(London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1858). 170 x 103 mm. (6 3/4 x 4 1/8"). lii, 138 pp. With half title, but bound without the ads at rear. FIRST EDITION.
VERY PRETTY RED CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT, BY ROGER DE COVERLY (stamp-signed on front pastedown), covers with oval wreath of Tudor roses at center, with a scattering of leaf frond tools above and below, the whole enclosed by a frame of climbing roses on a ground of gilt dots and a gilt fillet and decorative roll border, raised bands, spine compartment with large rose surrounded by rose leaves at center on a pointillé ground, gilt lettering, turn-ins with floral branches extending from corners, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Spine slightly but evenly darkened, mild foxing to flyleaves, lightly affecting half title and final page of text, a hint of browning just to edges of leaves, but still probably qualifying as a fine copy, clean and fresh inside, in an unworn, very decorative binding.
This first edition of Arnold's longest poem is offered here beautifully covered by a prominent and influential English binder. Matthew Arnold (1822-88) is ranked by Day as one of the three great Victorian poets (along with Tennyson and Browning). Inspired by Sophocles' "Electra," Arnold's present rendition of a Greek tragedy seeks to answer "self-pitying Romanticism" with "the dignified classical ideal of 'distinctness and depth of impression.'" (Day) Arnold later turned his attention to criticism, where, according to DNB, he earned his "pedestal among the immortals" through his influence on the study and teaching of English literature in the U.S. and Britain. The very attractive binding here is the work of Roger de Coverly (1831-1914), one of the most accomplished binders in England during the latter part of the 19th century. He was apprenticed to Zaehnsdorf in 1845, worked for J. & J. Leighton from ca. 1852-63, then established his own bindery. In the 1880s, his bindings were in great demand, as were his services as a teacher: he undertook a good deal of work for William Morris, and he counted among his illustrious students the younger Charles McLeish as well as the greatest of all English bookbinders, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, who served an apprenticeship with him in 1883-84. Working mostly in the classical style, De Coverly and his two sons demonstrated craftsmanship that was consistently of the highest quality. (ST16980)