(Bath: Printed by R. Cruttwell, sold by Rivingtons; Dilly; et al. 1785). 312 x 240 mm. (12 1/2 x 9 1/3"). Three volumes. Edited by Thomas Wilson and Clement Cruttwell.
STATELY ETRUSCAN CALF BINDING BY EDWARDS OF HALIFAX, covers with gilt pentaglyph and metope border, stencilled frame of palmettes, central panel of tree calf enclosed by a gilt Greek key border, raised bands, spine compartments with urn centerpiece, pediment cornerpieces, two black morocco labels, all edges gilt (older restorations to ends of spines and to corners). EACH VOLUME WITH A CONTEMPORARY FORE-EDGE PAINTING depicting a scene from Scripture, painted in an almost grisaille style heightened with soft pastel colors. Verso of front flyleaf with engraved bookplate of Herman Frasch Whiton; ex-libris of Randall Moskovitz, M.D., laid in at front. Weber, "Annotated Dictionary of Fore-edge Painting Artists & Binders," p. 118-19 (this copy). ◆Intermittent minor browning or foxing (occasionally more noticeable, but never severe), a little wear to joints and extremities, small patches of lost patina from acid treatment (as always), but an excellent, fresh copy, in sound, still-pleasing bindings, with attractive, well-preserved fore-edge paintings.
This is a "notable Bible from the Edwards bindery" according to Weber, and one of the tallest Edwards productions we have encountered. The height of the quarto volumes gave the unnamed artist a large canvas, which he or she has used to full effect. Rather than the frequently encountered idyllic view of a stately home beside a lake, our volumes feature dramatic scenes where people occupy center stage. Volume I shows us a moment from Genesis: Abraham welcoming three angels into his home, an act of hospitality that moved the Lord to bless Abraham and his wife Sarah with a son, though she was far beyond child-bearing age. On volume II, we see the touching moment an Egyptian princess and her attendants discover the infant Moses hidden in the bulrushes of the Nile. Volume III reveals an animated scene from the life of St. Paul, as he preaches to the multitudes in Rome, some of them hostile, others awestruck. The craftsmen behind design features that occupy a position of considerable importance in the history of bookbinding, the Edwards of Halifax bindery was founded by William Edwards (1723-1808) and continued by several of his brothers, half-brothers, and sons (by far the most important of the sons being Thomas, who lived from 1762-1834). This famous firm produced a number of important innovations in binding design, the most significant being the idea of concealing a painting under the gilt of the fore edge. This hidden treasure could be revealed, once the edge was fanned out, as a special surprise element of the volumes they bound--typically in Etruscan calf, as here, or in their patented transparent vellum. Although bindings produced by the Edwards workshop are never signed, the present item is such an absolutely characteristic example of Edwards work that Weber cites it in a chapter devoted to distinguishing genuine Edwards bindings from the work of imitators. Especially telling here are the soft-hued colors in the paintings, a feature much less imitated than other aspects of Edwards volumes. While fore-edge paintings likely produced at the Edwards bindery (and especially produced by their imitators) appear in the marketplace with some regularity, most offered are octavo or duodecimo in size. Of the fore-edge paintings attributed to Edwards of Halifax that have appeared in RBH over the past 65 years, fewer than one in 10 were on quarto volumes; the rest were octavo or smaller. (ST16991)