MIDNIGHT THE SIGNAL.
(London: Sold by Dodsley, 1779). 165 x 102 mm. (6 1/2 x 4"). Complete, with usual jump in pagination in volume II. Two volumes.
Pleasant contemporary crimson morocco BOUND FOR JONAS HANWAY BY HIS SECOND BINDER, covers gilt with twining border enclosing a frame of roses with sunburst cornerpieces, upper cover with Greek cross at center, encircled by the motto "O save us from ourselves," lower cover with winged hourglass and the motto "Revere the appointment of Nature"; raised bands, spine compartments gilt in a checkerboard pattern punctuated by daisies, one olive and one black morocco label, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Engraved title pages with emblem depicting Death hovering over socializing persons, with a lutist in the background. A Large Paper Copy. Verso of front free endpapers with armorial bookplate from which the name has been excised. Spines a bit darkened, with muted gilt, leather on covers varying in color (from fading or soiling), but the bindings entirely solid and with only trivial wear to the joints. Leaves with a hint of offsetting and isolated soiling, faint dampstain to lower fore edge of one gathering, otherwise extremely pleasing internally, the text clean, fresh, and bright, and with vast margins.
These bindings were specially crafted for Jonas Hanway (1712-86), an eccentric philanthropist and prolific pamphleteer who designed custom bindings for edifying works, usually his own, which he often presented to libraries, friends, and even the king; our binding was, in fact, probably intended for presentation, though the recipient is unknown. In his "English Bindings in the Library of J. R. Abbey," G. D. Hobson has done a census of 26 Hanway bindings, but the present one is not listed there. Hobson states that Hanway has been unjustly overlooked, whereas another 18th century eccentric "who took an interest in the art of decorating bookcovers, Thomas Hollis, has appeared in every account of English binding" after J. A. Arnett's "The Books of the Ancients" appeared in 1837. "The bindings executed for [Hanway] are of better material," says Hobson, "and the tools which decorate them are more amusing than those of his contemporary; perhaps they have been neglected because they are comparatively rare." Hanway employed two different binders to translate his ideas into leather, and the present volumes represent the work of his second binder, who entered his employ in 1765. This binder has not been identified by name, but his work is known, as here, by the appearance of a small number of tools used in various combinations. For example, our winged hourglass, rose ornaments, twining roll, sunburst, and checkerboard design on the spine also appear on Hobson's "Abbey" #91 and on item #155 in Maggs Catalogue 1212. An enthusiastic and effective philanthropist concerned with child welfare, Hanway founded schools to teach boys farming, trades, and seamanship. He also wrote some 150 books and pamphlets, and perhaps his reputation as an eccentric derived from his being the first male in London to use an umbrella. Nixon notes in "Oldaker Collection" that he was "a highly estimable character, but one of the greatest bores of his day." An advocate of such practices as the consumption of whole wheat bread and abstinence from tea drinking, he inveighs in the present work against "nocturnal diversions" and the keeping of late hours. Midnight should be the signal to end dancing, music, and other amusements, if one wishes to preserve one's health and virtue. Thankfully, the author's bindings remain more interesting than the written works he produced. (ST12581)