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Lot 61: Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson 1st Ed 1791

Sarasota Estate Auction

February 12, 2023
Sarasota , FL, US

More About this Item


This is a two-volume set of The Life of Samuel Johnson, written by James Boswell and published in 1791, and it is a first edition in the first state. The title page reads The Life Of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., Comprehending An account of the Studies And Numerous Works, In Chronological Order; A Series Of His Epistolary Correspondence And Conversations With Many Eminent Persons; And Various Original Pieces Of His Composition, Never Before Published. The Whole Exhibiting A View Of Literature And Literary Men In Great Britain For Near Half A Century, During Which He Flourished. In Two Volumes. By James Boswell, Esq. London: Printed By Henry Baldwin, For Charles Dilly, In The Poultry, MDCCXCI. [1791] Volume I has a red label, gilt lettering, gilt decorations, and six gilt-ruled compartments on the spines, a fancy gilt border on speckled calf boards, blank endpapers, with the bookplate of Sir John C. Hobhouse Bt. on the front paste-down of each volume. and a frontis portrait of Samuel Johnson done by James Heath after a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds. After the title page, there’s a three-page dedication to Joshua Reynolds, an advertisement by Boswell thanking people for helping write the book, fifteen pages of an Alphabetical Table of Contents, then a leaf with Corrections for both volumes. Volume I has 516 pages of text and the second volume has 588 pages of text, and all the uncorrected errors are present in both volumes to make this a first edition, first issue set. The first volume has the all-important “gve” misprint on line 10 of page 135, and this is required to be a first issue; “gve” is the earlier state, while later states were corrected to read “give”, and only 1750 copies with “gve” were ever printed in the first print run. The two plates in both volumes are present, as called for - the Round Robin plate on page 92 of Volume I and the facsimiles of Johnson’s handwriting on page 588 of the second volume. All the mistakes described on the Corrections And Additions page in Volume I are present and uncorrected here; there are a total of twenty-four uncorrected mistakes in the two volumes that need to be present to make this a first issue - thirteen in the first volume and eleven in the second volume - and they are all uncorrected and present here. Several page numbers were misnumbered and these uncorrected mistakes are all here - pages 229, 408, 497, 504, and the last three leaves of Volume II are all mispaginated, as called for. All of these details are present and make this set a first edition in the first state. Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), often called Dr. Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions as a poet, playwright, essayist, critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer, and The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography calls him "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". He also squabbled with Lord Chesterfield over publicity for a project that was near and dear to Dr. Johnson’s heart - his writing A Dictionary of the English Language - and that squabble is detailed in the books about Lord Chesterfield’s Letters To His Son in the auction here. Boswell (1740 - 1795) was a Scottish biographer, diarist, and lawyer who is best known for his biography of his friend and writer Samuel Johnson, which is commonly said to be the greatest biography written in the English language. John Cam Hobhouse (1786 - 1869), whose name is on the booklplates, was an English politician also known as Baron Brighton and good friends with Lord Byron when they attended Cambridge together, and after Byron died, Hobhouse read the will and took care of the funeral arrangements for Byron. He also had a sympathy for Napoleon which caused a stir after Hobhouse wrote a pamphlet speaking out against the governments in both England and France, and the French translation was seized and the translator and printer were imprisoned in France for the contents of the pamphlet. The two Johnson books are 4 to. and measure 11 1/4 x 9 in. wide, the hinges are tight and secure, there are wide margins, and there are light scuffs on the covers, light wear at the tips and on the edges of Volume II, and light foxing in the second volume. There’s also an old ink note from a quill pen and a couple of pencilled notes dating from 1843 in the margins of the second volume - they seem to be related to the uncorrected mistakes in Volume II - and there’s a short poesy pencilled in on page 345 of the second volume, and they don’t detract from the texts, but seem to add history to the books. The Life of Samuel Johnson was one of the greatest biographies in English literature, and a must-have for a serious collector of British biographies in the first state of the first edition.

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If your bid is successful, please contact one of our local shippers. We will not be responsible for the acts or omissions of carriers or packers, whether or not they were recommended by us. Property will not be released to the shipper without the buyer's written consent and until payment has been made in full. Packing and handling of purchased lots by us is at the entire risk of the purchaser and Sarasota Estate Auction will have no liability of any loss or damage to such items. Buyer Pays Packaging and Shipping Cost.

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Bidding will begin at a price appropriate in auctioneer's discretion. The auctioneer always reserves the right to withdraw a lot for any reason he deems appropriate. At the auctioneer's discretion, no bid of less than one half the low estimate will be accepted from any source: phone bidding, absentee bidding, internet bidding, or bidding in the gallery. All lots in this catalog are offered subject to a reserve, which is the confidential minimum hammer price at which a lot will be sold. In executing a reserve, the auctioneer has the right to bid on behalf of the Consignor, whether by opening bidding or continuing bidding in response to other bidders until reaching the reserve. If the reserve is not met, the Auctioneer has the right to withdraw the item from the sale.

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Due to the embargo on Persian carpets, international shipping is not available.

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Payment must be made by cash, approved check, wire transfer, PayPal or MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express credit cards. We reserve the right to require bank checks for large purchases. Buyers not known to us who wish to write a check must provide a current letter of credit from their bank guaranteeing funds for that account. We reserve the right to not issue a buyer's number or to withhold merchandise if appropriate credit has not been established. We require wire transfers for international buyers. First time buyers will be required to pay by wire transfer or cashier's check.
Payment is expected at time of purchase. Payment for successful absentee, phone bids and online bids are required within five business days of the auction. Bidding on an item indicates the client's acceptance of our Terms of Sale. Your signature on our Bid Form or acceptance of these terms through any online bidding platform constitutes permission to charge successful bids to credit cards if payment is not received within five days of the auction. Furthermore, items can be sold to a third party without your consent if payment is not received within 7 business days of the auction.

Shipping Terms

Please contact Premier Shipping and Crating @ 941-358-9999 or email them at [email protected] for a shipping quote.
If your bid is successful, please contact one of our local shippers. We will not be responsible for the acts or omissions of carriers or packers, whether or not they were recommended by us. Property will not be released to the shipper without the buyer's written consent and until payment has been made in full. Packing and handling of purchased lots by us is at the entire risk of the purchaser and Sarasota Estate Auction will have no liability of any loss or damage to such items. Buyer Pays Packaging and Shipping Cost.

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All purchases are subject to applicable Florida sales tax of 7% unless the Florida Certificate of Resale tax form is fully and completely filled out and received prior to time of purchase. Resale tax numbers from other states are accepted. International buyers are responsible for tariffs, taxes, or assessments of shipped items to the buyer's country.

Condition Reports

All items are sold as is, where is, with all faults. There are no warranties or representations of merchantability, of fitness, nor of any other kind, express or implied. All items are available for your examination prior to bidding. Your bidding will signify that you have examined the items as fully as you desire, or that you have chosen not to examine them. Written and oral descriptions are our opinions and should in no way be construed as a guarantee of any kind as to age, condition, materials or any other feature of items being sold. Our goal is to provide prospective bidders with accurate and detailed information. We recommend prospective bidders examine all items in which they have an interest. If you require absolute certainty in all areas of authenticity, and the results of your evaluation leave uncertainty in your mind, we recommend you not bid on the item in question. We do not give refunds. All sales are final. No statement written or oral made by the auctioneer shall be deemed a warranty or assumption of liability by Sarasota Estate Auction or by any seller represented by Sarasota Estate Auction.