Glittering Imagination, Refined Sense of Design, and the Highest Degree of Workmanship

(London: Executed for the Grolier Society, ca. 1910). 240 x 173 mm. (9 3/8 x 6 3/4"). 1 p.l. (title), IX leaves (with text and illuminations on recto only), X-XVII pp., [1] leaf (colophon).

A MAGNIFICENT EXHIBITION BINDING OF GREEN CRUSHED MOROCCO, HEAVILY GILT, BY SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE, both covers with broad and extraordinarily intricate strapwork borders featuring a multitude of bright red onlaid disks and holly berries on a densely stippled ground, front cover with similarly decorated cruciform extension of the borders at center as well as with nine circles within the borders containing onlaid or gilt symbols (Alpha, Omega, a crown, the sun, a crescent moon surrounded by eight small inlaid mother-of-pearl stars, etc.), spine in compartments with similar decoration, MOROCCO DOUBLURES in green and brown with elaborate decoration in gilt and blind, the corners with swirling floral ornaments in the same style as the cover borders, silk endleaves, all edges gilt. The book sunk into a well in a fine, large plush-lined folding morocco box (very slightly soiled), spine with raised bands and gilt titling. Text painted in a variety of colors, SEVERAL LARGE AND SMALL ILLUMINATED INITIALS, MOST OF THE LEAVES WITH ELABORATE SWIRLING GOLD BORDERS, AND EIGHT EXQUISITELY PAINTED MINIATURES IN A VARIETY OF COLORS AND GOLD, the manuscript very probably executed by Alberto Sangorski. A SPARKLING COPY inside and out.

An exquisite production from cover to cover, this sumptuously bound manuscript, almost certainly illuminated by Alberto Sangorski, brings the words of St. Francis of Assisi to life with inspired miniatures depicting the heavens and earth personified. The very handsome borders and illuminated initials here vary in style, design, and color, with the result that each painted leaf seems to be a distinctive work of art, giving pleasure in a slightly different way from the others, with its own particular tonality, feeling, and effect. Although our manuscript is undated, it was very probably produced during the years before Alberto left the Sangorski & Sutcliffe bindery. The fine miniatures certainly seem to be in the same style as others known to have been painted by him, and the text is in the same hand that produced the Sangorski manuscript of Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner," an item in an opulent jewelled binding that belonged to Phoebe Boyle and then was one of what Stanley Bray called the four "masterpieces of calligraphy, illumination, and bookbinding" in the Chevalier collection. (Christie's sale catalogue) Our superbly decorated binding boasts a brilliant design and intricate beauty that can hardly be overpraised. After studying under and then working for Douglas Cockerell, Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe founded their own bindery in 1901 and continued in a successful partnership until 1912. During that year, Francis drowned, and his brother, Alberto, who had been a central figure in producing the firm's vellum illuminated manuscripts, went over to Riviere. Despite these losses, the firm grew and prospered, employing a staff of 80 by the mid-1920s and becoming perhaps the most successful English bindery of the 20th century. In whatever way one looks at the present item, it resonates with beauty that can only come from a brilliant imagination, a refined sense of design, and the highest degree of workmanship.