London: Bradbury & Evans, 1860. First edition. Thirteen parts bound in twelve. Octavo (8 3/4 x 5 11/16 inches; 223 x 145 mm.). Publisher's original red-brown pictorial wrappers. With the bookplates of H. Bradley Martin and Fitz Eugene Dixon. Hand-colored etched vignette title and twelve hand-colored plates. Black and white wood engravings throughout. Bound without the 12-page catalogue at end of the thirteenth part. Chemised and housed in a red cloth clamshell case with black leather spine label lettered in gilt. First and final parts with small losses at spine foot, color plate in part five with light crease, still a very good set.
One of the great pleasures of Plain or Ringlets? is the interpretation of its events by the artist John Leech. He was introduced to Surtees by William Thackeray, a great friend and admirer of Surtees' work. The first novel Leech illustrated for Surtees was Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour. Surtees had originally asked Thackeray to illustrate this work, but Thackeray declined on the grounds that he could not draw horses; instead, he recommended Leech, being "of a sporting turn" and who "to my mind draws a horse excellently." Leech illustrated all of Surtees' subsequent works and the two men became friends. The illustrations follow the text closely, a result of close collaboration between the artist and writer. Although Leech was responsible for numerous book illustrations, and is lauded as the chief cartoonist of Punch, some of his best work is to be found in the pages of Surtees' novels.
Podeschi 199. Tooley 477. Schwerdt Ii, p. 238. Field 212. (Item #3834)