HEATH'S BOOK OF BEAUTY.

(London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1841). 244 x 171 mm. (9 5/8 x 6 3/4"). [1] p.l., vi, [ii] (plate list), 280 pp.Edited by the Countess of Blessington.

Very appealing contemporary Spanish calf, covers framed by double gilt rules and floral garland roll, raised bands, spine heavily gilt in compartments featuring central floral sprig within a lozenge of small tools and volute cornerpieces, red morocco label, turn-ins with floral gilt roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With 16 line and stipple engraved portraits, as called for. Light rubbing to extremities, occasional tiny rust spots or faint marginal smudges, otherwise A FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally, in a lustrous binding with virtually no wear.

Featuring the especially pleasing design of Spanish calf (resembling batiked or tie-dyed textiles), this is a binding at least as beautiful as the ladies pictured and praised within the text. From a family of respected English engravers, author Charles Heath (1785-1848) was an illustrator, a book publisher, a currency and stamp printer, and a pioneer in British lithography. His "Heath's Book of Beauty" was published from 1832--when it became an immediate bestseller--to 1847. As seen here, its portraits of aristocratic women provide a window into mid-century Victorian culture, particularly its understanding of beauty, fashion, and class. The Countess of Blessington, editor of this volume, presided over the most celebrated salon for writers and artists of her time; Charles Dickens, amongst many other British and European luminaries, was a frequent guest. We have had a number of similarly designed handsome volumes in bindings signed by "Lloyd" and by "Lloyd, Wallis, & Lloyd," and it is certainly possible that the Edmund Lloyd whom Ramsden notes as doing business (as a publisher and bookseller as well as a binder) at a Harley Street address in 1817 could have been part of this trio. Lloyd, Wallis, & Lloyd seem to have received many commissions that involved putting attractive 19th century bindings on earlier works: of the 38 items by them listed in ABPC since 1975, 29 were volumes printed before 1800, a year that would seem comfortably to predate their first work together (ABPC lists 19th century imprints in Lloyd, Wallis, & Lloyd bindings ranging from 1816-42).
(ST12711b)

Keywords: Costume, Fashion, & Grooming