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Life of Johnson
James Boswell, 1791
BOSWELL, James (1740-1795).?The Life of Samuel Johnson. London: Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, 1791.

First edition, a fine copy of the most celebrated biography in the English language, uncut and in original boards. First issue with "gve" on p. 135 in vol. 1. Boswell's great biography of his friend Dr Johnson was published on 16 May 1791 in a print-run of 1750 copies and achieved immediate critical acclaim. It has not been out of print since. "Homer is not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakespeare is not more decidedly the first of the dramatists, Demosthenes is not more sensibly the first of orators, than?Boswell?is the first of biographers" (Macaulay). Grolier,?English?65; Pottle 79; Rothschild 463.

Two volumes, quarto (295 x 233 mm). Engraved portrait of Johnson by James Heath after Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2 engraved plates of facsimiles by H. Shepherd. (Erasures at head of title-pages, scattered minor foxing including to frontispiece, final engraving with some stains and a closed marginal tear; without blanks in vol. 2.) Uncut in original gray boards, backed in blue muslin, white wove endpapers, later morocco spine labels (joints and corners showing, upper hinge of vol. 1 starting to separate from text block, front endpapers in vol. 1 stained and with a few small holes, minor wear to board edges); custom cases. Provenance: two or three 19th century marginalia, adding details – James Torr Harmer, 1856-1937 (bookplates).

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Heather Weintraub
Heather Weintraub Specialist, Books, Manuscripts, & Archives

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