Great expectations ... In three volumes. Vol. I [-III]. Second edition.

London, (C. Whiting for) Chapman and Hall, 1861.

3 vols, 8vo, pp. [4], 344; [2], 351, [1]; [2], 344; bound without publisher’s catalogue at end of vol. 3; some finger marks and other light marks, occasional light spotting, faint creases to a few corners, foxing to endpapers; but a very good copy in later half calf over brown cloth boards, spines gilt in compartments with lettering-pieces, marbled edges and endpapers; lightly rubbed; inscription to front free endpaper of vol. 3: ‘Mr A.E.P. Elton Private B. Troop 5th Royal Irish Lancers Newbridge Ireland’; marginal ink calculations to vol. 1 p. 67.


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Great expectations ... In three volumes. Vol. I [-III]. Second edition.

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First edition, second impression, of one of the great Victorian novels, which was already in short supply in 1861. After Great Expectations had attracted a large readership in All the Year Round, Chapman and Hall were understandably cautious in their initial order for the novel as a traditional three-decker at 31s 6d, a format that had not been tried for Dickens before. Their accounts (in the Forster collection at the V&A) show ‘five successive payments to Whiting, the printer, for 1000, 750, 750, 500, and 750 copies’, the later impressions from standing type or stereotype plates (to judge from the reduced costs). This caution seems excessive as Mudie, the circulating library, took 1400 copies (Clarendon Press edition, pp. xliv-xlv).

The four later impressions are all part of the first edition, with some perpetuated errors and only the trifling textual variants that can affect stereotype plates or standing type. They are, however, usually bound up with title-pages describing them as ‘Second’, ‘Third’, ‘Fourth’, or ‘Fifth’ editions, terms that Dickens himself used in correspondence, but they are no such thing. The true second edition is the ‘new edition in one volume’ of 1862. Press advertisements suggest July, early August, late August, September and October as the dates that the five impressions were published.

This copy has all the textual variants of the second impression noted in list C in Appendix D of the Clarendon Press edition. The editor’s own conclusion is ‘that there are no differences of textual interest between the impressions’ (p. 491).

See: Walter E. Smith, Charles Dickens in the original cloth (1982), pp. 99-104; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, ed. Margaret Cardwell (Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 491-499.

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