London: Thomas Davison, 1819. Item #04799
The First Edition of Lord Byron's Don Juan
Mainly Uncut in the Original Boards
BYRON, George Gordon, Lord. Don Juan. London: Printed by Thomas Davison, 1819-1821; Printed for John Hunt, 1823; Printed for John and H.L. Hunt, 1824.
First editions, large-paper issues. of Volumes I-VI. Complete in six volumes (Cantos I and II in one quarto volume (11 x 8 3/8 inches; 280 x 213 mm.), Cantos III-XVI in five octavo volumes (9 1/16 x 5 11/16 inches; 231 x 144 mm.).
, 227, [1, printer’s imprint]; , 218, [1, blank], [1, printer’s imprint]; vii, [1, blank], , [1, blank], 184, [2, ads (“Publications by John Hunt,” dated July, 1823)]; 151, [1, printer’s imprint], [4, ads (“Publications by John Hunt,” dated Sept. 1823)]; 168; 129, [1, printer’s imprint], [2, ads (“Published by John and H.L. Hunt, ”dated March, 1824)] pp. Complete with half-titles in Volume I and II (no half-titles called for in the last four volumes) and errata slip (inserted between pp. 128/129) at end of Volume VI.
Cantos I & II bound ca. 1819 in full olive green straight-grain morocco, covers decoratively ruled and decorated in gilt and blind, spine with five shallow raised bands elaborately tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments. Gilt decorated board edges, gray endpapers, all edges gilt.
Cantos III-XVI uncut in the original drab boards (various colors) with printed paper spine labels on volumes 2, 3, & 6. Some light foxing. Together with a 'New Edition' London: Printed by Thomas Davison, of volume I (Cantos I-II) in the original drab boards with printed paper spine label. Some wear to corners, printed paper spine labels missing on volumes four and five (cantos IX - XIV). Chemised in two quarter dark blue morocco over blue cloth slipcases, ruled in gilt. Spines with five raised bands, lettered in gilt in compartments.
Overall a superb set of this satiric poem in which Byron reverses the Spanish Baroque dramatist, poet and Roman Catholic Monk, Tirso de Molina's El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest), the play from which the popular character of Don Juan originated. Byron in his poem portrays Don Juan not as a womanizer but as someone who is easily seduced by women.
From the celebrated collections of John A. Spoor and Henry Walker Bagley/Nancy Walker Bagley, with their engraved bookplates on front paste-downs and front flyleaves of each volume.
Don Juan, Byron’s unfinished epic satire in ottava rima, was published in sixteen cantos between 1819 and 1824. “Don Juan, a young gentleman of Seville, is sent abroad by his mother at the age of 16, in disgrace after an intrigue. His ship is wrecked and the passengers take to the long-boat. After many tribulations, in the course of which first Juan’s spaniel and then his tutor are eaten by the crew, Juan is cast up on a Greek island. He is restored to life by Haidée, the daughter of a Greek pirate, and the pair fall in love. The father, who is supposed dead, returns, finds the lovers together, and captures the fighting Juan, who is put in chains on one of the pirate’s ships. He is then sold as a slave in Constantinople to a sultana who has fallen in love with him. He arouses her jealousy and is threatened with death, but escapes to the Russian army, which is besieging Ismail. Because of his gallant conduct he is sent with dispatches to St. Petersburg, where he attracts the favour of the Empress Catherine, who sends him on a political mission to England. The last cantos (the ‘English cantos’) of the unfinished work are taken up with a satirical description of social conditions in England and with the love affairs of Juan…Don Juan himself is a charming, handsome young man, who delights in succumbing to the beautiful women he meets, but his character is little more than the connecting thread in a long social comedy, a poetical novel, of satirical fervour and wit. The first two cantos were ill-received by the critics, who called them ‘an insult and an outrage’ and ‘a filthy and impious poem’, but the work became increasingly successful with the general public and was much admired by Goethe, who translated a part of it” (The Oxford Companion to English Literature).
"Of the first edition of the first two Cantos of Don Juan fifteen hundred copies were printed. But of these 150 copies were 'wasted'. This means that after the book had been reprinted in octavo, no further copies in quarto were required, and that the 150 still in the hands of the binders, no doubt in the form of unbound sheets, were sold as waste-paper. For the copyright of the two cantos Byron received the sum of £1,525." (Thomas J. Wise. A Bibliography of the Writings in Verse and Prose of George Gordon Noel Baron Byron. Vol. II, p. 4).
Randolph records that there were 1,500 copies of the large-paper issues printed (against 2,500-3,500 of the small-paper and 16,000-17,000 of the “Common edition”).
Ashley Library I, pp. 157-159. Randolph, pp. 69, 74, 82-84, 86-88, 91-92. Tinker 571. Wise, Byron Library, pp. 63-67. Wise, Byron, II, pp. 3-8.