Subtitled "Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism," Boxiana was written in 1812 by the foremost boxing writer of the day, Pierce Egan. The style is somewhat breezy and fairly readable for such an old tome. It gives many complete blow-by-blow accounts of some of the best battles ever recorded. As a bonus, the illustrations (etchings) are beautiful.
Here's what book collectors should know about this seminal boxing masterpiece:
The first edition was printed by and for G. Smeeton. This edition is the only one with etchings by the great George Cruikshank (pages 49, 412, and 423). A true first edition will show the address of Smeeton as 139 St. Martin's Lane. In 1814, a second edition was published, with the address 17 St. Martin's Lane. Illustrations in this edition was created by others that Cruikshank.
In 1818, Sherwood, Neely and Jones published a two-volume set (Egan kept expanding the work). Then Sherwood, Jones and Company (without Neely) did a three-volume set 1823-25; followed by a new series of Boxiana by George Virtue in 1828-29--which was a two-volume set. So, between 1812 and 1829, a total of nine volumes of Boxiana were produced (not counting an unauthorized 1821 edition).
Book dealers often sell "sets" of Boxiana which are combinations of these nine volumes. The only true "sets," however, are the two-volume 1818 set and the three-volume 1823-25 set. Volumes are often bound with numbers on the spine as if they are on one set: I-IV or IV (that's the way they read).
Some collectors have paid $850.00 for a nice "set" of four volumes, which consists of the 1818 true set and two of the 1823-25 set. But it is not uncommon to find such "sets" at almost twice that price. WHEN they can be found.
These volumes are not for every collector, but they are a must for serious boxing book collectors or history buffs who have the patience and persistence to look for them and the cash to buy them.
The above information is courtesy of Boxing Collectors News and Clay Moyle.
In the book Egan created the term the Sweet Science as he referred to boxing as “The Sweet Science of Bruising.”
See also, Boxiana Review