London: Murray, 1821. First Edition. Hardcover. 1st edition, 1st issue (5 1/2 line Doge’s speech on page 151, “my” for “thy” page 152, 21 text lines to page 154). Original boards, uncut (plain as hunger), spine mostly chipped away, joints strengthened but not rebacked, still a good copy externally, fine internally, complete with half–title, blank, and ads. Good. Item #436
Books of prose fiction were called romances before the novel was devised or named, but the English romantic age was 1770 (Chatterton) to about 1830, and Byron was its most glamorous individual. The era resisted definition because the romantic temperament favored the indefinite and boundless. What drove Byron were the values of visionary originality, emotional self–expression, fanciful spontaneity, and the choice of wonder, desires, and dreams over everyday realities, a shift away from the classical standards of order, balance, restraint, proportion, and objectivity.
In 1346, Marino Faliero led Venetian forces to victory over Louis I of Hungary. In 1353 he was rewarded with election as Doge of Venice but soon afterwards the Genoese triumphed over the Venetians, and Faliero, angry with patricians who had insulted his family, joined dissatisfied plebeians in a plot to assassinate the nobles, overthrow the oligarchy, and make himself dictator. The scheme was discovered, and Faliero and his abettors were tried by the Council of Ten and executed. 466 years later, Byron, while living in Venice, decided to immortalize him, but the play failed in Drury Lane, polluting the water upstream, and considering the price of this copy in boards, continues to irrationally do so.
I search myself for illusions like a chimpanzee looking for fleas and still I am perplexed. How can such a book be so cheap? I give up. Fold. Tap out. But I’m the bookseller and supposed to know, and I can’t totally default, renounce books, put on a cape and go fight crime. So, I’ll guess it’s just a lack of demand, or appreciation, or if you will, the fashion, an inequitable reality of transitory evanescence, but one we’ve seen before, in which the most reliable values in 1st editions are still for those written with a dipped pen. Contrast them against the spurners of safety, the limitless supply of third rate, modern 1st editions, spiraling upwards to unsustainable price levels, only justified when compared to one another, a house of straw with a captivating power that is more contagious than yawning, and less permanent. I warn you all, watch out (Book Code).