Book Description


PRESCOTT, William Hickling. History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of the Ancient Mexican Civilisation, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortés ... Eighth Edition. London: Richard Clay for Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1860.
3 volumes, octavo (170 x 111mm), pp. I: [iii]-xxx, 413, [1 (blank)]; II: [iii]-xix, [1 (blank)], 407, [1 (imprint)]; III: [iii]-xix, [1 (blank)], 444. Engraved portrait frontispieces by J. Cook and C. Cook with tissue guards. 2 folding engraved maps and one engraved facsimile. Wood-engraved illustrations in the text. (Some light spotting and browning, offsetting from engravings, bound without half-titles and final [?blank] ll. I, 2D8, II, 2D5-8, and III, 2F7-8, folding maps creased, one with short tears, a few gatherings clumsily opened.) ‘Eighth edition’. Sabin 65263.


W.H. PRESCOTT. History of the Conquest of Peru with a Preliminary View of the Civilisation of the Incas ... Fifth Edition [– New Edition; – Fifth Edition]. London: Bradbury and Evans (I and III) and R. Clay, Son, and Taylor (II) for Richard Bentley, 1857-1862-1857.
3 volumes, octavo (170 x 114mm), pp. I: [iii]-xxxi, [1 (blank)], 334; II: [iii]-xvi, 357, [1 (imprint)]; III: [iii]-xv, [1 (blank)], 334. Engraved portrait frontispieces by Joseph Brown (I-II) and engraved facsimile frontispiece (III), all with tissue guards. (Occasional light spotting or marking, offsetting from engravings, bound without half-titles and final [?blank] ll. I, Y8, II, 2A4-8, and III, Y8.) ‘Fifth’ (I and III) and ‘New’ (II) editions. Cf. Sabin 65273 (5th ed. [?mis]dated 1854).

2 works in 6 volumes. Contemporary British green calf gilt prize bindings for Rugby School, boards with borders of gilt rolls enclosing double blind rules, upper boards with gilt arms of Rugby School, lower board of first vol. of each work lettered in gilt ‘CHARLES MORRIS HONORIS CAUSA’, spines gilt in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-pieces in 2, board-edges roll-tooled in gilt, turn-ins gilt with palmette roll, marbled endpapers, all edges marbled, purple silk markers. (Spines faded, extremities slightly rubbed and bumped.) A very good set of Prescott’s 2 major works, uniformly bound in a closely contemporary prize binding.

Provenance: Rugby School (arms on binding; awarded to:) – Charles Smyth Morris (1848-1912, presentation text on lower boards of first vol. of both works; by descent to his younger brother:) – Edward Harold Morris, Bryn Myrddin, Carmarthenshire (1850-1929, pencilled ownership inscriptions on titles of all vols).
Dealer Notes
A handsome set in a contemporary prize binding. The American historian Prescott (1796-1859) determined to study Spanish history as a young man, and he assembled ‘the most extensive collection of Spanish materials’ – both printed and manuscript – in the United States by 1848 (ANB). Prescott’s ‘outstanding merit was the scrupulous care and integrity with which he used his materials and the pains he took to find the exact truth. All of his statements are supported by abundant and accurate references. Thus, today, the professional investigator and the history student, as well as the casual reader of literature, for whom Prescott’s books were primarily intended, can fully appreciate how truly great, within their limits, they are’ (Hill I, p. 240). Prescott’s first major work was History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic (Boston, MA, 1838), which was an ‘immediate international success’ and ‘was highly acclaimed by foreign scholars and a commercial bestseller’ (ANB). It was followed by History of the Conquest of Mexico (New York, 1843), and Prescott’s ‘vivid description of the Aztec civilization and dramatic narrative of Cortes’s enterprise made [it] his most popular work’ (op. cit.). Prescott’s next work, History of the Conquest of Peru, was first published in New York in 1847, and the rights to the British edition were acquired by Richard Bentley, ‘who purchased the copyright for eight hundred pounds […] a large sum, as it was already doubtful whether an exclusive privilege could be legally maintained in Great Britain by a foreigner’ (G. Ticknor, Life of William Hickling Prescott (London, 1864), p. 282), and he published the first British edition in the same year as the American edition. Like his History of the Conquest of Mexico, Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru was based on an exhaustive study of original materials, and ‘demand for the book was large: in five months five thousand copies were sold in America, and an edition of half that number sold in England. By January 1, 1860, there had been sold of the American and English editions together, 16,965 copies’ (H.W. Kent, Bibliographical Notes on One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature (New York, 1903), p. 188).

This set of the two works is uniformly bound in a handsome prize binding executed for Rugby School, which probably dates from circa 1863 (when Charles Morris entered the school) and 1866, when he left (cf. A.T. Michell (ed.), Rugby School Register. Volume II. From August, 1842, to January, 1874 (Rugby, 1902), p. 221). Morris, who graduated from New College, Oxford before entering Lincoln’s Inn in 1872, served as a Justice of the Peace in his native Carmarthen. He converted to Roman Catholicism in about 1883, and he appears to have corresponded with Cardinal (later Saint) John Henry Newman and was the probable recipient of Newman’s letter of 4 January 1885 to ‘Mr Morris’, in which Newman thanks his correspondent for a ‘touching letter’ which was ‘a great pleasure and cause of rejoicing and thanksgiving to me’ (C.S. Dessain and T. Gornall (eds), The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman … Volume XXXI. The Last Years January 1885 to August 1890 (Oxford, 1977), p. 6).
Author PRESCOTT, William Hickling
Date 1860 AND ?1854
Publisher London

Price: £450.00

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