TROLLOPE, ANTHONY. 1815-1882.
Ralph the Heir. London: Strahan & Co., January 1870-July 1871.
19 parts (2 volumes). 8vo (228 x 144 mm). Illustrated by Francis A. Fraser with 18 wood-engraved plates. Original buff wrappers printed in red and black. Custom cloth chemise and slipcase. Part 1 front wrapper darkened, few minor pencil scrawls to inside wrapper part 1 and front wrapper of part 3, light stains to part 9, some unobtrusive backstrip repair.
Provenance: Mr. Gillott (penciled ownership inscription to parts 13-16).
Exhibited: Grolier Club, 'Essential Parts,' 1996, p 24.
A NOTORIOUS RARITY: THE TROLLOPE "BLACK TULIP," FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL MONTHLY PARTS, SIXPENNY "PART ISSUE A." Sadleir notes a discrepancy of paper used for the wrappers of parts 13 & 14 of the copy he examined, not evident here. The type-setting of the front wrapper of part 1 corresponds to Sadleir, with "Illustrated by F.A. Fraser" in larger type and "All Rights Reserved" in smaller type than in all subsequent wrappers. The publishing history of Ralph the Heir is almost comically haphazard: it appeared in two parts issues, the present monthly parts and a simultaneous serialized "Supplement" to St. Pauls Magazine (the early parts in separate wrappers and with illustrations, but these mysteriously abandoned after part 11); a 3-volume unillustrated book; a single volume partially illustrated book; and another one volume edition complete with all the platesall within the space of 3 years and under 3 separate imprints. The present issue is without question the most desirable, being the first, the rarest and the most complete. The print run must have been miniscule, Strahan were unable to procure a single advertiser and sold only enough subscriptions to commit themselves to publication. Sadleir summarizes, "with such a history, it is not surprising that the regular part-issue of Ralph the Heir is of the utmost rarity." We find no sale records for the past 60 years. Sadleir examined only one copy for his bibliography and knew for certain of only two copies in existence.
Strahan probably never did recoup their £2,520 cost for the copyright of Ralph the Heir. Trollope himself deemed it one of his worst novels, and in his autobiography he goes so far as to disavow even remembering the name of his heroine! However, though the love story in Ralph may be forgettable, his description of a Parliamentary campaign in the fictional borough of Percycross is important. It is unabashedly based on Trollope's first-hand knowledge of corruptible country politics. Trollope was so disgusted by his experience campaigning as a Liberal candidate in the borough of Beverley that he filed a petition with the Royal Commission that led to the disenfranchisement of that borough in 1870. Sadleir 37.