London: Printed for T. Longman, B. White and Son, B. Law, J. Dodsley etc., 1792. Item #04171
"Arguably the Most Distinguished Man of Letters in English History"
The Works of Samuel Johnson in a Fine Full Calf Binding by Root & Son
JOHNSON, Samuel. The Works. A New Edition, in Twelve Volumes. With an Essay on his Life and Genius, by Arthur Murphy, Esq. London: Printed for T. Longman, B. White and Son, B. Law, J. Dodsley etc., 1792.
Twelve octavo volumes (8 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches; 210 x 133 mm.). Engraved portrait frontispiece in volume one.
Bound by Root & Son ca. 1900 (stamp-signed on verso of front end-paper). Full dark green calf, covers with triple-ruled gilt borders and decorative floral corner pieces. Spines with five raised bands, elaborately decorated with a gilt floral design in compartments. Red and olive green leather labels lettered in gilt, gilt decorated board-edges and elaborate gilt turn-ins, marbled end-papers and edges. With the bookplate of Edward J. McCutchen on front paste-downs. Minimal rubbing to joints of volume one, otherwise a near fine set.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". He is also the subject of "the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature": James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson. Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Johnson attended Pembroke College, Oxford for just over a year, before his lack of funds forced him to leave. After working as a teacher he moved to London, where he began to write for The Gentleman's Magazine. His early works include the biography Life of Mr Richard Savage, the poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes, and the play Irene. After nine years of work, Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship". This work brought Johnson popularity and success. Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary. His later works included essays, an influential annotated edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare, and the widely read tale The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. In 1763, he befriended James Boswell, with whom he later traveled to Scotland; Johnson described their travels in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Towards the end of his life, he produced the massive and influential Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, a collection of biographies and evaluations of seventeenth and eighteenth-century poets. Johnson was a tall and robust man. His odd gestures and tics were disconcerting to some on first meeting him. Boswell's Life, along with other biographies, documented Johnson's behavior and mannerisms in such detail that they have informed the posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome, a condition not defined or diagnosed in the eighteenth century. After a series of illnesses, he died on the evening of 13 December 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. In the years following his death, Johnson began to be recognized as having had a lasting effect on literary criticism, and he was claimed by some to be the only truly great critic of English literature.
Courtney & Smith. A Bibliography of Samuel Johnson, pp. 163-164.
Edward J. McCutchen (1857-1933) was a Californian attorney and renowned book collector.