A Gift with Enormous Sentimentality from George Bernard Shaw to Lady Astor


(London: Essex House Press, 1899). 150 x 105 mm. (6 x 4"). 2 p.l., 426 pp., [2] leaves (colophon, printer's note). No. 712 OF 750 COPIES.

SUPERB GREEN MOROCCO BY CHARLES MCLEISH and son (stamp-signed C. & C. McLeish on rear turn-in), covers with 21 concentric gilt-rule frames, producing a 3-D effect, raised bands, spine compartments framed by four gilt rules, gilt titling, turn-ins with four gilt rules, all edges gilt. Wood-engraved frontispiece, printer's device in colophon. Printed in red and black. Title page INSCRIBED TO NANCY ASTOR BY GEORGE BERNARD SHAW: "Charlotte's Book / presented to Nancy / by G. Bernard Shaw / It cost him a pang to part with it." Manuscript poem "To Lady Astor" dated May 19, 1947 and signed "J J J" laid in at front, along with a portion of a letter apparently written to Lady Astor. Ashbee 7-12; Ransom, p. 264; Tomkinson, p. 68. Spine faintly sunned (as usual with green morocco), a breath of rubbing to extremities, two short splits to front hinge, isolated faint spots to margins, otherwise a fine copy, clean, fresh, and bright internally, in a solid binding glistening with gold.

Handsomely bound by a master artisan and with illustrious provenance, this is the third production of the press founded by C. R. Ashbee in 1898 as an addition to the several crafts practiced at his Guild of Handicrafts located at Essex House in London's Mile End Road. Ashbee purchased the presses and other production equipment (though not the type) formerly owned by the Kelmscott Press, which had shut down at the death of William Morris, and he printed books for 12 years with vellum, ink, and paper identical to that used by Kelmscott, in an effort to carry on the tradition Morris had established. But the Essex House Press, because it was conceived of and continued as part of a larger enterprise involving various artisans at work in a group of workshops, always had its own special identity, a fact which Cave reflects when he calls it the "Arts and Crafts press par excellence." Born in 1859, Charles McLeish was apprenticed to Andrew Grieve in Edinburgh before coming to London in 1890 to work for Riviere. When Cobden-Sanderson founded the Doves Bindery in 1893, McLeish was hired as the firm's finisher, and he held that estimable position until 1909, when he left to go into partnership with his son, Charles. Although the senior McLeish was no longer in the employ of Cobden-Sanderson, all of the bindings that were signed "Doves Bindery" between 1909 and 1921 were actually done in the McLeish workshop. The work produced by the McLeishes was animated, beautifully designed, and highly accomplished (see the Oldaker bindings, #60, and Broxbourne Library bindings, #115, as examples). The present binding is deceptively simple in design, but the perfectly parallel nesting frames on the covers demonstrate gilding skills of the highest order, and are strikingly modern when compared to the work being produced by other leading London workshops in 1910. The note on the title page ties our volume to two of the most fascinating people of the period: radical playwright George Bernard Shaw and Nancy Astor, an American heiress who married a British viscount and became the first woman to serve in the House of Commons. Though wildly different in their political views, Shaw and Astor were both outspoken firebrands known for their quick wits, and they enjoyed sparring and debating one another. They were close friends for 30 years, and grew closer after the death of Shaw's beloved wife, Charlotte. It would seem that this book originally belonged to Shaw's wife, and that he gave it to Astor as a remembrance of her. One could well imagine that parting with such a lovely volume with great sentimental value did indeed "cost him a pang."

Add to Cart Price: $5,000.00

PJP Catalog: CA20BF.026


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