The Complete Works

[FORE-EDGE PAINTING] SHAKESPEARE, William. The Complete Works.

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[FORE-EDGE PAINTING] SHAKESPEARE, William. The Complete Works. Halifax: Milner and Sowerby, 1864.

8vo., contemporary brown pebbled calf, elaborately stamped in blind and in gilt, with five raised bands, lettered in gilt direct to second compartment and gilt decorative pieces, brown coated endpapers; all edges gilt, with a rather naive fore-edge painting depicting a view of Stratford-upon-Avon alongside a portrait of Shakespeare; pp. xxiv, 742; with a portrait frontispiece of the author; a handsome copy, some light flaking along the spine but holding firm, a touch rubbed along the spine and bumped to upper corners; previous ownership inscription to half-title and title lightly offset; still a charming example. Provenance: Privately printed and bound expressly for The Heirloom Library of Michel Goldschneider.
A new edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works, comprising his plays and poems with a critical preface by Samuel Johnson, a life of the author, commendatory verses on Shakespeare by contemporary poets, and a Glossary.
The publisher William Milner was born in 1803, and was apprenticed as a youth to a local printer, although it was not long before he began publishing books himself, initially using local printers Hartley & Walker, and Whitley & Booth. He then set up his own printing press, his first major success being John Fielden's Curse of the factory system, which attacked the exploitation of child labour within mills and factories. Later, he began to publish the Cottage Library series, of which his output was 15,000 books per day, sold at sixpence (2 new pence) and 1 shilling (5 new pence) each. He popularised the sale of these 'cheap books', making them more widely available to the general public, and he would sell copies by travelling round the country from a horse-drawn van. It is said that hundreds of thousands of working people benefited from the company's affordable copies of literary classics.
This is a somewhat more lavish production, and features a charming fore-edge painting by an unknown artist.