SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE.

(London: F. S. Ellis, 1871). 190 x 130 mm. (7 1/2 x 5 1/8"). viii, 287 pp. FIRST EDITION.

VERY PRETTY HONEY-BROWN MOROCCO, LAVISHLY GILT, BY ZAEHNSDORF (stamp-signed on front turn-in and with gilt exhibition stamp on rear pastedown), covers with plain gilt rules framing a central panel semé with intricate urn tools trailing leafy vines alternating with heart-shaped compartments formed by vines containing a bird in flight, raised bands, spine compartments alternating bird or urn tool, gilt titling, turn-ins with repeating lovebird or olive branch tools, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt. Front pastedown with engraved bookplate of Leonard Noble dated 1893. Spine slightly and evenly sunned, a couple of pages with small marginal stain, other trivial imperfections, but A VERY ATTRACTIVE COPY--clean and fresh internally with ample margins, and the binding bright with gilt and showing few signs of wear.

In a lovely binding, this is the first appearance of a collection of poems that marked a significant change in tone for Swinburne, from personal confession to political awareness and what DNB terms "a humanist positivism." Swinburne (1837-1909) was a virtuoso of verse, able to produce dazzling and enthralling lines in a wide range of meters and stanzaic forms. He was also a shocking pagan in terms of the content of his poetry, a significant portion of which was erotic. This work, a collection of poems calling for the overthrow of political and ideological despotism of all sorts, contains, in DNB's opinion, "at least two of Swinburne's best poems, 'Hertha' and 'Before a Crucifix,' as well as the rhetorically impressive 'Hymn of Man.'" It was inspired by the struggle of Swinburne's hero, Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72), an Italian politician, activist, journalist, and staunch republican proponent of a unified Italy. Our binding is a fine example of the work of the Zaehnsdorf firm, long a top-ranked English bindery. Born in Pest, Hungary, Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-86) served his apprenticeship in Stuttgart, worked at a number of European locations as a journeyman, and then settled in London, where he was hired first by Westley and then by Mackenzie before opening his own workshop in 1842. His son and namesake took over the business at age 33, when the senior Joseph died, and the firm flourished under the son's leadership, becoming a leading West End bindery. Over the years, Zaehnsdorf employed a considerable number of distinguished binders, including the Frenchman Louis Genth (who was chief finisher from 1859-84), and trained a number of others, including Roger de Coverly and Sarah Prideaux. A family-run business until 1947, the Zaehnsdorf bindery continued to produce consistently attractive and innovative designs executed with unfailing skill. It is generally felt that the firm reserved the use of its oval stamp showing a binder at work (seen here) for their finest bindings, including those entered in exhibitions.
(ST15943)

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PJP Catalog: 76.070

SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE. BINDINGS - ZAEHNSDORF, ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.
SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE.

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