An Antique Les Miserables Edition or Just a Really Ratty Book?

I recently received a very interesting gift…a seemingly antique, hardcover edition of volume 2 of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, translated from French by Charles E. Wilbour, edited by Frederick Mynon Cooper.

Complete in 2 volumes; Library Edition

My sister got it at a garage sale in Gig Harbor, Washington, and unfortunately, volume 1 was nowhere to be found.

Because it was volume 2, it didn’t have a copyright page, and the only clue we had to determine its age was the list at the back of the book of other publications by the publisher, A.L. Burt Publishing Company.

Different internet sources listed different publication dates for the particular edition – one even claiming that it was published in 1879.

Though I would love it if the book was really published in 1879, I doubt if ithis is true.  One internet source described A.L. Burt as a reprint publisher which reprinted popular first editions in the late 1800s to the ‘mid 1900s.  The site also mentioned that the A.L. Burt publications were often mistaken by enthusiastic book collectors as 1st editions, rather than reprints.

One internet site listed the publication date for the edition as 1910, and yet another listed it as 1920.

1879, 1910, 1920…it doesn’t really matter.  Suffice it to say that it’s very, very, old, and fragile.  Though I would love to peruse its pages over and over again looking for clues to its age, and even to read it, parts of it disintegrate every time I take it out of the protective plastic bag it came it.

Regardless of its age and value, it’s still a very interesting addition to my collection, and I like the idea that somewhere out there, someone with vol. 1 is wondering where vol. 2 is.

I’d love to hear from anyone who can tell me more about this particular edition – or from the person who owns or knows someone who owns vol. 1.  I know it’s highly unlikely I will find the person from Gig Harbor, WA who owns or used to own this book, but hey, you never know!

**Addendum: September 11, 2012**

Upon careful examination, I discovered that the publisher is not A.L. Burt, but Thompson and Thomas, Chicago.  My search on the internet directed me to different sites selling the exact edition (Vol. 1 only), and all sites list publication date as 1895.

**Addendum:  September 12, 2012**

I wrote to one of the online booksellers selling volume 1 to ask about when the book was published, and this was her reply:

I have just pulled the book from the warehouse.  It is obviously very old and quite well preserved.  I have looked for the copyright and/or a publication date but there is no date of publishing.  The only date I found was at the end of the Preface which is not a copyright date.  That date was 1862.  Please note that this book is without a dust jacket.
The information on the title page ( where there usually is a date related to publication) notes the name of the book Les Miserables, A novel, by Victor Hugo.  Translated from the original french by Charles E. Wilbour.  Revised and edited by Frederick Mynon Cooper.  Complete in Two Volumes, Volume I  Illustrated.  Chicago:  Thompson & Thomas, Publishers….
Looks like I’m no closer to finding out when this book was actually published.

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62 thoughts on “An Antique Les Miserables Edition or Just a Really Ratty Book?

  1. I’ve got both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of this book set that I’m about to list on eBay tonight. Like you, I cannot figure out how old they are. There isn’t a copyright or printing date in Vol. 1 either. I got them at a recent antique auction in Moscow, Idaho. That’s about all I know.

  2. What is the address that shows on the title page under the Thompson and Thomas listing? The company was at 267 Wabash (Chicago) from the late 1890s until 1903, when the company was moved to 338 Wabash. In 1908, the company was succeeded by a Thompson family member and I believe the Thomas was dropped from the publishing company’s name. Before this, the company appears to have been in business since the earlier 1800s at least. In 1861 (1850?), they published “Napoleon and His Marshalls”….of course then the open library source states they published this as early as 1846. I have an almost pristine set of “The Wandering Jew” by Eugene Sue by Thompson and Thomas, that dates between 1903 and 1908. This is a really tough publishing house to find information about. Hope this helps!

      • The picture you posted earlier is actually a title page. My two volume set of “The Wandering Jew” has a title page in the second volume that looks very similar to yours- most multiple volume sets have a title page in each volume. Many publishers did not date books until the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Since your title page has no address for Thompson and Thomas, that would then date this book to before the 1890s. I’ve seen pictures of some of their earlier books and the type set on your title page above is cleaner/crisper than those used earlier in the 19th c. In fact, the type and layout of the title page is almost identical to my title pages for TWJ, so I would probably date your publication within the last quarter of the 19th c., between 1875-1890 most likely.
        One last option to try if you would like to have a more precise date: Are the illustrations signed in any way? Sometimes you can work your way toward a date based on the illustrations too.

      • Wow..thanks for that information! I really appreciate it. Actually, when I looked through the book once, I didn’t see any illustrations (even though it said it has illustrations). To be honest, pages literally crumble in my hands every time I open it so I didn’t want to handle it that much. Actually, since posting that on my blog, I’ve already wrapped the book and put it away so it won’t get destroyed by the elements lol.

      • it’s not. I have volume 1 but in the blue hard cover. Same exact thing though. Exact same writing on the hardcover with no date. THere is an inscription inside the cover that looks like it was given to someone for Christmas in 1897, then re-gifted back to the original inscriber’s children in 1925. So the book has to be older than 1897 but post 1862…Hmm.

  3. I have the exact same set (both volume 1 and 2), but mine does say AL Burt Company Publishers, New York. It is the exact same type/title page and cover. It was my great aunt’s edition, but I have no idea what year it was printed. She lived with my great grandparents her whole life, so she may have acquired it from them or from a store in her travels, so it may have already been vintage when she got it. Their house predates 1909 in Southwestern Ontario.

    Mine also do not have illustrations. My first volume is getting worn as I actually read it a few times, and some of the pages are starting to get loose.

  4. Pingback: Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, antique books | Delight-Filled Leaves Art

  5. I have a volume 1 of 2, published by a.l. burt company, new york. It says it was translated from orginal french. Revised and edited by fredick mynon cooper. Hardback, dark green with gold lettering on spine. I would love to find volume 2!

  6. To follow up on last comment, my book does have a ilustration in front that references page 295 of book. Pic and page are in regard to court wereas jean valjean was ID as discharged convict.
    Also, my volume’s preface is dated 1862. Wonder if all books have this date on preface
    Would post pic here, but don’t find the option .

    • I have just volume 1 les miserable and I found a web site that will tell you a year range based on the publisher address. In the back of the book it lists the other mail order books and at the bottom is the address. The address at the bottom is 66 reade street. Books at this address were published 1889 to 1896. The web site is Newport vintage books – publisher histories

  7. I have volume 1 and am missing volume 2! Mine says the first issue of this edition was printed in 1909, then lists the reprinted dates as: 1910, 12, 13, 16,19, and 1924

  8. I have Vol.11 with a signature by ‘Art Bickwell’, ‘Art Bickuell’, or an ‘Art Bicknell’???
    I can’t tell that one letter is an, w, u, or n? Who is he? I have a few illustrations
    with that cover paper in tact. In the back there are other books for order at a 66
    Reade Street. That signature by Art is dated 1896???
    Thank-you for any info! Love ya, Alice in Montana.

  9. What is a Les Miserables book with no publishing date nor copywrite info worth? Should have translated in 1850 to 1900’s

  10. Coming to this conversation late, I too am looking to sell a 2 volume set which was published by Donohue, Hennesberry & Co, Dearborn Street Chicago. Mr. Donohue bought out Mr Hennesberry in 1899, so this compilation occurred sometime between 1869 and 1899.

    My set is in perfect condition – looks like no one opened it until I did..The translation was from Lascelles Wraxall with additions by Charles Wilbour. The preface, which I can forward, references the letter written my Mr. Hugo to Mr. Wraxall. In this Victor Hugo implores Wraxall to ” adhere to the utmost fidelity in your task. My book”, he continues, “is written to clear up and combat prejudices in France, England, and the whole world.”

    There is another footnote on the preface page with states “chapters omitted in previous editions have been added, making the edition complete. H.L.A.

    Both books have gold-topped pages, side and bottom are untreated.
    I believe the books were burgandy colored. Binding is perfect, if not very old.

  11. i just bought Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book: The House of The Seven gables”, which is also published by A.L Burt Company, NY, and find myself dealing with the same ; no publishind date,month or year.At the end the Preface it only lists this: Lenox,January 27 ,1851. No More information.

  12. Im in perth and I have just found Vol II which looks very old almost exact to yours, for free! I am also wondering when it is from… so hard to figure it out!!

  13. I have a question. Is this of any value? whom do I approach to validate it’s authenticity?
    ~The macmillan company, New York, 1920
    abridged and edited by douglas gordon crawford, M.A. instruct in english in phillips academy ~andover, Massachusettes
    the next page has a copyright, 1915 ~by the Macmillan company ~ set up and electrotyped. Published July, 1915.
    thank you

  14. I just bought the Volume II book of Les MIserables from a local library book sale and same situation, no date. It also says revised and edited by Frederick Mynon Cooper, and is by A.L. Burt company. It is in really good condition, but there was no Vol I either. One thing weird is that although the cover has a chocolate/red hue to it, the side binding does not match any other books I have seen? I am going to take it to a antique book dealer in Ann Arbor, Mi and see if I can get more information on it. This is truly a mystery! :\

  15. I have Vol 1&2 of the A.L. Burt version. Can’t find a copyright date either. Preface written by Hauteville House, 1862.

  16. I know the person with volume 1. Please contact me, if there is any way you may part with volume 2 it would mean a great deal to me. 1. (209) 224-1327.

  17. regarding Les Miserables, the editions of most value are the first US edition translated by Charles Wilbour (published by Carleton in 5 volumes) and the first UK edition translated by Lascelles Wraxall (published by Hurst & Blackett in three volumes), and a pirated American edition of the UK translation published in one volume by Pooley & Co.
    You will also get a good return on complete sets of the 1886 Routledge deluxe edition in 5 volumes and the 1887 5 volume editions from Little Brown and T Y Crowell.
    AL Burt mostly did reprints. The reprints of the late 19th Century often have no date or copyright (as the translations were at that point out of copyright). Even an excellent copy of such a reprint is unlikely to fetch over $100.

  18. Did you ever discover the date your edition was published….it was not a ‘true’ first edition, but it is the first COMPLETE translation of this book. I have the 2 volumes, in near perfect condition and the illustrations are lovely. If you wish I can photograph the preface page for you

      • According to my research, the publishing house listed on my inside cover was on Dearborn St.

        Two bookbinders, Michael A. Donohue (of Cox & Donohue) and William P. Henneberry started the company at 407-425 Dearborn in 1871; first publishing 1879; in 1890 launched series of inexpensive editions of popular novelists, concentrated on libraries (i.e., sets and series). Some plates sold to Lovell in 1890. Did much job printing for competitors in cheap book trade. Donohue bought out Henneberry in 1903. (DLB 49).

        Our books were therefore printed sometime between 1879 and I believe 1890. (family history of Henneberry : http://www.henneberry.org/bookco.htm)

        The photos : I cannot seem to paste the picture to this reply. Will try another reply

  19. My mother has a fantastic copy of Les Miserable by Victor Hugo Vol 1 & 2 published by Donohue Henneberry & Company (1871 to 1890’s ?). She also has near perfect copies of his books; Toilers of The Sea, History of a Crime, Notre Dame De Paris, Ninety Three, and By Oder of the King by Hugo.

  20. Just bought a similar 2 volume set from a resale shop and came across this post as i was trying to find an exact date.

    Translated by Frederick Mynon Cooper. Thompson and Thomas publishers. No address anywhere.

    The only other piece of information I can give is that the owner of mine wrote their name on the inside cover with 1898 below the name. I like to think this is the date this person received it. It sounds better if the book is from the 1800s. Haha.

    Hope this helps.

  21. My Volumes I and !! are dated 1887. Anyone know the value of these. One in very good condition and
    the other not so much.

  22. I have the two volume set with the preface dated 1862 as well. It’s very infuriating that there is no other date in either volume.

  23. I have vol. 1 of Thompson & Thomas 388 Wabash ave. translated by Lascelles Wraxall (the second e in Lascelles looks like a misprinted r) and Charles e Wilbour

  24. I have volume II Cosette
    Little, Brown & Co. 1889
    Copyright 1887
    Mine is one of five 😦
    It is in beautiful condition but probably not worth a lot as a stand alone book.
    The cover is dark blue with a gold pattern covering it.

  25. I am researching an illustrated copy of Les Mis by A.L. Burt (one complete volume rather than two) and found the address 66 Reade St.. New York on the back page advertising dictionaries and encyclopedias– this website, http://www.erbgraphics.com/ReprintsALBurt.html, has the history of A.L. Burt Publishing and lists these addresses as corresponding to these dates of publication:
    1889-1896 66 Reade St.
    1896-1900 97 Reade St.
    1900-1912 52-8 Duane St.
    1912-1937 114-120 East 23rd St.

  26. I also have an old copy of les miserables that I’m trying to find out when it was published. How do I find out what volume I have?

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