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Scroll to the bottom of the page for some advice on out-of-print books on auction sites and in used bookstores.

Books out of print/Auction Site Advice

What's available in used bookstores and on web auction sites

In the late 1800s early 1900s, several sets were published with the title "The Works of Victor Hugo." There was a 10 volume set and a 20 volume set which several publishers produced in almost identical versions.

The contents of the 10 volume set were (with some variation):

The 20 volume set had three volumes of poetry, one volume The Rhine, but otherwise had pretty much the same contents spread out in more volumes. (For example, Les Miserables covers 5 volumes, and Ninety Three covers two.)

I have heard of larger sets, but the buyer needs to be aware that the number of volumes isn't what is important...with the number of pages in a volume, and the size of the font, this can vary. What's important is which works the set contains, so if you are unsure, ask the auctioneer or bookseller.

You can usually find these sets, in part and in whole, in various conditions on the various internet auction sites. You may also find a 1-volume set published by Walter J Black, 1928. (also published under the publisher name Black's Readers Service.) This contains a small collection of poetry, Hunchback of Notre Dame, "Stories of Crime" and "Essays on Humanity." "Stories of Crime" are actually a collection of short storys and novellas including Claude Gueux and Last Days of a Condemned Man "Essays on Humanity" contains several essays, including Capital Punishment It's not a bad collection for one volume.

Somewhat rarer, there is a one-volume collection of poetry entiteld: "The Literary Life and Poetical Works of Victor Hugo" edited by Henry Llewellyn Williams - 1883. (Various translators). It contains over 300 pages, all English, though100 are devoted to the complete dramas: Hernani and Ruy Blas. This collection contains for some poems the exact same translation that appears in the multi-volume sets above, and for other poems slightly different translations.

There is yet another collection of poetry, more difficult to find, published in The Canterbury Poets series by Walter Scott in 1885. (translations by Henry Carrington, Dean of Booking) This series of books claimed to publish "all that is really worthy of preservation in some particular poet" in one volume, and marketed it for 1 shilling apiece. While one can definitely argue that claim, probably for any of the poets in the series, the volume for Hugo does contain a nice selection of his poetry - 320 pages.

Note of Warning for online auctions: Often in the subject line on the auction sites you'll see the words, "Works of Victor Hugo," and you'll open the link and find there is only one or two books from the set. (And since some of Hugo's novels are split among volumes, they often won't even be complete novels). Obviously, make sure you know what you're bidding on.

In addition, sellers often will use the word "Complete" as in "The Complete Works of Victor Hugo", when none of the collections mentioned above are really complete. I assume they see the phrase "Collected Works" and misinterpret it. There may be a Complete Works French language edition, and if so, it would be huge; but there is no such thing in English. (For example, as mentioned above, only a fraction of his poetry was translated until recently -- and while recent volumes have improved the situation, there's still a lot to be done.)