(London, Paris, New York, & Melbourne: Cassell & Company, Limited, 1905). 340 x 257 mm. (13 3/8 x 10 1/3"). 3 p.l., lxii, , 329,  pp.
APPEALING CONTEMPORARY BURGUNDY MOROCCO, GILT AND ONLAID IN THE ARTS & CRAFTS STYLE, covers with a wide frame of undulating gilt vines bearing flowers and berries of onlaid green morocco (the flowers with a total 220 separately onlaid petals), upper cover with gilt lettering at head and foot of central panel, raised bands, spine compartments with central onlaid green flower surrounded by a swirl of gilt leaves, gilt titling, turn-ins tooled with gilt fillets and with a spray of three leaves at the corners, all edges gilt (hinges reinforced with linen, very expert repairs perhaps performed at top of joints). WITH 50 DRAMATIC BLACK & WHITE PLATES depicting scenes from the poem, after engravings by Doré. Front joint somewhat rubbed (but nothing cracked or loose), corners gently bumped, a hint of soiling to boards, free endpapers with offsetting from turn-ins and some shallow chips, isolated faint foxing or finger smudges here and there, but an excellent copy, clean and fresh internally, the plates--done on coated stock--especially bright, and the striking binding retaining much of its power.
Milton's masterpiece has inspired illustrators since the 17th century, and it found an especially sympathetic interpreter in Gustave Doré (1832-83). Described by Britannica as "one of the most prolific and successful book illustrators of the late 19th century," his vast "exuberant and bizarre . . . dreamlike scenes" are suitably adaptable for the subject matter here. The poem, of both an extraordinary length and quality, focuses on the Bible's tale of the Fall of Man. Milton's haunting depiction of the fallen angel who becomes Satan and his temptation of Adam and Eve is vividly brought to life in the expressive illustrations Doré created in 1866. The artist captures and sharply contrasts the glories of heaven and the horrors of hell, the idyll of Eden and the desolation of expulsion from it; the viewer is struck by the despair that Adam and Eve—and Lucifer/Satan—feel over the paradise they lost. Doré was well connected to publishers in England, and his work was as popular there as in his native France, especially as levels of education rose and book prices fell due to mass production, expanding the audience for works such as this. His work on "Paradise Lost" came just after several other high-profile projects--including a much-praised illustrated Bible--had made him perhaps the most in-demand illustrator of his day. Our edition of this work comes in a very attractive binding created at the time when artisans inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement were drawn to the craft of bookbinding, studying under such masters as T. J. Cobden Sanderson and Douglas Cockerell. Our unsigned binding is very much in the nature-inspired mode of the period (the densely foliate border on the front cover is very much in the style of Cobden-Sanderson's Doves Bindery), and it seems quite possible it was done by an artisan who had studied or apprenticed with one of the great practitioners of the craft. (Lhi21144)