First editions (both) of this two-volume set of the Edinburgh detective's tales of Victorian crime and punishment.
Very good plus.
"I have seen a criminal with his whole soul in his ear as the jury took their seats, and seen his eye after the transference of his spirit fom the one organ to the other, as he heard the words "Not guilty."
Collected tales of crime by Edinburgh's legendary first police detective, famous for his high rate of captures and convictions over an illustrious 30-year career before turning his hand to these memoir-adventures. Vigorous, brisk, allegedly true, full of colorful dialogue and moralizing asides, McLevy's literary work was extraordinarily popular and the author's personal celebrity persists to the present day, continuing to inspire heroizing adaptations of his life and work (most recently, the long-running BBC radio series "McLevy".)
The direct inspiration for contemporary imitators like William Crawford Honeyman, who took McLevy as model for his fictional Detective McGovan in the 1870s, McLevy is also cited as a likely influence on Arthur Conan Doyle, born shortly before the publication of these volumes. As author-protagonist, McLevy shares with Sherlock Holmes a certain relentlessness and confidence, though the essential differences between the two point to the powerful tensions still animating the detective novel. As an agent of the law, with all the authority of the police force behind him, McLevy is both groundbreaking pioneer and conservative force: the first to hold his office in Edinburgh, inventing his profession as he goes, while simultaneously acting as the eye and the arm of the Establishment. Against this righteous folk hero, the figure of Holmes would later appear as an ambiguous counterpoint; a private genius free to choose his own clients and his own loyalties.
This Edinburgh imprint went through at least four editions in 1861. All are scarce, but the first especially. A beautiful and rare set of these collections: influential, authoritative, and still compelling.
Edinburgh: William Kay; William P. Nimmo, 1861. 2 volumes, 6.25'' x 4'' each. Two volumes, bound in 19th c. half calf over pebbled red cloth. Gilt-lettered spines. Pale green endpapers. 312; 304 pages. Moderate scuffing and wear to boards, some rubbing to spines. Light to moderate foxing to leaves of both volumes, primarily to endpapers. Light pencil lining to a few pages of SLIDING SCALE, with brief pencil notes to rear endpaper.
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