London: Printed for Walker and Edwards…, 1816. Item #02769
The Earliest Obtainable “King Arthur” in Original Boards
MALORY, Thomas. The History of the Renowned Prince Arthur, King of Britain; with His Life and Death, and All His Glorious Battles. Likewise, the Noble Acts and Heroic Deeds of His Valiant Knights of the Round Table. In Two Volumes. London: Printed for Walker and Edwards…, 1816.
Seventh edition of the English epic, preceded only by the editions of 1485, 1498, 1529, 1557, 1578, and 1634, all but the last virtually unobtainable. Two twenty-fourmo volumes (5 5/8 x 3 1/8 inches; 143 x 79 mm.). xxxii, 468; , xvi, 488 pp. Complete with half-titles. Each volume with engraved frontispiece and added engraved title.
Publisher’s tan printed paper over boards, uncut and largely unopened, rebacked with the original spines laid down. With the full title-page on the front boards within a decorative border, with the price (“Price 9s.”) beneath the date, and with publisher’s advertisements within a decorative border on the rear boards (listing fifty-nine titles, of which “King Arthur, 2 vols. 9 0” is the last one). Frontispieces and engraved titles lightly foxed. Each volume with an ownership signature on the front free endpaper. A wonderful copy, remarkably preserved in its original extremely fragile binding. Copies of this edition in the original printed boards are truly rare, as nearly all were rebound in leather. Housed together in a half black morocco clamshell case with two spines.
This was the first publication of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur since the Stansby edition of 1634 (the first to be modernized to Jacobean standards). It responded to the passage of 182 years without an edition in print and a resulting demand that produced two competing editions in 1816 (the other edition is nearly identical to this one except that it was published in three volumes). No bibliography addresses the priority of the 1816 editions. However, the preface of the three-volume edition rails against the competition of this edition, to it’s unimaginable that our edition didn’t already exist in the marketplace to stimulate the attack. This edition is also by far the scarcer of the two.
“The first printing of Malory's work was made by Caxton in 1485; it proved popular, and was reprinted, with some additions and changes, in 1498 and 1529 by Wynkyn de Worde who succeeded to Caxton’s press. Three more editions followed at intervals down to the time of the English Civil War: William Copland’s (1557), Thomas East’s (1585), and William Stansby’s (1634), each of which manifested additional changes and errors (including the omission of an entire leaf). Thereafter the book went out of fashion until the time of the Romantic revival of interest in all things medieval; the year 1816 saw a new edition by Walker and Edwards, and another one by Wilks, both based on the 1634 Stansby edition”