An Art History Book, Appropriately Owned by Pierpont Morgan's Niece


(London: Duckworth and Co., 1904). 195 x 133 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/2"). xviii, 315 pp. FIRST EDITION.

ELEGANT CRIMSON CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT, BY THE CLUB BINDERY (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with mitered fillet border enclosing a central panel ruled into nine compartments, the four corner sections tooled with an elaborate fleuron design, raised bands, spine with mitered frame enclosing five vertical parallel fillets rising through five panels, the panels at head and foot with volute corner embellishment, one panel with gilt lettering, turn-ins with gilt fillet border and floral sprays at corners, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt (neat older repair to head of front joint). With 124 figures in the text and 66 plates with black & white photographic reproductions of Medieval art. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate of William Fitz-Simon; front flyleaf with ink signature of Ursula J. Morgan, dated 1906. A breath of rubbing to extremities, but A VERY FINE COPY, clean, fresh, and bright internally, in a gleaming binding.

This attractively illustrated art history was bound in an appropriately gothic design by the premier hand-bindery in the U.S.--as one might expect for a book from the library of J. P. Morgan's niece. After the Grolier Club was established in 1884, it soon became apparent that the country's few established hand binders were overtaxed in providing repairs and rebinding for the club members' rapidly accumulating acquisitions. As a consequence, in 1895, Grolier members led by Robert Hoe and Edwin Holden, along with other wealthy collectors, instituted the Club Bindery in order to attract European craftsmen to provide, close to home, fine quality binding work rivalling what was available abroad. The Club Bindery was in operation until 1909, with Hoe being its most influential manager and client. It provided bindings that tended to be traditional in style--though frequently with elaborate decoration--and that lived up to its patrons' expectations in terms of excellence. The first members of the staff of the Club Bindery were the Englishmen R. W. Smith and Frank Mansell. They were subsequently joined by a number of French binders, chief among them being Leon Maillard, who had worked previously for Cuzin, Gruel, and Marius-Michel.

In the words of the Oxford Companion of the Decorative Arts, the text here was written by a man who "affected the whole direction of twentieth-century European design education." William Richard Lethaby (1857-1931) was an architect who became involved in the Society to Preserve Ancient Buildings and in the Arts & Crafts Movement. He was the first director of the Central School of Arts & Crafts and one of the founders of the Art Workers Guild. DNB notes, "Lethaby was a reformer whose beliefs in the moral significance of art were expressed in the surge of books, articles, and lectures that continued for five decades, amounting to the most impressive body of sustained design polemic since John Ruskin."

Former owner Ursula Juliet Morgan (1873-1916) must have shared her uncle's interest in Medieval art and in fine bindings. J. Pierpont Morgan was evidently fond of his niece, and escorted her down the aisle at her 1908 wedding to William Fitz-Simon (1867-1920), rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Tuxedo, New York.

Price: $5,500.00