MANZONI, Alessandro. I Promessi Sposi. Storia Milanese del Secolo XVII. Signed by Caroline Darwin, with two ALS notes from Mrs R. Vaugan Williams. Paris: Baudry, 1827.
Small 8vo., 3 Vols; attractive period binding of half vellum over aqua paste-paper boards; spine decorated in gilt with contrasting red leather label gilt; red speckled edges; pp. [vi], 2-305, [i]; [v], 2-319, [i]; [v], 2-362 [ii]; a lovely set, slightly splayed from the vellum, with some all-over dust soiling, particularly affecting Vol III of the set; a little rubbed, and some light spotting to the prelims, particularly the final few pages of Volume I, and the first and last few of Volume II and III; still a very uptogether set, tightly bound. Provenance: signed by Caroline Darwin, Darwin's sister, to the front paste-down of Volume I. Together with two autograph notes from Ursula Vaughan Williams, wife of the composer who was the great nephew of Charles Darwin.
Third Baudry edition, published in the same year as the first Milan edition.
The Betrothed, most "famous and widely read novel in the Italian language" (Colquhoun: Manzoni and his Times) was an instant success upon publication. It was originally published on 15 June 1827, after two years of corrections and proof-reading. Upon Manzoni's own insistence, it was initially published in the Lombardic dialect, before being revised for republication in 1842, with the regionalisms removed.
No fewer than nine editions subsequently appeared from as many publishers in the first year of publication. A number of these were piracies. This Italian language Paris edition was itself reprinted several times.
The association is an interesting one. It seems it was once in the possession of Caroline Darwin, before at some point passing through the Library of the Vaughan Williams'. One note claims: "it belonged to R's grandmother & then his mother. R never read it, I'm afraid." In another, however, she writes: "the only modern novel in Italian Ralph said, that's why it was always given to students!"
A fascinating assocation copy of a pinnacle of Italian Literature. In Italy the novel is considered a true masterpiece and a basis for the modern Italian language.