SO HERE THEN IS THE LAST RIDE.

(East Aurora, New York: Roycroft Press, 1900). 202 x 140 mm. (7 7/8 x 5 1/2"). [12] French fold leaves (first two and last one blank). No. 19 OF 50 COPIES printed on Imperial Japan Vellum and hand illumined, SIGNED by publisher Elbert Hubbard and illuminator Della Place.

Attractive green three-quarter morocco over marbled boards by the Roycroft Bindery, spine with two raised bands, elongated central compartment tooled with gilt fleurons, lancets, volutes, and two small stars surrounded by gilt circlets, gilt lettering in head and tail compartments, marbled endpapers. In the (slightly worn) original felt-lined green clamshell box with publisher's printed label on tail edge. With printer's device and 11 FULL BORDERS, ALL BEAUTIFULLY ILLUMINED BY DELLA PLACE. Front pastedown with bookplate of Charlotte Barnwell Elliott. A trace of foxing to colophon, but A VERY FINE COPY--internally clean, fresh, and bright with lovely coloring, in a virtually unworn binding.

This is one of the loveliest Roycroft productions, each copy in this limited edition with hand-decorated borders by a different illuminator, so no two copies are exactly alike. For this reprint of Browning's poem "The Last Ride Together" (from his 1855 collection "Men and Women"), only very basic outlines of the designs for the borders enclosing pages of text were printed, granting each illuminator considerable artistic license. Most of the artists were women, and each chose her own color palette, with most adhering to soft pastels. Our illuminator, Della Place, favored the soft greens, peach, and pale yellow popular in Art Nouveau illustrations, but also ventured into dramatic teals, purple, and a bright, clear blue. Inspired by a visit to William Morris' Kelmscott Press in 1894, Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) purchased the struggling Roycroft Printing Shop in East Aurora, New York, and set out to launch an American Arts & Crafts Movement. Under his direction, the shop began issuing hand-printed books, some decorated with illuminations, in 1897. According to ANB, within five years, the Roycroft organization "had shops for printing and binding and for furniture, metal, and leather work; it also established training schools for the local youth in drawing, watercolor, and bookbinding. . . . Hubbard allowed free experimentation and never questioned the cost throughout the shops. Designers and craftsmen could work out ideas and, if unsuccessful, just start over. There were never deadlines for the books or prohibitions on design motifs." While Roycroft productions did not reach the elevated achievements of the best English private presses, Hubbard nevertheless had an important impact on American book arts: as his friend William Marion Reedy observed, "he makes lovers of books out of people who never knew books before." Someone certainly loved this book: it is marvelously well-preserved in its original folding box.
(ST17005)