A Virtually Perfect Fazakerley Fore-Edge Volume Featuring a Painting with Rich Paint and Dazzling Gilt

POEMS.

(London: Edward Moxon, 1857). 212 x 142 mm. (8 1/2 x 5 3/4"). xiii, [3], 375, [1] pp. First Edition with these Illustrations.

HANDSOME CHOCOLATE BROWN CRUSHED MOROCCO BY FAZAKERLEY OF LIVERPOOL (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with gilt fillet border, raised bands, spine compartments ruled in gilt, gilt lettering, wide inner dentelles with gilt strapwork frame, brown moiré silk doublures and endleaves, all edges gilt and elaborately gauffered, FORE-EDGE WITH A TRIPTYCH OF BEAUTIFUL PAINTINGS (one large, two small) based on illustrations of the poems "The Lady of Shalott," "The Lotos-Eaters," and "The Eagle's Crag." In the original (slightly scuffed and worn) black morocco pull-off case lined with calf and velvet. With frontispiece portrait of the poet and 54 wood-engraved vignettes after William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and others. Printed on Japanese vellum. Ex-libris of Randall Moskovitz, M.D., laid in at front. Thomson XXVIII; Wise 20; Ashley Library VII, 114. For the illustrations: Ray 148, Plate LVI. For the binding: Weber, Annotated Dictionary, pp. 140-46. AN OUTSTANDING COPY, the binding and text extraordinarily clean, and the text block edges dazzling.

This splendid volume is a perfect example of a signature Fazakerley style: a flawlessly executed binding with ornately gilt and gauffered text-block edges, with a triptych of fore-edge paintings visible when the leaves are closed rather than fanned open, appearing here on a significant illustrated edition of poems by the best-loved English poet of the 19th century. Known to have apprenticed with John Sutton in Liverpool in 1813, binder Thomas Fazakerley established his own business in 1835 and worked until 1877, after which time his son John continued the firm. Their workshop did not produce bindings in great numbers, but its craftsmen established a durable reputation for fine quality work. Often, the delicate paintings on the glittering gold fore edges of their bindings were based on illustrations in the work, and that is the case here. The large central image is a fine recreation of William Holman Hunt's "Lady of Shalott," showing the accursed damsel in her tower, entwined in the threads she is doomed to weave, a round window showing "bold Sir Lancelot"--the sight of whom prompts the Lady's fatal venture from her tower--galloping by in shining armor. The smaller scenes--the Lotos-Eaters on their ship and a landscape depicting a high, chalky cliff by the sea--replicate illustrations by two Royal Academy painters, William Linton and Clarkson Frederick Stanfield. The faithful, detailed reproductions in miniature demonstrate the exceptional talent of the Fazakerley artist[s].

When Edward Moxon decided in 1855 to produce an illustrated edition of Tennyson's popular poems, he made a daring choice: in addition to work from established artists, he commissioned drawings from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other members of the ground-breaking Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Holman Hunt reported, "The greater proportion [of the book-buying public] were in favour of the work done by prominent artists of the old school, and their admirers were scandalised by the incorporation of designs by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood." Ray notes that Moxon's "impartial division of illustrations among traditional and Pre-Raphaelite artists did not satisfy the book-buyers of the day," but it is responsible for the book's celebrity and its continued desirability to collectors. Thomson declares it "a fine example of the English school of wood engraving at its apex." Tennyson's poetry, especially that with an Arthurian theme, was a source of inspiration to many artists, and to the Pre-Raphaelites in particular. Described by DNB as "the most influential avant-garde group in the history of British art," the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in 1848 by the three painters whose works appear in this book: John Everett Millais (1829-96), William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82).

Jeff Weber describes another copy of this edition featuring "Fazakerley's superb triptych fore-edge decoration" with "three vignette scenes on the fore-edge, each based on text illustrations in the book" (FZ13, p. 144). He notes that "the condition of these bindings is often perfect" due to the protective cases with which they were provided. That is certainly the case here: the clever pull-off case has kept our binding in immaculate condition.
(ST16992)

Keywords: Pre-Raphaelites