A Massive Achievement in Bookmaking, with Charming Scenes of Royal Domesticity, One of the Few Royal Copies with Illustrations Mounted on Card and Hand-Finished by Nash


(London: Thomas M'Lean, 1848). 716 x 560 mm. (28 1/4 x 22"). Letterpress title, dedication to Queen Victoria (one leaf); prefatory note (one leaf); "List of Plates" (one leaf); and 25 leaves of text descriptions of the plates, all mounted on tabs. A ROYAL COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION.

Contemporary blue half morocco over blue cloth by J. Wright (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), raised bands, spine in compartments densely gilt with floral, foliate, and other tools, gilt lettering, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Lithographic title with vignette finished by hand and text printed in blue, lithographic dedication printed in blue, and 25 VERY FINE COLOR LITHOGRAPHIC PLATES, HAND-FINISHED BY NASH AND MOUNTED ON CARD, some heightened with gum arabic, ink-ruled borders and neat manuscript titles in blue ink on mounts, paper guards between plates. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate of Christopher Turnor, Stoke Rochford Hall, Lincolnshire. Abbey, "Scenery" 360; Tooley 339. Minor fading and light spotting to boards, extremities a bit rubbed, but the massive binding extremely pleasing, with no significant signs of wear. Upper margins of three text leaves with light dampstains, a couple text leaves slightly creased, plate mounts lightly foxed, but A FINE COPY, THE PLATES BRIGHT AND RICHLY COLORED, and the shining gilt spine an attractive addition to the shelf.

This is the most desirable version of a massive piece of bookmaking--the work in its various parts is immense, and the total package weighs about 40 pounds. Cited by Abbey as "an early example of three-colour printing," this is one of the "few Royal Copies" in which "the figures and smaller details are hand-finished, probably by the artist." And our copy is royal in more than one sense: it was formerly in the library of H.R.H. Prince Michael of Kent (sale at Christie's, 6 June 2006, lot 71). The 25 plates in this set give us a glimpse not only into a monarch's palace, but also into the daily life of the royal family. This is not the usual series of richly appointed, yet cold and too-perfect, chambers; the rooms in Windsor Castle have a lived-in look, for they are notably inhabited by a young working mother--Queen Victoria--and her active family. The "Queen's Private Sitting Room" contains both a cluttered desk and a cradle, and in the "Library," books are strewn open on tables and the floor, while the young queen and her counsellors huddle around a volume they are consulting. The royal children figure prominently in the picture of "St. George's Chapel," featuring the christening of the heir to the throne, as well as in the "East Corridor," where the young Prince of Wales frolics with his dog, his mother looking on indulgently. Painter and lithographer Joseph Nash (1809-78) was noted for his faithful reproduction of architectural detail and for enlivening his pictures of buildings and rooms with scenes of celebration and domesticity. Both are very much in evidence here; the detail in the plates is impressive, with everything carefully delineated, from the gothic tracery on the roof of the chapel to the reproductions of Old Masters hanging on the walls. But the greater effect is produced by the sense of life emanating from each tableau--even in the rare uninhabited room there are such signs, like a shawl tossed carelessly over the back of a chair. Although the emphasis is on scenes of domestic life, there are a few pictures telling of great events, including the installation of a new Knight to the Order of the Garter and the state visit of French king Louis-Philippe; in the same vein of greatness, a particularly striking lithograph of the "South Corridor" depicts Victoria standing alone in the vast gallery, surrounded by paintings of scenes from her realm and busts of kings and generals that remind us of the vast empire ruled by this petite woman. Former owner Christopher Turnor (1810-86) was a Conservative MP with a strong interest in architecture, so this work would have had an obvious fascination for him. He had his family home, Stoke Rochford Hall, rebuilt in the Jacobean style by architect William Burn, and he set about a vast scheme of estate and farming improvements (he was the third largest landowner in Lincolnshire) that had a lasting impact on that county's buildings and architecture. Turnor likely commissioned this binding by John Wright (d. 1854), a London artisan described by Ramsden as "a binder of the highest order" and one who enjoyed the patronage of noted bibliophiles of the period. "Royal" copies of this work are infrequently seen on the market: just four other such copies are recorded by ABPC and RBH since 1976.

Keywords: Art, Design, & Architecture