DRAMATICK WRITINGS OF WILL. SHAKSPERE. [Bell's Edition of Shakespeare]. Printed Complete from the TEXT of SAM. JOHNSON and GEO. STEEVENS, And Revised from the Last Editions. [with,] A PROLEGOMENA TO THE DRAMATICK WRITINGS OF WILL. SHAKSPERE

(London: Printed for and Under the Direction of John Bell, 1793).

AN IMPORTANT PRESSING OF THE SHAKESPEARE PLAYS AND OF THE SCHOLARLY WRITINGS AND DISCUSSIONS UP TO THE CURRENT TIME. The plays are from Steevens' and Johnson's Scholarly Edition of Shakespeare (1773). This edition prints a two volume Prolegomena, which consists of prefaces written for Shakespeare's plays over many years. A PROLEGOMENA TO THE DRAMATICK WRITINGS OF WILL. SHAKSPER includes, along with all the most important prefaces, both Rowe’s and Malone’s ‘Lives of Shakespeare’, the 1623 preface of Heming and Condell, as well as Shakespeare's Will, Commendatory Verses, and an attempt to determine the original order of the plays. With 97 portraits, vignettes and character plates, including a foldout of signatures on Shakespeare's Will in Vol. II, "an example of fans" in the Merry Wives' Annotations, a foldout of the Morris Dancers in Henry IV part 1's Annotations, and an extra vignette in Titus Andronicus.
This, the "Literary" Shakespeare, was published serially beginning in 1785, and collected in 20 vols. What distinguishes this edition from the others by Bell is the elaborateness of the presentation. This was the culmination of a 15 year effort to publish an edition of the Bard's works which had a high cultural value due to its edition, annotation, and beauty of its typography and illustration. Indeed, this edition proved a social triumph for Bell with his assembled 1800 subscribers, including the Royal Family (ex-cept for the Sovereign) along with the Queen of France, monsieur the Kings brother and a collection of 70 nobles.
The edition was printed on smooth wove paper, gilt edges and handsomely bound in calf, probably in Bell's own bindery. In this edition Bell first replaced the long s (ƒ) with the modern small rounded s, an innovation which quickly caught on*. There are many more portraits in this edition, than in the earlier "acting" editions of Shakespeare. In the Prolegomena alone, there are 8 portraits, as well as several engravings of places and things related to Shakespeare. Throughout the rest of the collection, each play has between 2 and 4 character portraits, featuring prominent actors in the roles. In contrast to the engravings of the earlier edition, these portraits have oval borders and lush backgrounds. The actors themselves are rendered in a much softer, more romantic style.
The artists Bell commissioned were all under the age of 25 and relatively unknown. Most notable among them was the young Johan Heinrich Ramberg, who had come to England from Hanover under the patronage of George III. It is because of these young artists that these portraits are so different from those in the "acting" edition. Ramberg brought with him a European aesthetic, and all the artists brought the burgeoning romantic artistic trends to the drawing boards. Item #20837

20 volumes. The important Bell’s Shakespeare, with the Prefaces by Pope, Theobald, Hanmer Warburton and Johnson, and with both Rowe’s and Malone’s Life of Shakespeare, and with many other important essays, notes and emendations. Engraved frontispiece portraits of Shakespeare and of the Prince of Wales, of Pope, Warburton, Hanmer and Johnson as well as others, of Shakespeare’s house and with a profusion of finely engraved plates throughout the volumes 12mo, beautifully bound in full red Regency straight-grain morocco with handsome gilt ruling to the borders of the upper and lower covers, the spine with compartments separated by gilt bands, gilt tooled Regency decorative motifs and lettering in gilt within the compartments, gilt tooled edges and gilt rolled turnovers, marbled end-leaves, all edges gilt. An excellent and important set, very handsome, beautifully preserved, fresh and clean.

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Price: $7,500.00