London: Fielding & Walker, 1780. First edition. Finely bound in full red crushed morocco with five raised bands and gilt to spine. Inner dentelles gilt. All edges brightly gilt. Marbled endpapers. A beautiful example, with just a bit of toning to spine; hinges professionally strengthened. Measuring 210 x 130mm and collating , [vi, with pages misnumbered], , 1-166, , 167-192, , 193-228, , 229-328: complete, including frontis of Mrs. Giffith surrounded by her published works (one of the only known portraits of her) and four additional plates. A scarce and important work featuring the writing of one of England's early leading women writers, ESTC reports only 11 institutional copies. It has not appeared at auction, and this is the only copy on the market.
An uncommon collection, Nouvellettes contains 16 stories -- 13 of these by the celebrated English author Elizabeth Griffith, who began her career as an actor and rose to prominence as a dramatist and critic. Indeed, five years prior to this work, she solidified her legacy as one of the first two female Shakespeare critics; in promoting the Bard's work as central to the creation of a specifically British national canon, her major work The Morality of Shakespeare Illustrated (1775) did more than promote a long-dead male author who had fallen out of popularity. Rather, Griffith used his cultural capital to enhance her own, and she carved out space for women's voices within the field of canon-creation. The works gathered in Nouvellettes present this next step, in which a group of texts gathered to educate England's youth are largely drawn from her own oeuvre rather than famous men's. "It is the intention of the Editors of the present publication to provide an useful Instructor, in the habit of a pleasing Companion, to the Young of both Sexes," the Preface explains; and pieces were chosen from "Authors acquainted with the human character." Indeed, she is praised as "the ornament and pride of her Country," who has "strove to open the flood-gate of Literature to her own sex" and provide an example "to explode the illiberal assertion that Female genius is inferior to Male." Griffith's works collected here often focus on female protagonists and women's own experiences -- urging readers of any gender to identify or find sympathy with the interior thoughts and exterior challenges faced by women of her time.
ESTC N58767. Feminist Companion 463. Near Fine (Item #4355)