The Monumental Boydell Shakespeare, with Ninety-Seven Fine Full-Page EngravingsWilliam Shakespeare. The Dramatic Works of William Shakspeare. Revised by George Stevens. London: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co., for John and Joshua Boydell, 1802.
First Boydell edition. Nine Royal folio volumes (16.35 x 12.25 inches) with ninety-seven superb full-page engravings (including the two portraits) after Reynolds, Northcote, Porter, Bunbury, Opie, Westall, Smirke, Stothard, Hamilton, and other eminent British artists. All half-titles present.
Contemporary diced Russia calf, spines in compartments with raised bands and elaborately gilt. Wide gilt borders on covers; gilt inner dentelles; all edges gilt. This set is from the library of Lord Eardley, with his armorial bookplate in each volume. Due to the size and weight of each volume, some joints have become tender and have been repaired or rebacked. Some skillful restoration to the tops and bottoms of some spines. Light occasional foxing in the text, heavier on pages adjacent to the plates and tissue guards. Volume VI with more prominent foxing to the terminal leaves; Volumes VIII and IX with heavier foxing in places. Even with the flaws noted, this is overall an exceptionally clean and tight set in an attractive contemporary full calf binding. A most desirable set.
Among the most celebrated editions of Shakespeare, this huge undertaking put its publisher, Boydell, into bankruptcy due to the excessive cost of the production. At the Lord Mayor of London's suggestion, Parliament passed a special act allowing for a lottery which made it possible to finish the work.
A truly monumental labor of devotion, all aspects of this edition are impressive. "According to the prospectus, issued in 1786, a type foundry, an ink factory, and a printing house were all specially erected for the production of this edition" (Jaggard). While Jaggard calls for 100 plates for this set, complete copies can have anywhere between 95 and 100 plates due to Boydell's inconsistent methods of assembling the volumes.
Jaggard, p. 508. Shaksperiana, III, 34.
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