With Splendid and Delightful Illumination Done by a Gifted Hand, And with Distinguished Modern (and Conjectural Early) Provenance

AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING."

([England: after 1862]). 445 x 350 mm. (16 3/8 x 13 3/4"). [8] leaves of illuminations with lithograph text.

Attractive brown morocco with numerous blind-tooled frames on both covers, upper cover with central vellum medallion elaborately illuminated with titling, coats of arms, decorative embellishments, and encircled with blind-tooling, raised bands, compartments tooled in blind, all edges gilt. Sympathetically rebacked to style, corners expertly repaired. Housed in a custom black morocco backed cloth box with raised bands and gilt lettering, interior lined with velvet. Text in red and black, numerous one-line initials and line fillers, EACH LEAF WITH ELABORATE ILLUMINATION INSPIRED BY MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPT DECORATION, THE DECORATION HEAVILY GILT WITH BURNISHED GOLD WITHIN FULL OR THREE-QUARTER BORDERS incorporating decorative initials, medallion portraits, spikey extenders, and floral motifs, SOME OF THE BORDERS WITH EXTREMELY CHARMING SCENES INVENTIVELY WOVEN IN. With laid-in handwritten card mentioning that these illuminations were used for making lithographs and later bound and presented to Tennyson as a memento. See: Alan Lupeck, "Illuminating Arthurian Texts--In the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries," in "Arthuriana," Vol. 22, No 4, pp. 46-66. A little chipping to board edges, a handful of small nicks and scratches to the covers, vellum medallion somewhat soiled, but an entirely solid and perfectly attractive binding; matting a little dust soiled around the edges, a few leaves slightly wavy (as almost always), but THE ILLUMINATIONS IN VERY FINE CONDITION, every bit as bright and lustrous as they day they were made.

This substantial volume contains splendid illuminations that are not only of great beauty and interest, but also come with intriguing provenance: they were possibly bound and given to Tennyson himself, and were more recently owned by one of the most beloved actors and comedians of our time, Robin Williams. Our album is related to the renewed interest in Medieval culture during the Victorian period, aided by a proliferation of artists' manuals, many of which were devoted to practices like calligraphy and illumination. One such book, entitled "Manual of Illumination, on Paper and Vellum" (1862), contains an advertisement of particular significance to the present work. Among ads for paints and materials is a list of black and white illustrations for Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," designed by "F. S. A." (perhaps an unnamed Fellow of the Society of Antiquities?), with titles that are an exact match of the eight plates in our album. We can reasonably deduce that these sheets were in fact produced as templates for illuminators. Several other albums utilizing this same set of illustrations are known to exist, one of which was colored and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski (sold at Sotheby's in 2016 for £31,250). The medallion on the upper cover notes that the present work is by J. C. Ratliff, though its rather simplistic design may have been the work of the binder as it belies nothing of the excellent illumination inside. Although we have not been able to find any information on Ratliff, the quality of his illumination here is outstanding. The color palette is sophisticated, the burnished gold is copious and executed with precision, and the attention to detail is first-rate. The marginalia are particularly well done, with diminutive scenes of jousting, processionals, and melancholy farewells rendered with impressive clarity, while the larger historiated medallions show every fold of cloth and strand of hair. The handwritten note laid into this work mentions the compelling possibility that this was Tennyson's own copy, bound up and given to him as a gift after the illuminated plates were used to create chromolithographs. While we have not been able to substantiate this claim, we do know for certain that it was once in the eclectic collection of Robin Williams, sold as part of his estate by Sotheby's in October of 2018. The association with his role in "Dead Poet's Society" as the teacher who inspired his students with poetry is self-evident, and quite poignant.
(ST15030)

Add to Cart Price: $11,000.00

PJP Catalog: ELIST 10.014

AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING." ILLUMINATIONS - MODERN, ALFRED LORD. RATLIFFE TENNYSON, Illuminator, J. C., ROBIN WILLIAMS' COPY.
AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING."
AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING."
AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING."
AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING."
AN ALBUM OF ILLUMINATIONS ON VELLUM PAPER FROM "IDYLLS OF THE KING."

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