Monday, November 15, 2010

Boston Book Fair Finds 1- The Political History of the Devil

I visited the 34th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair Saturday. In between attending the two Saturday talks, and  visiting every booth in the exhibit hall, I came away with a few new serious "wants" both for my library and for my mind.

One new obsession is acquiring a fine edition of Daniel DeFoe, The Political History of the Devil (in full, the title reads, The political history of the Devil, as well ancient as modern: in two parts. Part I. Containing a state of the Devil’s circumstances, and the various Turns of his Affairs, from his expulsion out of Heaven, to the creation of man; with Remarks on the several Mistakes concerning the Reason and Manner of his Fall. Also his Proceedings with Mankind ever since Adam, to the first planting of the Christian Religion in the World. Part II. Containing his more private conduct, down to the present times His Government, his Appearances, his Manner of Working, and the Tools he works with.

In a later edition, the following was added to the title: Bad as he is, the Devil may be abus’d, Be falsly charg’d, and causelessly accus’d, When Men, unwilling to be blam’d alone, Shift off those Crimes on Him which are their Own).  This added detail suggests the tenor of the work; the Devil returns and discovers that Man does all manner of nasty and blames him!  The nerve.

Defoe, better known for his tale of Robinson Crusoe or the story of Moll Flanders, ranks high on my short list of satirists with the necessary skill to pen a "political history" of the Devil.  I want to read this book for the giggles but after browsing through the first edition, published 1726, printed for T. Warner at the Black-Boy in Pater-Noster-Row, London, I either need to save enough to buy that copy or find another that has the same feel. 

The copy on display and for sale was bound in contemporary (late 19th century) Moroccan leather with all gilt edging, the pages showed some slight foxing.  A true first edition almost 300 year's old and relatively affordable at $1250.  The only other copy I've found for sale is an edition published in 1840, a single volume (X) separated from a complete works of Defoe, series.  Leather bound with gilt edges as well, for $150.  Very tempting but I'd probably need to acquire the rest of the volumes in that series and there are probably twenty or more volumes.  These are the only two copies I can find for sale and I'm not going to spend any money on an ebook or print on demand edition.  I'd rather wait to acquire a special edition, the political history of the Devil must wait.

I am very surprised and a little saddened by the obscene lack of nice editions of the Defoe titles mentioned here.  Certainly an opportunity for a fresh Penguin Classics hardcover treatment or an enterprising young publishing house looking to be noticed.

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