London: [various], 1697-1702. Hardcover. A unique set of ten first edition Restoration comedies from the personal library of actor and theater manager John Philip Kemble. Each volume is initialed, collated, and pronounced perfect on the title page in ink by Kemble along with the date. In The Relapse, Kemble has also added a note to the cast list citing that a different actor took over one of the parts. John Philip Kemble (1757 - 1823) was an important English actor who also achieved fame as the manager of the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theaters. He was also known for assembling a theatrical library that was unrivaled. After he retired in 1819 he sold his collection of 4000 plays and forty volumes of playbills to Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire. The Devonshire collection is now part of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The remainder of Kemble's library was auctioned by Evans in Pall Mall over ten days beginning January 21, 1821 (from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). The ten plays in this set were by well known Restoration playwrights John Vanbrugh and George Farquhar. John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) was an untrained but accomplished architect who designed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard in conjunction with NIcholas Hawksmoor. He was a popular dramatist and some of his comedies such as The Relapse and The Provok'd wife are still performed today. The Pilgrim was originally written by Beaumont and Fletcher in 1647. Vanbrugh wrote the prose adaptation for the theater in 1700. George Farquhar (1677 - 1707) was an Irish playwright of real comic power who wrote for the English stage at the beginning of the 18th century. He stood out from his contemporaries for originality of dialogue and a stage sense that doubtless stemmed from his experience as an actor. His early plays were primarily spirited variations on a theme: young men have their fling for four acts and reform, unconvincingly, in the fifth. The plays have freshness, however, as well as wit and a lively human sympathy (Encyclopedia Britannica). For this collection of plays each individual page has been meticulously mounted on slightly large sheets of contemporary white paper. The volumes have been beautifully bound by Riviere and Son in full tan calf with gold tooling and lettering. The spines have five raised bands with gilt decorated compartments and there are two leather labels, one with the play's title and author, and the other stating "J.P. Kemble's Copy." With gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, and all edges gilt. All of the bindings are in near fine condition except for The Provok'd Wife, which has a sunned front cover and Twin Rivals, which has a short tear to the top of the front hinge. All volumes have minor wear to spine ends, edges, corners, and hinges. Most have light rubbing and spotting to boards. The pages of the plays are clean overall with occasional spots of foxing and soiling. A beautiful and historic set of late 17th-early 18th century Restoration plays. DRAMA/013119. Near Fine.