London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly, 1791-93. Item #03432
First Edition, First Issue of Boswell's Life Of Johnson
The Excessively Rare 'The Principal Corrections and Additions' Bound in at the End of Volume Two
BOSWELL, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Comprehending an Account of his Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order; a Series of his Epistolary Correspondence and Conversations with many Eminent Persons; and Various Original Pieces of his Composition, Never Before Published. The Whole Exhibiting a View of Literature and Literary Men in Great-Britain, for Near Half a Century, during which He Flourished. In Two Volumes. London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly, 1791.
First edition, first issue, with “gve” for "give" in the uncorrected state (line 10 on p. 135 in Volume I) and all of the errata uncorrected.
Two quarto volumes (10 3/4 x 8 7/16 inches; 274 x 216 mm.). vii, [1, blank], [ix-xii], [16, “Table of Contents” and “Corrections and Additions”], 516; , 588 [i.e. 586] pp. Engraved frontispiece by James Heath from a portrait of Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds in Volume I, two engraved facsimile plates in Volume II. ("Round Robin…" facing p. 92 and "Fac Similes of Dr. Johnson's hand writing" facing p. 588.
Together with [at the end of volume II]
BOSWELL, James. The Principal Corrections and Additions to the first edition of Mr. Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson. London: Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, 1793. [Title, verso blank], 42 pp.
Bound by Rivière & Son ca. 1910 in full mottled calf, covers with triple gilt rules. Spines with five raised bands, decoratively tooled in gilt in compartments, red and brown morocco labels lettered in gilt, gilt ruled board edges, decorative gilt turn-ins, marbled end-papers, all edges gilt. Expertly rebacked and corners strengthened (over fifty years ago) with original spines laid down. Occasional light foxing or staining to a few leaves, otherwise a fine copy of the first issue with the exceptionally rare Principal Corrections and Additions bound in at the end of volume two.
"The work [The Principal Corrections and Additions] is now difficult to obtain; when it turns up it is almost invariably bound in with a copy of the first edition of the Life." (Pottle, p. 212).
The 'gve' or 'give' question…
"Of the four copies in the British Museum, two have one reading and two the other. There can be little doubt that 'gve' is the earlier state. The first proof shows the word correctly spelled, but the lines are punctuated as follows:
'Short, O short! then be thy reign,
"And give us to the world again.'
Boswell passed this in the proof, but in the revise (both proof and revise are in the possession of Mr. Adam) he directed the printer to remove the exclamation point in the first line and substitute it for the first period at the end of the second, which is in fact the punctuation of the printed text. When the changes were made the 'i' dropped out, and the printer, not noticing what had happened, filled up the line by inserting a space between 'gve' and 'us'. After a considerable part of the edition had been printed, the error was discovered and corrected in the press." (Frederick Albert Pottle. The Literary Career of James Boswell, p. 151). The correct first issue as here reads"
"Short, O short then be thy reign,
"And gve us to the world again!"
Boswell’s biography of Johnson is a classic of the genre—a full, candid account of the life of one of the most famous eighteenth-century writers and thinkers by another. “The Life of Johnson was no single book miraculously produced by an inexperienced author. It was the crowning achievement of an artist who for more than twenty-five years had been deliberately disciplining himself for such a task” (Pottle, p. xxi).
Courtney & Nichol Smith, pp. 172-3. Grolier, 100 English, 65. Pottle 79 & 113. Rothschild 464 & 466. Sterling 71. Tinker 338.