LAMB, Charles.

Tales from Shakespear. Designed for the use of young persons.

London: Printed for Thomas Hodgkins at the Juvenile Library.. 1807.

First edition, first issue. Two volumes. 12mo. 165x100mm. Vol. I. ix [], [2], 235, [1 with T. Davison imprint]. 10 engravings. Vol. II. [4], 261, [3pp. adverts with the Hanway Street address]. 10 engravings. Contemporary calf, spines with red morocco labels lettered in gilt and small round black labels numbered in gilt. At head of spine, in gilt, is the Pelican of Mercy and the motto, "Pandite Coelestes Fortae". This is the crest of James Gibson of Ingliston, Writer to the Signet whose armorial bookplate is on the front pastedowns. Also with the label of Donald and Mary Hyde, who formed one of the great libraries of eighteenth-century literature and whose Samuel Johnson collection was donated to the Houghton Library at Harvard. Slight split to the head of joint with upper boards and corners a little bumped. Housed in a custom-made box. Internally very good but with some foxing, heavy to a few leaves in volume two. The illustrations (although unsigned and unattributed, they are almost certainly by the Irish artist William Mulready). An extremely nice copy of the rare first issue in a smart contemporary binding.

With Mary providing the adaptations of the comedies and Charles the tragedies (the history plays and Roman plays were not adapted), Tales from Shakespear was one of the most popular books of the nineteenth century and the first to present Shakespeare's plays in a form suitable for children. Its popularity did much to broaden Shakespeare's appeal and ensure the flowering of his Victorian cult. The title page shows Charles Lamb as the sole author, Mary's contribution going unacknowledged until the seventh edition in 1838. A strange omission given that the book was published by William Godwin (Thomas Hodgkins was employed to run The Juvenile Library) whose strong-minded wife must, one would imagine, have lobbied for Mary's work to have been recognised.

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