(London: Printed at the Ballantyne Press for Hacon & Ricketts [Vale Press], 1897). 200 x 133 mm. (8 x 5 1/4"). cxcix,  pp., [1 leaf (colophon).Poems selected and edited by Charles Ricketts, retaining the original spelling. ONE OF 210 COPIES.
GRACEFUL NAVY BLUE CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT, BY JOHN GRABAU (stamp-signed "-BEST- * Grabau" on front turn-in), covers with triple gilt fillet frame, central panel with floral wreath, raised bands, spine in one long and four short compartments, the long one with floral wreath at center, the others with central daisy and dot accents or gilt lettering, gilt-ruled turn-ins with daisies at corners, blue silk endleaves moiré in a wave-like pattern, top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed (neat repair to chip at head of spine). In the original (slightly faded) blue moiré silk slipcase matching the endleaves. Woodcut white-vine initials, full-page woodcut of a woman with a lamp facing the opening page of text, both the woodcut and the text within intricate leafy woodcut frames, all by Charles Ricketts. Front pastedown with bookplate of William G. Mather. Ricketts, p. xxi; Ransom, p. 435; Tomkinson, p. 165. Spine a little darkened and dry, joints a bit rubbed, very small brown spot to tail edge of final leaf of text, but a VERY FINE COPY, near-pristine internally in a bright binding.
This attractive private press edition of selected works by a 17th century metaphysical poet was beautifully bound by John F. Grabau, an American whose work is not well known and is, consequently, underappreciated. A prominent member of the German-American community in Buffalo, Grabau (1878-1948) apprenticed there with Peter Paul and Walter Brown before working for Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft bindery from 1902-05, and then opening his own studio, which he operated with his friend and pupil Wesley Hutchinson. Among other testimony to his achievements was the silver medal he received for his binding at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. A 1909 article in "Palette and Brush" praised his "understated and elegant artistry" and "the uniqueness of his creativity," acknowledging that "he never repeats a design but rather uses previous work as a ground for further cultivation of technique." He was a member of the Buffalo Guild of Allied Arts, which he served as director, the Buffalo Society of Artists, and the Guild of Book Workers in New York. Founded in 1896 by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (with additional funding from wealthy barrister Lawrence Hacon), the Vale Press issued nearly 50 titles during its eight-year existence, books that Cave says were "far truer to the spirit of fifteenth-century printing than Kelmscott work." Both the impressive output and the considerable artistic success can be attributed to the fact that Ricketts (1866-1931) was in control of every facet of the operation. Tomkinson says that, "although the actual printing was done on the premises of the Ballantyne Press, the Vale books were built entirely on Mr. Ricketts' design under his personal supervision on a press set apart for his sole use; the founts, decorations, illustrations (including the engraving on the wood), watermarks, and pagination were all the work of Mr. Ricketts, and it is doubtful if, in the history of printing, books have been made which reflect the invention and work of one man more explicitly than do the Vale books." DNB says that the works of Henry Vaughan (1621-95) "anticipate the Romantics in expressing a loving appreciation of the natural world. His sense of the sacredness of nature may be related to his reading in the hermetic books. . . . There is no sharp distinction between God and his universe. No place is especially sacred, because every place is sacred." A Welsh "physic," poet, translator, and writer of devotional works, Vaughan was the twin brother of alchemist Thomas Vaughan, and shared his twin's interest in hermetic philosophy. He is often grouped with the metaphysical poets John Donne and George Herbert, and he credited the latter for his own spiritual conversion. Our copy was owned by Cleveland industrialist William G. Mather (1857-1951), a prominent bibliophile and member of the Rowfant Club and the Grolier Club. (ST16343)
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PJP Catalog: ABA1stNov20.009