Rare First Edition in English of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
Item Number: 13008
New York : Carleton, Publisher, 1862.
First American edition and first edition in English of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. Complete in five large octavo volumes. Fantine (171 pages plus four-page publisher’s advertisement), Cosette (164 pages plus four-page publisher’s advertisement), Marius (150 pages plus two-page publisher’s advertisement), Saint Denis (184 pages), and Jean Valjean (165 pages plus two-page publisher’s advertisement). Publisher’s matching cloth with gilt spine titles. In near condition with light rubbing. Housed in a custom cloth clamshell box. Uncommon in this condition.
Victor Hugo’s “great novel has been hailed as a masterpiece of popular literature, an epic poem in prose about God, humanity, and Hugo… Hugo hoped that Les Misérables would be one of if not the ‘principal summits’ of his body of works. Despite its length, complexity, and occasionally unbelievable plot and characterization, it remains a masterpiece of popular literature. It anticipates Balzac in its realism, but in its flights of imagination and lyricism, its theme of redemption, and its melding of myth and history, it is uniquely Hugo” (Dolbow, 149, 214). Charles E. Wilbour was hired by the Carleton Publishing Company to translate Hugo's grand masterpiece, and he did so very quickly, allowing the first American edition to be published within months of its French release. The intense advertising campaign waged by Carleton resulted in massive sales for Les Misérables, solidifying Hugo's epic in second place (behind only Uncle Tom's Cabin) in pre-Civil War American book sales.