FIRST IRISH EDITION (reissuing the second Kearsley/ London edition of 1783). 12mo, pp. , [xxiii], , 275 [i.e. 251], . P.251 mis-numbered as 275. Includes Account of the life of William Shakespeare. Full contemporary calf, 5 raised bands, black morocco title label with gilt lettering and ruling. Blind stamped foliate borders to spine-sides. Engraved title page showing circular vignette portrait of Shakespeare, with an intense Garrett in profile lurking from the left. Poor: sadly, in two halves, fully separated at pp. 142-3, but complete. Both joints cracked, losses to spine ends and title label. Tanned edges. Free endpapers excised. Various POIs to front free leaf and title page: Anne Read, Margaret Carlisle, John M/Read(?), an illegible POI, plus pen and later pencil doodles of a pigeon’s head, parrot and rat to front endpapers. Unevenly toned, occasional nicks to edges, a few stains, some pencil scoring. Else, pleasingly clean. A poor copy that nevertheless appears to have introduced a number of generations of children to Shakespeare.
An interesting binder’s copy of the first Irish edition of The Beauties of Shakespeare: taking advantage of the national boundaries of copyright, this edition reissued – pirated – the second London/ Kearsley edition with a modified title page and numbering for the Irish English-reading market. It is a different selection from that compiled by William Dodd. Not as rare as the London editions: ESTC lists 3 copies in England (Birmingham Central Libraries, BL, Cambridge), two in Ireland (NLI and TCL) and 6 in the US (Harvard, UCL Irvine, Spencer Research Library, University of Michigan & the Harry Ransom Center (2 copies) (ESTC N32782; Jaggard, p.562). Beauties were popular books that doubled as entertainment and instruction. With the legal death of perpetual copyright the literary marketplace opened-up, with such compilations allowing the work of venerated authors to be incorporated into educational books and titles for children (as is evident here with a number of the PO inscriptions and doodles done in younger hands). Though his book selling career was tumultuous, George Kearsley (1739-1790) did see success as a Beauties publisher, with editions of his The Beauties of Johnson (1781) appearing for the next 70 years (much to Johnson’s disgruntlement) (ODNB).
Author SHAKESPEARE, William
Publisher Dublin: Printed for the Company of Booksellers