The Rare First Issue of “Great Expectations” in the Original Cloth
DICKENS, Charles. Great Expectations. In Three Volumes. London: Chapman and Hall , 1861.
First edition in book form, first issue. Three octavo volumes. [4], 344; [2], 351, [1, printer’s imprint]; [2], 344 pp. plus 32 pp. advertisements, dated May, 1861. With the first issue title-pages and with all the internal flaws for the first issue called for by Smith, except page 173 in volume III has an apostrophe in "there's." There are a four more points however that Smith notes which do not occur in every copy. Our set does not have the two points in Volume III that Smith notes only appeared in Sadleir’s copy (“3” missing in page number on p. 103, and first “i” missing in “inflexible” on p. 193, four lines up). Additionally, our set has a period after the headline on page 236 in volume III and also a dot over the 'i" on page 278, volume II. Both of these points Smith notes appear in most copies, but not all.

Original moderate violet wavy-grain cloth with covers decoratively stamped in blind and spines ruled in blind and decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt. Spines a bit sunned and extremities of boards and spines lightly rubbed. Occasional signature slightly sprung. Front inner hinge of volume III restored, others with hairline cracks. Overall, an excellent copy that shows very well. Housed together in a blue morocco pull-off case.

One of only two Dickens novels never issued in monthly parts—the typical method since Pickwick—Great Expectations is also one of only two of his novels whose first editions weren’t illustrated (in both cases, Hard Times is the other). Great Expectations first appeared in England in the pages of Dickens’s popular magazine, All the Year Round, beginning on December 1, 1860 (though two American magazines, Harper’s Weekly and the American All the Year Round began serializing it slightly earlier, technically jeopardizing Dickens’s British copyright).

“The rarity of the first issue of Great Expectations has been attributed to the probable small binding-up of copies with the first titlepage, coupled with the fact (according to C.P. Johnson, Hints to Collectors, p. 33, and others later) that ‘the first edition was almost entirely taken up by the libraries.’ Patten, pp. 290-92, states that 1,000 copies of the first issue and 750 of the second were printed and that probably most of the first and more than half of the second (1400) copies in all) were purchased by Mudie’s Select Library” (Smith I, p. 104, note 5).

Smith I, 14. Eckel, pp. 91-93. Gimbel A146.

HBS # 67764 $37,500