The Complete Essex House "Great Poets" Series:
14 Volumes, All Printed on Vellum, All Very Fine
(ESSEX HOUSE PRESS). (VELLUM PRINTING).
A COMPLETE SET OF THE "GREAT POETS" SERIES.(London and Chipping Camden: Essex House Press, 1900-05). 191 x 127 mm (7 1/2 x 5"). 14 volumes.. EACH TITLE LIMITED TO BETWEEN 50 AND 165 COPIES (most either 125 or 150).
Original stiff vellum over thin boards, front covers with embossed rose design and the legend "Soul is Form," flat spines with gilt titling. In a red morocco solander box, its pull-off cover designed to look like 14 leather-bound volumes (the box recently repaired). Each with woodcut device in colophon (flower or building façade) and woodcut frontispiece (all but two hand colored), additional woodcut illustrations, initials, and/or hand-illuminated initials (as delineated below). Front pastedown of the Shelley volume with engraved armorial bookplate of "Hartshorne"; all volumes with morocco armorial bookplate of "Beach." Ransom, "Essex House Press" 6, 11, 14, 15, 23, 29, 30, 31, 35, 40, 48, 51, 58, 60. Milton volume with head of spine slightly bumped, a few other trivial imperfections (isolated very minor natural discoloration, insignificant erosion of gilt on one spine), but A VERY DESIRABLE COMPLETE SET IN EXTREMELY FINE CONDITION, the volumes having been carefully preserved in their custom-made case.
The 14 works here comprise a special series of great poems in English, each attractively printed on vellum with woodcut illustrations and hand-painted initials. The first volume, Shelley's "Adonais" (1900) is the rarest, ours #28 of just 50 copies; it has a hand-colored frontispiece of the poet's grave by Ashbee, and is rubricated throughout. The other volumes are Keats' "Eve of St. Agnes" (#44 of 150 copies; hand-colored frontispiece by Reginald Savage); Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (#37 of 125; hand-colored frontispiece by George Thomson); Spenser's "Epithalamion" (#44 of 150; hand-colored frontispiece by Reginald Savage, illuminated initials by Florence Kingsford); Chaucer's "The Flower and the Leaf" (#122 of 165; hand-colored frontispiece and two full-page woodcuts, plus 85 historiated initials by Edith Harwood); Burns' "Tam O' Shanter" (#114 of 150; frontispiece by William Strang, historiated opening initial and hand-illuminated capitals by Kingsford); Milton's "Comus" (#131 of 150; hand-colored frontispiece by Savage, illuminated initials by Kingsford); Tennyson's "Maud" (#31 of 125; hand-colored frontispiece by Savage after Laurence Housman, hand-painted initials by Power); Dryden's "Alexander's Feast" (#42 of 140; hand-colored frontispiece by Savage, hand-painted initials by Kingsford); Goldsmith's "The Village" (#30 of 150; hand-colored frontispiece by Ashbee, illuminated initials by Kingsford); Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality" (#148 of 150; hand-colored frontispiece by Walter Crane, illuminated initials by Power); Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (#67 of 150; frontispiece by Strang, illuminated initials by Kingsford); and Browning's "Flight of the Duchess" (#116 of 125; hand-colored frontispiece by Paul Woodruff, illuminated initials by Raymond Binns). The one American in this poetic pantheon is Walt Whitman, whose "Hymn on the Death of Lincoln" is included here, printed, according to the colophon, "in love of the poet and admiration . . . [as] among the great poems of the language" (#103 of 125; frontispiece and capitals by Ashbee). Copies of individual volumes from this series are easy enough to acquire (especially if condition doesn't matter much), but it is very rare to find a complete set--only one other is recorded at auction by ABPC since 1975. Moreover, the books tend to splay and soil and discolor, but because the present volumes have been kept in the dark, each in its own tight slipcase compartment within the decorative box, these problems have been minimized. One would be extremely hard-pressed to find another set in such sparkling condition, and putting together a set this well preserved one volume at a time could take a very considerable number of years. (ST11810)