(New York: Printed by the Grabhorn Press, San Francisco, for Random House, 1928). 368 x 242 mm. (14 1/2 x 9 5/8"). 2 p.l., 156 pp.,  leaf. No. 104 OF 150 COPIES.
Publisher's Philippine mahogany boards backed with brown Niger morocco by William Wheeler, raised bands, spine with titling in blind, "TKD" embossed in blank on the portion of the spine leather extending onto the front board. Paragraph marks in red or blue, 32 woodcuts in the text, and 34 large hand-illuminated initials in red, blue, and gold by Valenti Angelo. Heller & Magee 107. One page with faint paint residue in the margin, but A VERY FINE COPY, the binding extremely bright and virtually unworn, and the text showing no signs of use.
This attractively bound, printed, and illuminated edition of a famous Medieval travel book is one of the finest productions of the Grabhorn Press, and was recognized in 1928 as one of the 50 Books of the Year by the AIGA design association. The content, type, illustrations, illuminations, and binding come together to create a tribute to early books and at the same time a very pleasing example of modern private press printing. This book marked the first use in America of the Bibel Gotisch type designed and cut by Rudolf Koch, and Heller & Magee observes that the work "was an ideal subject for this type and for the simple medieval illustrations of Valenti Angelo that accompany it" (not to mention the 5,100[!] initials Angelo illuminated by hand in the 150 copies). The Press had intended to offer the work for direct sale, but the entire run was purchased by Bennett Cerf (who saw the proofs on a visit to San Francisco) for issuance under the imprint of Random House. First appearing as an anonymous French manuscript in about 1357, Mandeville's account exists in many forms: there are at least 22 versions known from some 250 surviving manuscripts, and the work was printed at least 20 times in the 15th century. The book continued to appear with regularity in English during the 16th and 17th centuries, but the 1725 printing upon which the Grabhorn edition is based is said by Cox to be the "completest edition up to date," and it is characterized by Lowndes as "the best English edition." Cox tells us that although "long accepted as an authentic and valuable record of travel," the work is now known to be a fabrication, perhaps pieced together by a monk fluent in languages and with access to a large library, but with no experience as a world traveller. Regardless of its origin, it continues to provide fascinating reading as an account of the known world in the 14th century. Authentically quaint, the woodcuts here are based on illustrations in early printed editions. The Grabhorn Press bibliography tells us that of this edition, "a few copies exist with the illustrations hand-colored. These were done for experimental purposes and were not for sale." While the illustrations in this copy are, in fact, hand colored (and done carefully and tastefully), it is possible this enhancement was the work of a later owner. It is also possible that this is a specially colored copy for "TKD," who may have been someone important to the Press, but whose identity is unknown to us. (ST12683-306)
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PJP Catalog: ELIST2.011