Why Bibliophiles Love “Tristram Shandy”

A new acquisition at Penn Libraries illustrates why bibliophiles love Tristram Shandy, even if they aren’t fans of author Laurence Sterne or eighteenth-century British fiction in general. Sterne had more than a passing interest in book production and design; every copy of the first edition of volume three of his most famous work, i.e. Tristram Shandy, includes a unique marbled leaf inserted within the printed text. As you can see in the picture below from a London edition in 1780, a blank with instructions to the bookbinder showed exactly where it should go. (The results vary, of course, which is why perusing copies of TS can be so fun.) 

Blank.pngWith the acquisition of the Geoffrey Day Collection, Penn Libraries reports that it “now houses the best collection of material relating to 18th century British novelist Laurence Sterne and his works in the western hemisphere.” According to a Penn Libraries statement, Day amassed an incredible collection that includes three copies of the rare York-printed first edition of volumes one and two of Tristram Shandy and the only known copy of a completely spurious edition of volume nine, published clandestinely in 1767.

This new collection also contains dozens of examples of the famous marbled leaf, of which Penn shared with us a few:

London .pngFrom Tristram Shandy, vol. 3, first edition, London, 1761.

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 11.54.14 AM.pngFrom Tristram Shandy, vol. 3, German edition (Hanau), 1776.

Vienna.pngFrom Tristram Shandy, vols. 3-4, Vienna, 1798.

Images courtesy of Penn Libraries

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