Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fall Sale Preview: Rare Early Edition of Brontë Masterpiece

Rare, early edition of Brontë's Villette, in beautiful condition.
In this fall's sale we are thrilled to feature a rare, three-volume set of Villette, published in 1853 under the name Currer Bell—better known to the world as Charlotte Brontë.

Our experienced rare books specialist is strongly inclined to believe it's a first edition, based on following observations:

  1. The publication date on the title page is the same year that the novel was released.  
  2. It is in three volumes, which consistent with the fact that the first edition (subsequent editions were published in one or two volumes).  
  3. The title page information, layout, and typography appear consistent with those of other first editions posted by several rare book dealers and Wikipedia. (See photos.)

Unlike more modern books, the bindings offer no clues to the edition. In the past, novels were usually published in plain boards, and book-lovers would take their books to a private bookbinder if they wanted something more attractive. Such was the case for the edition we are offering at the fall sale: all three volumes have lovely bindings of quarter-morocco leather over marbled boards, with beautiful gilt embossed titles and ornamentation on the spines.

The novel itself is notable, too. Considered the most autographical of Brontë's novels, it tells of a young woman who moves to Brussels to teach at a girl's school and wrestles with her unrequited love for a married professor. Many Brontë devotees consider it an unrecognized masterpiece.  George Eliot, for example, wrote "Villette is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. There is something almost preternatural in its power."

In an impassioned 2014 article, "Why Villette is better than Jane Eyre," author Lucy Hughes-Hallett writes "A funny, penetratingly observant realist novel, Villette is a visionary and fantastic depiction of a sequence of extreme emotional states."

You can view this gem in the lobby display case. It goes on sale on Sept. 29 at 3pm for $500.

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