Item Details

Price: $29,000
PJP Catalog: 61.160

Alberto Sangorski Vellum Illuminated Manuscript
In a Stunning Inlaid Binding by Riviere & Son


(London: 1916). 213 x 159 mm (8 3/8 x 6 1/4"). 16 vellum leaves (including five blanks). Colophon, stating that the manuscript was designed, written out, and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski for Riviere & Sons, and that it will not be duplicated, SIGNED BY THE ARTIST.

SIMPLY STUNNING DARK BLUE MOROCCO, ELABORATELY INLAID AND GILT, BY RIVIERE & SON (unsigned, but assigned to them by the artist), covers with central red morocco escutcheon featuring a rampant lion on a field of densely stippled gilt with the royal crown above it in red morocco and gilt, the crown and shield both inside a blue mandorla decorated with twining vines, the mandorla, in turn, enclosed by a large frame with lobed cornerpieces, this frame heavily stippled with gilt and inlaid with curling acanthus leaves in green, ochre, purple, and red morocco, the whole within an exuberantly decorated gilt border outlined by a thin strip of inlaid black morocco and filled with gracefully swirling vines and curls, each of the four sides of the frame with an ochre morocco-outlined, gilt-latticed compartment with one or two inlaid thistles in green, purple, and gilt, raised bands, spine gilt in similarly stippled compartments containing an inlaid acanthus leaf, turn-ins with inlaid black morocco strips enclosing a repeating pattern of gilt leaves, berries, and azured acanthus leaves, ivory watered silk endleaves, all edges gilt. In a (slightly rubbed) dark green morocco box with raised bands, gilt titling, silk and velvet lining, and brass closures. Designed and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski with 13 three- to four-line initials in red or blue, five red initials of similar size with penwork, two four-line initials in green, purple, and burnished gold, and SIX LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS (measuring approximately 55 x 45 mm.) ELABORATELY DECORATED with flowers and acanthus leaves in shades of purple, mauve, and indigo, all on grounds of burnished gold, three with extensions of flowering stems, title page with lovely frame in purple, blue, and burnished gold emanating from the "A" in the first word of the title, the burnished gold letter containing a large Scottish thistle, first page of text with swirling red hairline borders at head and tail, with blue flowers, thistles, and numerous leaves and bezants of burnished gold, the first word, "Queen," having a large gray initial with white tracery and large brooch ornament at the center, the other letters in burnished gold, all on an elaborately checkered background, the page opposite WITH A LARGE MINIATURE OF MARY STUART GAZING SADLY BACK AT FRANCE FROM THE STERN OF A SHIP BOUND FOR SCOTLAND, based on a painting by W. P. Firth and signed with Sangorski's cipher (dated 1916), the miniature in a shield-shaped frame with flowering cornerpieces and a burnished gold fleur-de-lys at the top, and below the miniature, a small indigo escutcheon featuring a burnished gold "M" with a crown, all on a black background with purple vines, the closing pages with frames having pointed lobe cornerpieces, those of one frame with burnished gold fleurs-de-lys, those of the other with purple and green thistle blossoms on a penwork background. Ratcliffe, "Hidden Treasures," SJR-338. A SPLENDID COPY, exceptionally clean, fresh, and bright inside and out.

Calligrapher and illuminator Alberto Sangorski (1862-1932) was the older brother of Francis Sangorski, co-founder of the renowned Sangorski & Sutcliffe bindery. Alberto, who had started his professional life as secretary to a goldsmith's firm, became attracted to the book arts at the age of 43 and began doing illuminated manuscripts that were then bound by his brother's firm. Sometime around 1910 Alberto and Francis had a falling out, and the artist went to work for the rival Riviere bindery, for which our manuscript was done. Stephen Ratcliffe suggests that the disagreement may have stemmed from Alberto's desire to receive credit for his work, and the fact that his manuscripts for Riviere have a signed colophon, as seen here, would seem to support this claim. Sangorski chose somber but beautiful colors for the illuminations in Swinburne's "Adieux Marie Stuart," reflecting the tragic fate of the young queen who tearfully bade adieu to her beloved France to assume the throne of Scotland. An epigram facing the title page quotes her as saying, in French, "Adieu, charming France, the country I cherish, cradle of my childhood happiness! To leave you is to die"--a prediction that was sadly fulfilled. Swinburne's poem is an attempt to bid farewell to an unhappy queen who lost her head, but won the hearts of romantics through the ages. The workmanship here is first rate, as are the materials used, and the book is a shimmering example of 20th century handcrafted book art. Sangorski's one-of-a-kind manuscripts are highly prized in collections and in the marketplace, and they are more and more difficult to find now in the sort of pristine condition seen here.