London: printed for Thomas Egerton, Whitehall, 1797. Three-Quarter Calf. First Edition of a work Lowndes called "indispensably necessary to every Shakespearian collector." Crown 8vo (211 x 123mm): iv,628pp, with shield device on title page, full-page engraving facing p. 224, and tailpiece on final page. Period three-quarter calf over blue marbled boards, top edge stained black; Oxford University English library ink stamp (deaccessioned) on fly leaf and verso of title page. A tight, square, wide-margined example printed on heavy paper, one leaf repaired without loss, occasional spotting, else an excellent copy, and quite scarce in commerce. Lowndes I, p. 404 ("containing a great mass of curious and most valuable information relative to the history of the English drama . . ."). Near Fine+ / `. Item #BB2137
George Chalmers was among the literati of his day taken in by William Henry Ireland's Shakespeare forgeries, a cause célèbre in 1790s London in which author and engraver Samuel Ireland announced the discovery of a treasure-trove of Shakespearean documents by his son William. Among them were manuscripts of four plays, two previously unknown. Such respected literary figures as James Boswell and poet-laureate Henry James Pye pronounced the manuscripts genuine, as did various antiquarian experts. Richard Brinsley Sheridan agreed to present one of the newly discovered plays with John Philip Kemble in the starring role. But excitement was stilled when Edmond Malone, widely regarded as the greatest Shakespeare scholar of his time, conclusively showed that the language, orthography, and handwriting were not those of the times and persons to which they were credited, at which point William Ireland confessed to the fraud. Chalmers, nonetheless, in a "great waste of erudition," wrote this work "seeking to show that the forgeries might have been genuine." (1911 Britannica) N. B. With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition, carefully preserved in archival, removable mylar sleeves. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Fine Editions Ltd is a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, and we subscribe to its codes of ethics.).