New York: William S. Gottsberger, Publisher, 1886-87. 1st Edition In English. 6 vols., 12mo, publisher's brown cloth, spines and boards elaborately stamped in black and gilt, brown endpapers.
"It is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed" (Tolstoy, in "A Few Words Apropos of the Book War and Peace"). First US edition, and first edition in English, of 19th-century Russian titan Leo Tolstoy's sweeping novel of the Napoleonic wars. Written over the course of five years when Tolstoy was in his thirties, War and Peace (the author's first novel) began as a work about the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, during which a group of enlightened aristocrats and army officers unsuccessfully attempted to install a constitutional monarchy after the sudden death of Emperor Alexander I. As Tolstoy conducted his research, however, he kept digging further back in modern Russian history, and the book evolved organically into the philosophical investigation into the workings of History with a capital H that it became. In the process, the novelist captured in vivid, sensuous detail the lived experiences of countless characters drawn from every corner of Russian life, fictional and historical, earning comparisons to Shakesepeare and Homer for his ability to convey acute psychological portraiture against the intricacies of society, history and fate. Originally published in Russian in serialized form beginning 1865, it first appeared in its entirety in 1869. This first English translation was essentially pirated, commissioned by its publisher from a French-language edition and done by prolific English translator Clara Bell (it would not be translated directly from Russian into English until the authorized British edition of 1889). The present set consists of first printings of all volumes, dated 1886 to the title-pages and the publisher's cursive type imprint to the copyright pages, except volume II, dated 1887 and lacking cursive imprint. Pencil ownership inscription to several volumes. All volumes recased with spine-ends strengthened, occasional chipping to endpapers; vol. II with dampstaining to endpapers and edges of textblock. Overall, a very good set of a landmark work. Item #4447