The Comic History of England [and] The Comic History of Rome

Illustrated by John Leech

[LEECH, John, illustrator]. A’BECKETT, Gilbert Abbott. The Comic History of England. With Twenty Coloured Etchings, and Two Hundred Woodcuts. By John Leech. London: Bradbury, Agnew, & Co. , 8, 9, 10, Bouverie Street, [n.d., after 1872]. [Together with:] The Comic History of Rome. Illustrated by John Leech. [London]: Bradbury, Agnew, & Co., [n.d., after 1872].

Three octavo volumes bound in two (8 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches; 209 x 130 mm.). xviii, 320, 304; xii, 308 pp. Twenty hand-colored steel-engraved plates (including frontispieces), 200 woodcuts, and title-page woodcut in The Comic History of England. Ten hand-colored steel-engraved plates, including frontispiece (the tenth plate, “Cicero Denouncing Cataline,” appears as the frontispiece and not at p. 292 as called for in the list of illustrations), 98 woodcuts, and wood-engraved title-page in The Comic History of Rome. Title-pages printed in black and red.

Bound by Bayntun of Bath (stamp-signed on the verso of the front free andpaper) in half blue morocco, ruled in gilt, over blue cloth boards. Spines decoratively panelled and lettered in gilt in compartments with five gilt-dotted raised bands. All edges gilt. A fine set.

The Comic History of England was originally issued in parts by Punch 1846-48 followed by a two volume edition in 1848 from Bradbury, Evans. This is a later reprint of Tooley’s undated, two voumes in one edition, reissued subsequent to Bradbury, Evans becaming Bradbury, Agnew in 1872. It retains the earlier two volume edition’s pagination and format, with the table of contents reorganized for the one volume printing. “Among the most popular and best of Leech’s work” (Tooley).

The Comic History of Rome was originally published in parts in in wrappers 1851-1852 by Bradbury, Evans followed by a collected edition in one volume in the same year. The undated edition under notice is a post-1872 reissue subsequent to Bradbury’s reorganization with Agnew as partner.

The first editions of these two works are scarce. All reissues are rare.

Artist and illustrator John Leech (1817-1864) provided the illustrations for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, amongst other celebrated Victorian volumes, and was one of the first illustrators for the classic satirical journal, Punch. He established “a convention of social humour that was to last until the 1920s…Extravagantly praised by Ruskin, Leech’s often careless but never crude drawings have survived in charm and humour to give us a refreshing glimpse of mid-Victorian society” (Simon Houfe, The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914).

Martin Hardie, pp. 210-211. Cf. Tooley 295. Cf. Tooley 298.
Abbey, Life, 434 and 435. Item #00425

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