Ornamental cover of the 1878 Chatto & Windus edition
16 cm high by 10 cm wide
Ornamental book-cover (cloth) for Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree, the 1878 Chatto and Windus edition that incorporates the December 1875 Tinsley edition.
See commentary below
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham
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Commentary and Description
Significantly, the somewhat garish Chatto and Windus cloth-binding of Royal blue and gold lettering extols the novella as "By the Author of Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy's breakout novel which ran serially in The Cornhill Magazine over the course of 1874, rather than of The Return of the Native, Hardy's sensation novel which ran serially in Belgravia over the course of 1878. The reference to the earlier novel points to editorial decisions about the 1878 volume having been made somewhat earlier. It may well be that the title-page is the new publisher's only contribution to the 1878 publication, as R. L. Purdy notes that Chatto and Windus acquired all existing stock from Tinsley Brothers when they purchased the copyright from Hardy's bankrupt publishers.
The present owner of the volume and proprietor of Letters Bookshops, Thunder Bay, Ontario, describes it thus:
Under the Greenwood Tree: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School. 1878: Chatto & Windus, London. [354 pp, 15 plate leaves, including guarded frontis]: [ii], viii, 344 (last leaf blank); gilt-decorated royal blue cloth; 190 x 132 x 31 mm. First illustrated edition, with 15 full-page engravings & a tailpiece by R. Knight; first state with "th a" for "that" (p. 109, line 4). Originally issued in two volumes without the author's name (1872: Tinsley), the novel was reissued four years later (again by Tinsley) in a single volume now bearing Hardy's name, with the Knight illustrations (to capitalize on the success of Far from the Madding Crowd). The present volume comprises the second issue of those sheets (which had reportedly sold poorly for Tinsley despite the illustrations. Note, the Thomas Hardy Association inventory of illustrations makes no distinction between the tailpiece & the plates. Originally issued in two volumes without the author's name (1872: Tinsley) the novel was reissued four years later (again by Tinsley) in a single volume. The author's first three books proving commercial failures for Tinsley, he declined to risk publishing Far from the Madding Crowd (1874: Smith, Elder), to his undying dismay. Hardy had sold the copyright to Under the Greenwood Tree to Tinsley for 30 pounds outright (prior to reading his Copinger on Copyright). Then, upon the success of Far from the Madding Crowd, its publisher George Smith urged him to retrieve the copyright from Tinsley, who demanded 300 pounds (the author countering with half). All accounts claim the negotiations ended there, yet it appears, as Tinsley tottered near bankruptcy (owing 33,000 pounds in 1878), he did in fact part with the copyright (& sheets) before the final dissolution of the firm (1888), the present reissue (the first of numerous printings of the novel by Chatto & Windus) falling to the publishers who held the serial rights to The Return of the Native (1878) in Belgravia. A very scarce second issue of the Tinsley sheets; upper cover elaborately gilt-embossed: "Under the Greenwood Tree by the Author of Far from the Madding Crowd". A clean copy save for foxing to the frontis & tissue-guard. The spine is dull with chipping at extremities & two small punctures. Upper hinge barely started.
Letters Bookshops is currently interested in selling this volume (priced at $1250). The Tinsley Brothers, London, 1876, first edition, again illustrated by R. [Robert?] Knight, is an extremely scarce first one-volume and the first illustrated edition of Hardy's second novel in original cloth. This edition was put out by Tinsley using Hardy's name for the first time. It is a lavish affair, being bound in green cloth over bevelled boards, lettered and decorated in gilt and black and with all edges gilt. It has an illustrated frontispiece, fourteen tipped in plates on stiff card, as well as a half-page tailpiece, all by R. Knight. It is usually priced at about twice the going rate for the 1878 Chatto and Windus volume.
Hardy, Thomas. Under The Greenwood Tree. A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (1870). Il. R. Knight. London: Chatto and Windus, 1878.
Hardy, Thomas. Under The Greenwood Tree, or, The Mellstock Quire — A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (1872). Ed. Anna Winchcombe. Houndmills, Basingstoke, and London: Macmillan Education, 1978. [All citations from the 1878 Chatto and Windus edition have been checked against this following readily available paperback edition.]
Purdy, Richard Little. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford University Press. 1954.
Last modified 24 June 2014