(London: Chapman and Hall, 1860). 168 x 114 mm. (6 5/8 x 4 1/2"). xxiii, [i], 321,  pp. FIRST EDITION.
Very attractive early 20th century maroon straight-grain morocco, gilt, by Riviere & Son (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), covers with floral gilt frame flanked by triple fillets, center panel with blind-tooled floral border, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with central patera within octagonal frame, densely gilt turn-ins, all edges gilt. WITH A FINELY EXECUTED FORE-EDGE PAINTING BY MISS C. B. CURRIE OF ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE. With a bound-in calligraphic leaf, stating that this is No. 25 of the books with fore-edge paintings done by Miss Currie, the leaf signed at the bottom by her. Corners a bit rubbed, a couple of trivial nicks in the painting (which is not richly colored), otherwise QUITE A FINE COPY, the text clean and fresh, the binding especially lustrous and without any significant wear.
This selection of excerpts from Shakespeare's works purports to show us the playwright's mind on hundreds of topics, from love to anger to power to earthquakes to house-building to supererogation, and much more. Whether these passages actually reveal the writer's feelings on the matter or merely express the views appropriate to the character quoted, this little work does provide us with a very useful concordance of Shakespearean quotes on a wide variety of topics. Our copy is of the greatest interest as one of the few fore-edge paintings done by an identifiable artist, and, in the present case, a painter of considerable renown. Miss C. B. Currie is best known for her role in producing so-called "Cosway bindings," which featured inset miniatures painted by her on ivory. Currie collaborated with Riviere on most of the Cosway bindings, which numbered about 1,000 by the time she died in 1940. Her fore-edge paintings, by contrast, were far less numerous. According to Jeff Weber, she produced 172 known specimens. Called by Weber "a talented artist" whose works are "distinguished in more ways than one," Currie is the only fore-edge artist of any importance working before the present day whose creations are signed and numbered, as described above. She particularly enjoyed decorating older books, like this one, and although the subjects of her paintings were often not relevant to the contents of the books they adorn, the image here certainly is. Her delicately rendered scene portrays the thatched Tudor cottage of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, amid a tranquil landscape of trees. The composition is skillfully designed, the two-story timbered house dominating the landscape with simplicity and charm in a pastoral setting. The colors are soft pastel blues, greens, and grays, accented by touches of yellow. The colors of the other Currie fore-edge painting we have owned (Catalogue 59, item 204) were similarly muted, and perhaps it is no accident that Currie's colors are just as soft-hued as those of the earliest, and now most desirable, fanned-out fore-edge paintings done by the celebrated firm of Edwards of Halifax. (ST12335)
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PJP Catalog: 73.112