DICKENS, Charles. Great Expectations. London: Chapman and Hall, 1861.
3 volumes, 8o. 32-page publisher's catalogue dated May 1861 at end. (Titles foxed.) Original publisher's bright violet wavy-grained cloth, covers decorated with blind border of double fillet, inner single fillet at top and bottom, inner broad border of interwined flowers and leaves in relief against blind-stamped arabesque background, spines with blind borders of triple fillet at head and foot, title and author in relief against fine gilt block decorated with fine tendrils and small flowers, volume number and publisher in gilt, cream endpapers, uncut (minor rubbing to extremities, some very slight fading to spines, some spotting, else EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND BRIGHT); cloth folding case. Provenance: Harper Wordsley (signature dated 1862 on each free endpaper).
"A VERY FINE, NEW, AND GROTESQUE IDEA HAS OPENED UPON ME" (Dickens, Letter to Forster, 4 October 1860)
FIRST EDITION, without any "edition" notice on the titles, third impressions of each volume (with the exception of vol. III, p.39, second impression) of one of Dickens's greatest works. Only 1,000 copies of the first edition were published, with most of these copies going to circulating libraries.
First published in 36 weekly parts in All the Year Round, 1 December 1860 - 3 August 1861, without illustrations. Dickens's original plan had been to issue Great Expectations in monthly numbers but since sales of All the Year Round were suffering during its serialization of Charles Lever's A Long Day's Ride: A Life's Romance (described by Davis as "tedious"), Dickens "called a council of war at the office on Tuesday [presumably 2 October 1860]. It was perfectly clear that the one thing to be done was, for me to strike in. I have therefore decided to begin the story as of the length of The Tale of Two Cities on the first of December -- begin publishing, that is. I must make the most I can out of the book. You shall have the first two or three weekly parts to-morrow. The name is GREAT EXPECTATIONS. I think a good name?" (Dickens, Letter to Forster 4 October 1860). Davis, p. 153; Eckel, p. 91-93; Sadleir 688; Smith I:14. (3)