London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1809. First English language edition. Translated into English by William Hewetson. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards, rebacked to style. Marbled end papers and edges of text block. Previous owner's name on the verso of the front end paper, otherwise clean internally. Bound without the half-title, but retaining the frontis illustration and five pages of ads at the back. Collating: xxxvi, 115, [5, ads]. One of two variant imprints with no clear priority (the other in the same year from Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper), OCLC reports 4 institutional copies overall, only one of those matching our imprint.
The first appearance in English of the story of the "Swiss legendary hero who symbolized the struggle for political and individual freedom...According to popular legend, William Tell was a peasant from Burglen who defied Austrian authority, was forced to shoot an apple from his son's head, was arrested for threatening the governor's life, saved that same governor's life en route to prison, and ultimately killed the governor in an ambush. These events supposedly helped to spur the people to rise up against Austrian rule" (Britannica). While the folklore surrounding Tell was a largely regional phenomenon in its early iterations, "in the early Romantic era of nationalist revolutions, the Tell legend attained worldwide renown through the stirring play Wilhelm Tell (1804)" -- and his influence spread into the English speaking regions with the help of the present translation (Britannica). (Item #5213)