Made by Cobden-Sanderson's Hands, and
Essentially Untouched by Anyone Else's
(BINDINGS - COBDEN-SANDERSON). BACON, FRANCIS.
THE ESSAYS. [and] WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS.(London: William Pickering, 1845). 168 x 105 mm (6 5/8 x 4 1/8"). 2 p.l., xxvi, [iv], 355,  pp. The volume edited by Basil Montagu; "Wisdom of the Ancients" translated by Arthur Gorges.
IMMENSELY PLEASING RED STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO BY T. J. COBDEN-SANDERSON (stamp-signed and dated 1890 on rear turn-in), cover with plain gilt fillet border, raised bands, SPINE BEAUTIFULLY TOOLED IN GILT, the compartments with gracefully interlaced vines accented with small dots (Pattern No. 92, Tools 5m and 7j), gilt titling in second and third panels, date at the foot, turn-ins with leafy frame employing the same tools and with the rarely used seed pod (Tool 3i) at the center of each vertical side, all edges gilt with simple stippled gauffering. In a modern suede-lined red morocco folding box with black label. Elaborate woodcut frame on title page, Pickering emblem on verso of last leaf, woodcut initials and headpieces, and botanical tailpieces. Front free endpaper inscribed "To Dorothy Tennant / from Sidney Colvin / June 1890" (see below). Keynes, p. 40; Tidcombe 104 (for the binding). Small faint spot on lower cover (just smaller than the size of a dime), but A SPECTACULAR COPY IN A LOVELY BINDING, the leather exceptionally lustrous, and the text with no signs of use.
Any binding produced by Thomas J. Cobden-Sanderson is a prized possession to own, but this one stands out in at least two important ways. First, one could scarcely hope to find a Cobden-Sanderson binding in more immaculate condition than the present item, which was obviously a treasured gift always admired but never read. One can actually see one's own reflection in the covers, they are so lustrous. Second, the volume is not nearly as costly as other examples of his work, partly because the elegant decoration is restricted almost entirely to the spine--though the type and amount of embellishment is exactly right for this volume. (For more on Cobden-Sanderson, see previous entry.) Our binding features a detail not mentioned by Tidcombe: the frame on the turn-in uses a small seed pod or poppy head tool that only appears on three other bindings executed between 1888 and 1891 (Tidcombe #80, 119, and 131). The text here is an early reprint of a Pickering edition containing various works of Bacon, including his celebrated "Essays," the whole edited by the barrister, humanitarian, and bibliophile Basil Montagu (1770-1851). First printed, in Latin, in 1609 as "De Sapientia Veterum" and first translated into English by Sir Arthur Gorges in 1619, the lesser-known "Wisdom of the Ancients" attempts in Renaissance fashion to interpret classic myths symbolically. This volume has an important provenance. According to entries in his diary, Cobden-Sanderson did this binding "on spec" for Bain's bookshop, where it was purchased by Sidney Colvin, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum from 1884 to 1912, as a wedding present for Dorothy Tennant. According to Tidcombe, Colvin "was a regular caller at Bain's. He also bought Cobden-Sanderson's binding of Keats' 'Letters,' which he had edited." One of the first women to study (under Edward Poynter) at the Slade School of Art, Dorothy Tennant (1855-1926) was a prominent painter whose wedding to Sir Henry Morgan Stanley at Westminster Abbey on 12 July 1890 was one of the highlights of the social season. (ST11990)