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EDWARDS, Bryan (1743-1800)
The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies.
London: John Stockdale, 1793 (vols. I and II), 1801 (vol. III)

Three volumes, complete. First edition of vols. I and II; second edition of vol. III (but first thus, as vol. III of the History). Large Post quarto, 10-9/16 x 8-5/8 in. (26.8 x 22 cm) overall, the pages 10-3/16 x 8-1/8 in. (25.9 x 20.7 cm). A matched set retaining the contemporary calf covers framed, and edges tooled, with gilt chain roll, original Gloster pattern marbled endpapers, volumes I and II rebacked 1963 in calf gilt in six compartments with black title piece, volume III retaining its original spine gilt in six compartments with black title and black and red number pieces. Collates (vol. I) [3 ll. (free endleaf and two original blanks)], 1 l. (title), 1 l. (dedication), pp. v-xxxvi (preface, errata and contents), [1]-471, [1 p.], [473]-494 (appendix), [3 ll. (two original blanks and free endleaf)]; (vol. II) [3 ll. (free endleaf and two original blanks)], 1 l. (title), pp. [1]-478, [479]-494 (appendix), [495]-502 (fly title; two double-page and four folding tables mounted on stubs), [3 ll. (two original blanks and free endleaf)]; (vol. III) [3 ll. (free endleaf and two original blanks)], 1 l. (engraved frontispiece portrait), 1 l. (general title), pp. v-[xx] (advertisement, life, contents, list of plates), 11. (additional title), pp. [3]-443 (including engraved folding map of St. Domingo, 18-3/4 x 36-3/4 in., mounted on stub, and four further engraved plates, one a map), 1 p. (printer’s credit), [3 ll. (two original blanks and free endleaf)]; plus large engraved folding map of the West Indies, the right-hand half in vol. I (28-1/8 x 23-1/8 in.), the left-hand half in vol. II (28-3/4 x 22-3/4 in.), mounted on stubs following the initial blanks. Surface veneer of cover calf considerably rubbed (but underlying leather intact), spine of vol. 3 worn with loss of gilt and starting to separate at back extremities, boards exposed at corners, gilt mostly lost on edge tooling. Printed on fine laid paper (the maps on wove), initial quires a-b and final quires 3H-3L of vol. III slightly age-toned, offsetting of frontispiece onto title in vol. III, folds of map in vol. I repaired with paper reinforcement, minor tears in folds of map in vol. II, leaves d1 and d2 in vol. I (pp. xxxiii-xxxvi of contents) misbound before c3, the book blocks strong and tight with generous margins, the pages otherwise crisp, fresh and bright with negligible scattered faults. Engraved armorial bookplates of William Gilstrap and Alberto Parreño on front endpapers of each volume. Overall very good, an impressive and complete matched set. Sabin 21901 (vols. I and II), 21895 (vol. III).

Edwards (“facile princeps,” wrote Dibdin in 1825, “of writers in his department”) was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1794 on the strength of this publication the year before, which went on to become widely recognized and disseminated as the standard work in the first decades of the nineteenth century. These first two volumes are the first of four Stockdale editions, preceding those of 1794, 1801 and 1807 and ranked “exceptionally scarce” by Mitchell’s West Indian Bibliography (9th ed., online); a fifth London edition was issued in 1819; there were Dublin, Edinburg and American editions, English abridgments and Continental translations as well. The third volume was preceded by a free-standing edition of 1797 (Sabin 21894) with the title, An Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of St. Domingo, a variant of which is included here as the additional title. The considerably expanded present volume, essentially a new work incorporating almost 200 pages additional, some from the author’s Jamaica of 1796 and other earlier sources, some entirely new, is the first edition thus, as vol. III of the History. The large folding map mounted in halves in the first two volumes, entitled “A New Map of the West Indies / For the History of the British Colonies / By Bryan Edwards, Esqr. / Published May 28, 1793 by J. Stockdale Piccadilly,” measures a formidable 28 x 46 inches overall. In the third volume, “A Map of the Island of St. Domingo. Published Novr. 24, 1800, by J. Stockdale, Piccadilly,” measures almost 19 x 37 inches. (Stockdale’s 1794 edition added engraved frontispieces, eight further maps, five plates and a prefatory list, sold separately; owners of the 1793 first edition volumes may thus sometimes have incorporated second edition material into their bindings of the History.)

Sir William Gilstrap (1816-1896), Fornham Park, Bury St Edmunds, who gave, with the land and endowment, some £10,000 to found the Gilstrap Free Library (1883) in Newark-on-Trent;
Alberto J. Parreño (his initials AJP at feet of spines of first two volumes), who assembled an extraordinary library centered on Spain and its colonies in the New World; his sale, Swann Auction Galleries, February 9, 1978, lot 339; there purchased by
Maury A. Bromsen (1919-2005), Boston antiquarian bookseller and honorary curator and bibliographer of Latin Americana at the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.

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