London: John Sharpe, 1812, 1803-1813, 1814-1815. Fourteen small octavo volumes: the Tatler complete in four volumes, the Spectator complete in eight volumes, and the Guardian complete in two volumes. Full contemporary calf gilt, elaborately tooled, raised bands, red and green spine labels, marbled endpapers and edges. Early owner bookplates. Foxing to engraved plates, text clean. Lightest shelfwear to bindings.
Complete edition of the three great coffee-house periodicals produced by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, first published between 1709 and 1714. The Tatler, the Spectator, and the Guardian targeted (and to some degree, created) the rising London middle class, both men and women, offering readers an exemplary mix of ethical inquiry, philosophical speculation, and domestic advice: “When you see a man of sense look about for applause, and discover an itching inclination to be commended; lay traps for a little incense, even from those whose opinion he values in nothing but his own favour; who is safe against this weakness? Or who knows whether he is guilty of it or not?" The regular appearance of letters to the editor, a novel feature, encouraged readers to consider themselves part of a larger public conversation. The influence of Addison and Steele's essays extended far beyond the five years in which they first appeared. They were reprinted and emulated throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, recalls teaching himself to write essays as a boy by attempting to reproduce from memory what he read in the third volume of the Spectator. A near-fine set, splendidly bound by Simms of Manchester.