London: R. Wilks, 1816. Hardcover. 12mo. 3 volumes. xxiv -326; xvi -381; xvi 377pp. Engraved title pages in each volume. Engraved frontispiece of the Death of Sir Launcelot present in Volume 1, of the Parting of Tristan and Isolde in Volume 2, and of Prince Arthur Obtaining the Sword in Volume 3. The folding plate of the Round Table is also present in Volume 1.
Publisher's original printed paper boards, basically a flimsy binding intended only to preserve the textblock until the set could be rebound in leather pursuant to the buyer's wishes. The boards are worn, rubbed and soiled; the upper board of Volume II has been supplied from another copy and remargined to fit, the paper spines are largely perished. All boards have been professionally reattached with archival tissue. The textblocks show the usual offsetting of the engraved titles and frontispieces to each other as well as some foxing, but are otherwise fairly nice. Housed in a custom leather backed clamshell case, gilt spine title.
There seem to have been two issues of this set, with one issue a little larger than the other, and with the borders round the text more intricate. This is the simpler state, with the borders a single chain design. The textblocks are untrimmed. The set measures approximately 3=1/8 by 5-3/4 inches.
The Morte d'Arthur was first printed by Caxton in 1485 and was followed by editions in 1498, 1529, 1557 and 1634. Owing to the rise of the Commonwealth, stories of kings were generally suppressed; no further editions of the Morte d'Arthur were printed until 1816, which saw two editions of which this is one. Important edition, marking the start of modern interest in Arthuriana. By 1858, Thomas Wright was already describing this edition as rare. But it is, with the two volume 1816 edition, the earliest more or less easily obtainable edition of King Arthur available, though copies of the previous edition of 1634 occasionally come on the market.
Gaines, A8, which does not distinguish between the states. Good. Item #19847