"If there is in all the world a book which can be called unique with strict propriety, this is it." - Encyclopaedia BritannicaSamuel Pepys. Memoirs of Samuel Pepys. Comprising His Diary from 1659 to 1669, Deciphered by the Rev. John Smith A.B. of St. John's College, Cambridge, from the Original Short-Hand Ms. in the Pepysian Library, and a Selection from His Private Correspondence. Edited by Richard, Lord Braybrooke. London: Henry Colburn, 1825. First edition. Approximately 11.5 x 8.75 inches. Two quarto volumes. , xlii, 498, , xlix, ; , 348, vii, , 311,  pages. Engraved frontispiece in each volume, and eleven engraved plates (one folding), and embellished with two engraved illustrations in the text. Contemporary full calf, covers double-ruled in gilt. Rebacked in modern brown morocco, spines ruled, burgundy gilt morocco lettering labels. Bound without half-titles, some wear to binding, plates offsetting to text and with some foxing. Overall, a very attractive and clean set.
Written in shorthand between 1660 and 1669, it was eventually deciphered in 1825 by the Reverend John Smith who said of his work: "The original Diary is written in Short-hand, & extends to upwards of 3,000 pages...I deciphered the whole, & transcribed it in nearly 10,000 Quarto pages. When I commenced it, I did not know a single character of Short-hand, wh. varies much in places when Pepys wished to be unusually secret, & it occupied me in incessant labour for three years..." (Drinkwater, J. Pepys His Life & Character, pp. 207-8). These large volumes are considered the craft of the excellent typographers, the Bentleys. The frontispiece portrait in Volume I is after the painting by Kneller and was engraved by T. Bragg, and a smaller portrait used as a head-piece to the Life is signed R.W. Sculp. "It is the very private nature of the Diary which provides its piquancy: here was no writing for a public, no sensationalism, no needless embellishment. It is in such passages as the description of the Great Fire that Pepys reveals his shrewd powers of observation, his matter-of-factness and, in a strange way, an almost modern journalistic technique" (Blackwell's of Oxford Catalogue). Grolier, 100 English 75, Sterling 674.
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