The History of Arsaces, Prince of Betlis. By the editor of Chrysal.

  • Johnstone, Charles
  • London: Printed for T. Becket 1774

£750

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Description

FIRST EDITION, 2 vols., 12mo, pp. xx, 303, [1]; viii, 278. Contemporary sprinkled calf, spines divided by raised bands between gilt rules, red morocco labels. A little light spotting Extremities a touch rubbed, a little surface nibbling to boards. Armorial bookplate of George Baillie, Esq. to front pastedowns and signature of the same name to title-pages.

Notes

The first edition of this orientalist satirical fantasy romance by Charles Johnstone (c. 1719-1800), best known for his earlier 'Chrysal', an early narrative-of-an-object novel. The narrator of this story is taken captive by a figure named after Genghis Khan and goes on to adventures in Egypt, Baghdad, Mecca, and elsewhere. His story provides an implicit anti-colonial argument at a charged moment in history: there are references to the East India Company in the wake of the Bengal Famine, as well as to the brewing American War of Independence. Though less successful in its time than Chrysal, it recently received a major scholarly edition from the Four Courts Press. This first edition is now scarce in the UK: ESTC locates just seven copies in England & Scotland (with rather more in the USA); none on the island of Ireland despite the author's roots in County Limerick.
The bookplates in this copy are dated 1724 in the plate and would have belonged to George Baillie (1664-1738), politician and junior Lord Commissioner of the Treasury - who clearly did not purchase this particular book. The purchaser must be George Hamilton (1723-1797), the second son of Baillie's second daughter, who inherited the estates - and, one assumes, a stock of bookplates - on the condition that he adopt the surname Baillie. He redeveloped the family mansion at Mellerstain in the 1770s and may well have expanded the library then as well.

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