to create another society of their own... [Dickens] had been preparing for this novel all his life and, despite the calamities... which had helped to provoke it in the first place, ... was even happy while he was writing it... It might even be said that Bleak House cured the very malaise which was responsible for its composition" (Ackroyd, Dickens, pages 649-560).
Forty designs were etched by "Phiz." "Of this number, ten are known as 'The Dark Plates' and two distinct etchings of each were executed by the Artist, making a total of 50 steels for the book. Many, if not all, of the other thirty designs were also reproduced by lithographic transfers from the steels, and are to be found mixed indiscriminately with etchings...The first dark plate to be published, marking a departure from the ordinary method of etching, was Dombey No. 35, and the second was Copperfield No. 31. They were followed by the above-mentioned ten in 'Bleak House,' and subsequently by eight more in 'Little Dorrit.' These dark etchings were the result of 'machine-tinting' the steels, which gave an effect equivalent to that of 'mezzo-tinting.' The steel was first closely ruled with fine lines, and the design was then etched over the ruling. After that, by a further process of 'stopping out' and 'burnishing,' the effect of light and shadow was heightened. In the case of 'Bleak House,' as with previous books, there was no priority in issue of the ten duplicated plates" (Hatton and Cleaver, page 276). From the Victor Gulotta Collection.
Eckel, pages 79-81. Gimbel A131. Hatton and Cleaver, pages 275-304. Smith, Dickens, I, 10.
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