THE LIFE OF BENVENUTO CELLINI.

(London: Vale Press, 1900). 300 x 200 mm. (11 3/4 x 8"). Two volumes. Translated by John Addington Symonds. ONE OF 300 COPIES on paper (and 10 on vellum).

Publisher's linen-backed blue paper boards with paper labels on upper boards and on flat spine. With printer's device in colophon and three-quarter leafy woodcut border and large foliated initial designed by Charles Ricketts on opening page. Front pastedown with ex-libris of Charles F. Roth. Ransom, p. 436; Tomkinson, p. 170. Minor soiling to paper boards, extremities a bit rubbed, four-inch crease to rear board of one volume, spine labels a bit chipped, one with minor loss, occasional mild foxing, one short marginal tear, but a very good set, clean, fresh, and bright internally, the fragile bindings still solid.

One of the few Vale Press books of notable combined height and girth, this is a handsomely printed edition of a classic work of memoir. According to Britannica, the writing here is characteristic of the "splendidly gifted and barbarically untamable" Cellini (1500-71), who began the work in Paris in 1558. It constitutes "a production of the utmost energy, directness, and racy animation, setting forth one of the most singular careers in all annals of fine art. His amours and hatreds, his passions and delights, his love of the sumptuous and exquisite in art, his self-applause and self-assertion, running now and again into extravagances which it is impossible to credit, and difficult to set down as strictly conscious falsehoods, make this one of the most singular and fascinating books in existence." Charles Ricketts (1866-1931) was perhaps the most significant figure in the private press movement after William Morris. From 1896-1903, Ricketts ran the Vale Press, which produced books that in Cave's words were "far truer to the spirit of fifteenth-century printing than Kelmscott work." The Press issued nearly 50 titles, and both its impressive output and considerable artistic success can be attributed to the fact that Ricketts, who was remarkably skilled as a designer, painter, and illustrator, was in control of every facet of the operation. Tomkinson observes that "although the actual printing was done on the premises of the Ballantyne Press, the Vale books were built entirely on Mr. Ricketts' design under his personal supervision on a press set apart for his sole use; the founts, decorations, illustrations (including the engraving on the wood), watermarks, and pagination were all the work of Mr. Ricketts, and it is doubtful if, in the history of printing, books have been made which reflect the invention and work of one man more explicitly than do the Vale books."
(CCS1930)