(Campden: Essex House Press, 1905). 190 x 125 mm. (7 1/2 x 5"). 42 pp.  leaf. No. 123 OF 125 COPIES, all printed on vellum.
CHARMING DARK GREEN MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID, BY THE "BELVOIR" BINDERY (stamp-signed on front pastedown), covers with central panel and four rounded side panels formed by gilt rules, the corners with a spray of five inlaid red morocco water lilies and gilt foliage, smooth spine with vertical titling and foliate extensions, gilt-rolled turn-ins, all edges gilt. With hand-painted initials, printer's device in colophon, and hand-colored frontispiece by Paul Woodroffe. Printed in red and black. All but three openings with original tissue guards between the leaves. Accompanied by a pamphlet by J. S. Hewitt Bates, founder and director of the Belvoir Bindery, entitled "Bookbinding for the Book-Lover"; this binding pictured in Plate #5. Ransom, p. 269; Tomkinson, p. 78. Spine evenly sunned to a warm brown (as nearly always with green morocco), trivial rubbing to corners, one small, faint marginal spot, but still A VERY FINE COPY, the vellum creamy and bright, and the pretty binding very well preserved.
This is a lovely copy of the 14th, and last, of the Essex House "Great Poems Series," offered in a binding by a respected craftsman and teacher. James Samuel Hewitt Bates (b. 1864) taught bookbinding at the Leicester School of Art and also operated a bindery on Belvoir Road in that city. A disciple of William Morris and an enthusiastic participant in the Arts & Crafts Movement, he was the author of a number of works on bookbinding, including the pamphlet included here, which reprints an essay he wrote for the journal "The Bibliophile" outlining his philosophy of bookbinding. According to Bates, "The principles which ought to govern the right and proper binding of a book are strength, durability and fitness. . . . The decoration of a book ought to be in harmony with the nature of the work. The design ought always to be simple and flat without shading." He emphasizes the importance of high-quality materials, sound construction, and expert forwarding. Our volume is listed and pictured in the pamphlet as representative of his principles of good design. The esteem in which Bates was held may be inferred from the numerous prizes listed on the verso of the title page and from the excerpts of articles praising his work included at the rear, among them a review of his entry at the 1906 Arts & Crafts Exhibition which notes that the books bound by Bates "show the best elements of modern bookbinding, by their thorough workmanship and by their original and apt designs." The contents of our binding have equally fine Arts & Crafts provenance, having been issued by C. R. Ashbee's Essex House Press to complete the series of great poems in the English language. As an addition to the several crafts practiced at his Guild of Handicrafts located at Essex House in London's Mile End Road, C. R. Ashbee founded the Essex House Press in 1898 by purchasing the presses and other production equipment (though not the type) formerly owned by the Kelmscott Press, which had shut down at the death of William Morris. Ashbee printed books for 12 years, with vellum, ink, and paper identical to that used by Kelmscott, in an effort to carry on the tradition Morris had established. But the Essex House Press, because it was conceived of and continued as part of a larger enterprise involving various artisans at work in a group of workshops, always had its own special identity, a fact which Cave reflects when he calls it the "Arts and Crafts press 'par excellence.'" Belvoir bindings are very seldom encountered in the marketplace. (ST15728)
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PJP Catalog: 76.090