IBSEN, Henrik (1828-1906). Peer Gynt. Et dramatisk digt. Copenhagen: J.H. Schultz for Gydendalske Boghandel (F. Hegel), 1867.
8° (171 x 112mm). Half-title. Woodcut publisher's device on title. (Occasional light spotting or finger-marking, 12/4 lightly creased.) Original gilt purple cloth, covers with blind-stamped borders, upper cover titled in gilt, lower with central blind-stamped publisher's device, spine decorated and lettered in gilt, glazed white endpapers, gilt edges (extremities lightly rubbed, small marks on covers, spine a little faded, short splits on hinges). Provenance: 'Thrine Hanssen , Juleaften [i.e. Christmas Eve] 1867' (inscription on upper flyleaf).
FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL CLOTH. Ibsen's celebrated dramatic poem which 'ranks still higher than any of his "realistic" plays, and may be mentioned in the same breath as such literary treasures as Hamlet, Faust, and Don Quixote' (Francis Bull 'Ibsen -- the Man and the Dramatist', in: Anker Minneutstilling, pp.13-14). Ibsen appears to have started writing Peer Gynt on 14 January 1867 (the date inscribed on the manuscript) while in Rome, and continued working on it throughout 1867 in Rome and Ischia, completing the work on 14 October. He posted it to his publisher Hegel on 18 October and it was published on 14 November 1867. Initially it enjoyed great success; 'Hegel sent word [to Ibsen] that the first edition of 1,250 copies had sold out almost at once, and that a second edition of 2,000 was in the press' (M. Meyer Henrik Ibsen (London: 1967-71), II, p.69). However, a series of hostile reviews, coupled with the dislike of such figures as Hans Christian Andersen -- 'Ibsen is repellent to [Andersen ...] and Peer Gynt the worst that he has read' as Edvard Grieg wrote (Meyer, op. cit., p.70) -- had an adverse effect on sales of the work, and the second edition was not exhausted until 1874.
The first edition of 1,250 copies was issued in both cloth-covered boards (as here) and paper wrappers, and copies in either of these bindings are rare at auction; no copy of the work (in any binding) is recorded by ABPC since 1975, and in the same period Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise für Bücher ... lists only 4 copies, none in the original binding. This scarcity may arise from Ibsen's work being little known outside Scandinavia in the 1860s; for example, the first performance of a work by Ibsen in England (The Pillars of Society) did not take place until 1880, and his reputation was not fully established in this country until the proselytizing of William Archer, Edmund Gosse and George Bernard Shaw bore fruit in the late 1880s. Oeyvind Anker (ed.) Minneutstilling Henrik Ibsen 23. mai 1956 (Oslo: 1956) 168.