Shakespeare Depicted by Sangorski with Arresting Illumination of Unusual Extravagance


([London]: [D]esigned, written out, and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski [Colophon], 1920). 255 x 212 mm. (10 1/8 x 8 1/2"). 25, [3] pp.

ELEGANT LIGHT OLIVE GREEN CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID [by Riviere] for London bookseller Charles J. Sawyer (stamp-signed "Chas. J. Sawyer, Ltd., London" on front turn-in), upper cover with inlaid mahogany-brown morocco lyre at head, "strung" with gilt fillets and surrounded by dense gilt stippling, six gilt fillets emanating from the top of this ornament and curling extravagantly below it, with inlaid green morocco leaves at the tips of its extensions, and inlaid red dots accenting the perimeter, raised bands, spine compartments with gilt and inlaid leaf sprig, gilt titling, turn-ins framed with five gilt fillets, stippled and inlaid cornerpieces, ivory moiré silk doublures and endleaves. In a fine full morocco plush-lined box with raised bands and gilt titling. ILLUSTRATED THROUGHOUT, WITH EIGHT LARGE MINIATURES within extraordinarily elaborate illuminated borders, FIVE FINE ROUNDELS, FOUR LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS (a portrait of a young woman, a leaping stag, a skull, and a landscape with a castle tower), AND 25 ILLUMINATED INITIALS, all with burnished gold. New, expertly matched silk guards. SIGNED by Sangorski in the colophon, following the statement: "This manuscript will not be duplicated." With an early typescript list of the contents laid in at front. Ratcliffe, "Alberto Sangorski" SJR 338 (attributing the binding to Riviere). Spine slightly sunned to olive brown (just a hint of sunning to head and fore edges of boards), spine with half a dozen barely perceptible tiny dark spots, but A VERY FINE COPY OF AN EXTRAORDINARILY BEAUTIFUL MANUSCRIPT, the binding unworn and lustrous, and the interior pristine, with vellum clean and bright and the paintings perfectly preserved.

Written out, decorated, and painted by one of the most accomplished illuminators of the modern era, this attractively bound work celebrates some of Shakespeare's best-known plays with sumptuous miniatures that are in a perfect state of preservation. Songs from "The Tempest," "As You Like It," "Hamlet," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and other works provide the inspiration for the many delightful miniatures seen here, which display an impressive variety of portraits, outdoor views, and figural scenes--everything from reclining nudes to a particularly lush scene in which a group of spirited hunters return from the woods. The illustrations are all painted with exquisite attention to detail and demonstrate the artist's innate understanding of color, rendering each composition delicate, yet vigorous and vibrantly hued. All Sangorski manuscripts with miniatures are painted with great skill, but this one is particularly arresting. Alberto Sangorski (1862-1932) started his professional life as secretary to a goldsmith's firm, became attracted to the book arts at the age of 43, and began doing illuminated manuscripts that were then bound by his brother Francis' firm, Sangorski & Sutcliffe. Sometime around 1910, Alberto and Francis had a falling out, and the artist went to work for Riviere, the chief competitor to his brother's firm.

The gracefully tooled binding here was commissioned by London bookseller Charles J. Sawyer (1876-1931), who opened his shop in 1894. According to Brown and Brett's "The London Bookshop," Sawyer provided "anything suitable for a gentleman’s library" with specialties in "rare items, early English literature, fine bindings and sporting and colour-plate books." While the binder fulfilling the commission did not sign this work, Sangorski bibliographer Stephen Ratcliffe attributes it to Riviere & Son, and there are examples of Riviere bindings decorated in this Art Nouveau style. But the design here, with its delicate, curving lines creating uncommon shapes, also resembles the work done by members of the Guild of Women Binders. Whoever the artisans involved, the binding is attractively designed and executed using premium materials, and it provides a pleasing cover for the glorious illuminations within.

Price: $70,000.00