(London: William Heinemann, 1907). 190 x 130 mm. (7 1/2 x 5"). 4 p.l., 245,  pp.,  leaf.
A VERY PRETTY VELLUCENT BINDING BY CEDRIC CHIVERS (stamp-signed on rear turn-in), upper cover with large central panel outlined in gilt, depicting an idyllic grove of trees, with a large marbled sundial in the foreground, this highlighted with mother-of-pearl inlays, smooth spine with painted title panel, gilt-ruled turn-ins, vellum doublures. With frontispiece portrait of the author. A little light soiling to vellum, occasional minor spots of foxing to margins, otherwise a fine, fresh copy, the binding well preserved and without the splaying that often affects vellum boards.
This romance by a scandalous American heiress who married into a noble German family and then became a popular novelist was beautifully bound by Cedric Chivers, using a tranquil garden scene invoking the beloved woods of the title character. Clearly with autobiographical elements, "Beeches" involves the love story between a celebrated scientist and a clever American woman who is the wife of an Austrian nobleman. Our author, Bettina Riddle (1874-1957), was born into a wealthy Pennsylvania family and, like other American heiresses of her day, married a title--Friedrich Karl August, Baron von Hutten zum Stolzenberg. Her first novel appeared in 1898--the same year as her first child--and she went on to produce 25 novels over the next 40 years, including a series featuring her most famous character, Pam. She and the baron divorced in 1909, reputedly over her infatuation with an Italian tenor, and she settled in London (though wintering in Rome). Cedric Chivers (1853-1929) established binding premises in his native Bath after an inspiring visit to the Paris Exhibition of 1878, and a short time later, after hearing a lecture by Cyril Davenport on the 18th century painted vellum bindings of Edwards of Halifax, he began producing his own work in this tradition, creating what he called the "vellucent" binding. The innovative part of these bindings, as seen here, was accomplished by rendering vellum transparent, then placing it over painted pieces of paper, thereby protecting the surface of the paper from soiling and abrasion. Prideaux says that the process achieves the effect of enriched enamel. Chivers often used mother-of-pearl inlays on his vellucent bindings, and here the inlays give the sundial on the cover a more three-dimensional aspect. (ST13988)
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PJP Catalog: 76.092