London: Printed by J. Nichols [H. Hughs] for C. Bathurst et al. 1779-1781. First edition. 68 vols., small 8vos; with 29 engraved portraits; contemporary polished calf with gilt decorated spines and printed leather labels in red and brown. Neat bookplates in front and rear of each volume; hinges tender -- thirteen covers detached; spines dry and cracking in places, but all present, although a few show wear and missing portions; most labels present and intact; ink notation by a previous owner in rear of first volume. Item #206213
The complete set of what is, alongside his great dictionary, Johnson's magnum opus. The ten volumes of Prefaces appeared between 1779 and 1781, with the fifty-six volumes of works and a two-volume index in 1779-1780. The selection of poets for this collection was made by the publishers, and Johnson's role was, initially, to provide short biographical introductions. Instead, he wrote at length, producing a series of essays running to more than 350,000 words. Subsequently, Johnson's prefaces were collected together as "Lives of the English Poets" and have been celebrated as a landmark of English literary criticism. This set derives from the library of Georgiana Forrest (armorial bookplate) and subsequently American heiress Martha Houghtaling Ingalls (bookplate) and her son Francis Abbott Ingalls, Jr. (bookplate). The holograph note in Volume 1 is presumably in the hand of Martha Houghtaling Ingalls and notes that the set was purchased for her by her father in 1888 from a London bookseller. (Additional shipping charge required).