London: Longman's, Green and Co., 1896. First Trade Edition, Printed Before but Published After the Kelmscott Press Edition. Octavo, two volumes. Original blue-gray boards with linen shelf backs, printed paper labels on spine panels, all edges untrimmed, double flyleaves at front and rear of each volume. 378 + 279 pp. Printed by C. Whittingham & Co. at the Chiswick Press. The text is mostly uncut throughout. Light dust-soiling to linen spines, minute chips to edges of spine labels, but a virtually fine set, certainly very uncommon in such nice condition. The author's most important work of fantasy. " ... the longest of Morris' fantasy novels, probably the longest in the genre before J. R. R. Tolkien wrote THE LORD OF THE RINGS ... and it remains one of the most complex and beautiful fantasy quests ever written." - Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature V, pp. 2090-2096. Item #311577
¶ The First Edition, printed before but published after the Kelmscott Press edition. Although William Morris's intention was always to issue THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END from the Kelmscott Press before any other edition - it was announced very soon after the Press was established - nevertheless the book was actually set up at the Chiswick Press from the author's manuscript in late 1893, and it was from these sheets the Kelmscott printers set the types for the intended first edition. However, there were some changes in plan concerning the decorations for the Kelmscott edition. At first there was to be a long series of illustrations by Arthur J. Gaskin; this scheme, however, was abandoned and that of four designs by Sir Edward Burne-Jones took its place, and occupied considerable time in the execution. Meanwhile, the Chiswick Press book, completed in 1894, was ready to follow hard upon the steps of the great Kelmscott double-column quarto. The book, however, was originally to have been published by Reeves and Turner - a single copy is now known to exist with the Reeves & Turner imprint, dated 1894. The Kelmscott Press edition was not completed until the 2nd of March 1896, but, meanwhile, Reeves & Turner had ceded publication of the trade edition, and arrangements had been made with Messrs. Longman to be Morris's publishers. Hence, while THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END in it's deluxe form was being sold from the Kelmscott Press, it was necessary to print fresh titles leaves for the two volume trade edition, which - according to the plan - was to be issued after the Kelmscott edition. This was done in due time, and the regularly published books bear the Messrs. Longmans' imprint, as here.