An Especially Luxurious Set: Gorgeous Morocco Bindings, Hand-Painted Vignettes, and Hand-Illuminated Initials


(Boston: [Printed by the De Vinne Press for] The Bibliophile Society, 1905). 235 x 170 mm. (9 1/4 x 6 3/4"). Three volumes. ONE OF 447 COPIES printed for members only.

HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY CRIMSON MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID, BY THE HARCOURT BINDERY (stamp-signed in gilt on front doublure), covers with gilt rule frame, inlaid green morocco trefoil at corners, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with inlaid orange or ivory morocco lilies enclosed by swirling leafy gilt vines, gilt titling, TURQUOISE MOROCCO DOUBLURES, with a dozen inlays of lilies and leaves in purple, orange, white, and green morocco, these joined by gracefully curling gilt vines, ice blue watered silk endleaves, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed. In the original red cloth slipcases with gilt titling on back. Engraved pictorial title page, limitations page, and seal of the Bibliophile Society in each volume, frontispiece portrait of Theocritus in volume I, one engraved black & white plate, four hand-colored plates, 30 FINELY HAND-PAINTED HEADPIECE VIGNETTES and 30 HAND-ILLUMINATED INITIALS in colors and gold. Printed on Japanese vellum, with Greek and English versions of the poems on facing pages. A SUPERB COPY, with virtually no signs of use inside or out.

One of 72 works published by the Bibliophile Society between 1901 and 1939, this scholarly edition of verses by three great pastoral poets is here given memorably sumptuous dress, and comes to us in virtually pristine condition. The present work was beautifully printed, with generous margins on creamy Japanese vellum, by Theodore Low De Vinne (1828-1914), one of the most distinguished American printers of his day (as well as a printing historian and a co-founder of the Grolier Club). Our unnamed member of the Society (an illustrious group that included Henry Cabot Lodge, George Westinghouse, and Pierpont Morgan) embellished De Vinne's fine press work by having the engraved vignettes, headpieces, and historiated initials colored and highlighted with gold by a very skillful hand before sending the volumes to Boston's Harcourt Bindery. Inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement that had spread to New England, this workshop was founded in 1900 to provide hand bookbinding services for the books produced by a burgeoning number of private presses. It remains the largest bindery in the United States exclusively devoted to fine bookbinding by hand. The English language contents here are worth noting as well. Theocritus was the greatest of pastoral poets and the model for Virgil in the writing of his "Eclogues." The "Idylls" present the world of shepherds sheltering in the shade and singing to the music of panpipes. Their songs are by no means artless, but, instead, are highly wrought compositions which often meditate on the poetic craft itself. His fellow pastoral poets Bion (third century B.C.) and Moschus (second century B.C.) write in similar strains. Bion's first idyll is his best-known work, a lament by the goddess Aphrodite for her beloved Adonis, who was slain by a wild boar; among the idylls of Moschus included here is one lamenting the death of Bion himself. Our set remains in virtually the same condition as when it left the bindery.