The Sought-After Three-Volume Kelmscott Shelley, Mostly Unopened, and in Gorgeous Bindings


(Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1894-95). 210 x 145 mm. (8 1/4 x 5 3/4"). Three volumes. Edited by F. S. Ellis. ONE OF 250 COPIES on paper (and six on vellum).

EXTRAORDINARILY HANDSOME DARK GREEN CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT (stamp-signed "G. P. Putnam's Sons" on front doublure, "The Knickerbocker Press" on rear doublure), covers with French fillet border and central panel diapered in elongated ogival compartments containing a stylized "S," raised bands, spine compartments framed by multiple rules with a quatrefoil at center, gilt titling, LIGHT BROWN MOROCCO DOUBLURES AND ENDLEAVES, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed and MOSTLY UNOPENED. In the (slightly worn) original(?) chamois-lined green cloth dust jackets and matching slipcase. Ornate wood-engraved double-page opening in volume I and initials and borders throughout by William Morris. Front pastedown with engraved bookplate (by Joseph Winfred Spenceley) of Veryl Preston. Printed in red and black in Golden type. Peterson A-29; Sparling 29; Rollison, "The Kelmscott Shelley and Material Poetics," in The Journal of William Morris Studies (Summer 2004). Spines just slightly (and uniformly) darker, a couple of minor marginal stains in volume II, but AN ESPECIALLY FINE COPY, the bindings lustrous and virtually unworn, the text clean, bright, and mostly unread.

This is a beautifully bound bibliophile's copy of the much sought-after Kelmscott edition of Shelley's works. Day describes Shelley (1792-1822), one of the giants of the Romantic Era, as "a radical reformer suffused with poetic lyricism and philosophic idealism"--words that could also describe the socialist William Morris, who expressed his own political ideals through his writings, his designs, and his printing press. The passionate, evocative poetry of Shelley found its perfect embodiment in the Kelmscott edition, the press adding a visual complement to the beauty of the language. The text here is set in Golden Type, a 14-point roman, the first of three types designed by Morris for his press. In the 1880s--around the time the Grolier Club was founded--the Putnam brothers established the Knickerbocker Press (and bindery) to produce fine bindings and fine printing for this new market of American bibliophiles. The company, founded by G. P. Putnam in 1841, continued under management of the Putnam family until 1930. The former owner here, steel executive Veryl Preston, was just the sort of distinguished collector whose trade the Putnams sought.

Price: $15,000.00