Designed by a Central Figure in the Guild of Women Binders, And Executed by One Whose Work Is Little Known


(London: Printed for T. Cadell and E. Moxon, 1830). 198 x 130 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/8"). vii, 284 pp., [1] leaf. First Illustrated Edition.

APPEALING CHESTNUT BROWN MOROCCO, GILT, BY THE GUILD OF WOMEN BINDERS (stamp-signed in gilt on front free endleaf), covers with three stylized and attenuated floral bouquets, smooth spine with similar design and gilt titling, PALE AQUA MOROCCO DOUBLURES surrounded by brown morocco frames tooled with gilt vines, vellum endleaves with tiny gilt hearts at corners, all edges gilt. 55 steel engravings (mostly vignettes, but two full page) after designs by J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Stothard, and others. Front free endleaf with bookplate of Michael Tomkinson. Ray 13. Spine sunned to a light brown, a sprinkling of small dark spots to spine and to lower quarter of front board, extremities a little rubbed, occasional minor foxing to the (comfortable) margins, isolated faint offsetting from engravings, but still quite an excellent copy, the brightly gilt binding scarcely worn, and the text clean, fresh, and rather bright, with few signs of use.

This important illustrated edition of Rogers' verses related to his Italian travels comes in an attractive volume exhibiting characteristic work of the Guild of Women Binders, the binding designed by one of the Guild's central figures and executed by someone whose work is very little known. Here we see the predominate style of decoration used by Guild members, with everything attenuated, curved, blunted, and melted away from the square or jagged, with panelling and more rigorous forms of decoration like diapering carefully avoided. According to Marianne Tidcombe, author of "Women Bookbinders 1880-1920," our binding was designed by Constance Karslake, daughter of Guild founder Frank Karslake, and executed by Ethel Slater. Auction sales record a number of bindings by the former and even some in her "style," but we were able to trace just a single binding done by Slater.

The Guild was established in 1898 to give an organizational identity to a group of women already at work binding books in various parts of Britain, often in their own homes. Frank Karslake first became interested in women binders when he visited the Victorian Era Exhibition at Earl's Court in 1897, held to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. He was impressed with a number of bookbindings at the Jubilee exhibit, prominent among them being those of Mrs. Annie MacDonald of Edinburgh, and he invited the women to exhibit their work in his shop at 61 Charing Cross Road. The Guild was formed soon thereafter, and operated until 1904. As Tidcombe notes, "because the women were generally unaware of the long history of traditional bookbinding design, they produced designs that were freer and less stereotyped than those of men in the trade."

Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) first published "Italy" in 1822, without illustrations and without success. Our later edition, however, achieved considerable popularity, no doubt because of the work of two artists of very different propensities--Stothard, who did demure figure scenes, and Turner, who provided landscape vignettes. Our previous owner, Michael Tomkinson (1841-1921), made a fortune in carpet manufacturing before turning his attention to philanthropy, country sports, and collecting rare books and manuscripts.