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Contributions to Punch, &tc., by William Makepeace Thackeray
1898, Harper & Brothers Publishers
Volume 6 of the 13-volume "Biographical Edition"
DESCRIPTION: A common mistake that many people make when first starting to collect rare books is assuming that a book is financially valuable simply because it's old; for a notorious example, look at all those giant reprinted libraries of famous authors' oeuvres that many publishing companies put out in the late 1800s after that writer's death, individual volumes of which can still be found in the millions on the back shelves of thrift stores for just a dollar or two apiece, usually not even worth listing at reseller places like eBay unless one owns the entire collection with no missing volumes and with all of it in great condition. But today's book being auctioned is an exception, because it's a volume worth owning just in its own right; namely, it's an 1898 compendium of the short funny work of William Makepeace Thackeray, all of which ran in the infamous Victorian humor magazine Punch from 1843 to 1854, not available in any other kind of bound, collected way besides one of these old "library" editions from soon after Thackeray's death. Thackeray is of course mostly known for his big barn-burning novels like Barry Lyndon and Vanity Fair (BONUS: Read CCLaP's review of Vanity Fair), most of which themselves first appeared serially in magazines as was the custom at the time; so when publisher Harper & Brothers hired Thackeray's daughter Anne to put together a "definitive" 13-volume edition of his complete work, not only were his humongous well-known novels included but all his various short magazine work as well. And it seems that nearly every Victorian writer eventually contributed some work to Punch, the "Saturday Night Live" of its day, with a circulation in the millions and a readership that included the Queen herself; but Thackeray was a particularly heavy and popular contributor (not the least reason of which was because the publisher of his books was also the publisher of this magazine), and was particularly well-known for writing spot-on parodies of popular melodramatic potboilers of the time.
You can hunt around and still find many of these pieces here and there at various online sources; but for Thackeray fans, the easiest way to sit down with a complete set of this obscure but hilarious work (including the author's self-drawn accompanying illustrations) is simply to purchase one of these free-floating editions from the late 19th century that are still around; and at the very affordable price it's being offered for today, for an illustrated 115-year-old book still in great condition (but see below for more on that), it simply makes more sense to just purchase this handsome edition than collecting and collating up a bunch of random text files from Google Books and Project Gutenberg. And hey, this particular copy happens to be an ASSOCIATION COPY as well (see photos for more); this was one of the founding volumes first donated to the library of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland (now the Maryland State Medical Society) by John Ruhrah, a Baltimore doctor and educator who set up a permanent fund at the end of his life to keep feeding and expanding the organization's collective library, and who donated all of his personal books (including this one) as a way of first seeding the collection. A cheap but impressive gift for any fan of Victoriana, this is still a delight to simply sit down and read, which can be done guilt-free for the price it's being offered for today.
CONDITION: Text: Very Good Minus (VG-). In general this is still in great shape, except for just enough fraying on the cover's spines and edges to knock it down from a Very Good rating. Includes a bookplate from the John Ruhrah Fund on the inside front cover, custom-designed by Ruhrah himself; Ruhrah's signature on the inside front cover, as well as "Quarantine Hospital, Port of Baltimore;" an additional small ex-libris sticker on the inside front cover for Wendy Greenhouse; and a small stamped "Oct 1977" on the inside back cover. No dust jacket issued.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP on September 2, 2013, at the Oak Park Book Fair.