(Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1894). 292 x 210 mm. (11 1/2 x 8 1/4"). 2 p.l., 177,  pp.,  leaf (colophon). ONE OF 250 COPIES, of which seven were printed on vellum.
SUMPTUOUS CERULEAN BLUE CRUSHED MOROCCO BY RIVIERE & SON (stamp-signed on front inner dentelle), SPLENDIDLY GILT AND INLAID, probably BY ALFRED DE SAUTY, covers with tan morocco inlaid border enclosing a wide decorative frame inlaid with leafy branches bearing 16 mauve morocco pomegranates, each with a central section outlined in citron morocco displaying the gilt and inlaid red morocco seeds inside, central panel diapered in gilt, a gilt pointillé medallion at center outlined in tan morocco and inlaid with four branches extending from its center to a pomegranate in the middle of each side of the frame, the quadrants of the medallion formed by the branches each inlaid with a pomegranate surrounded by curling leaves, raised bands, the gilt pointillé spine compartments framed by tan morocco and inlaid with either a section of leafy branch or a pomegranate, two compartments with gilt lettering, wide inner dentelles with inlaid frame of three tan morocco strips alternating with a row of gilt anular dots, the corners heavily stippled in gilt and inlaid with a pomegranate and leaves, moss green watered silk endleaves, blue morocco hinges, top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. In the (slightly scuffed) original black straight-grain morocco clamshell box designed to look like a book, with raised bands and gilt lettering, the interior padded and lined with silk and velvet. With elaborate double-page white vine border at title and opening of text, 23 three-quarter twining leafy borders, 35 large decorative woodcut initials, and 28 marginal extensions, some running the length of the text block, all designed by William Morris, and 23 woodcuts by Walter Crane, engraved on wood by A. Leverett. Printed in Troy and Chaucer types. Verso of front free endleaf with bookplate of Mary Priscilla Smith. With typed note from former owner attributing the binding work to Alfred de Sauty at Riviere laid in at front. Peterson A-22; Sparling p. 156; Tomkinson, p. 113; Lemire A-54.05; Walsdorf 22. For the binding: Nixon, Broxbourne Library 110; Tidcombe, "The Mysterious Mr. De Sauty" in "For the Love of the Binding. Studies in Bookbinding History Presented to Mirjam Foot" (2000), pp. 329-36. Silk of front free endleaf raised a little along fore edge with consequent trivial fraying, paper backing the silk free endleaves separated at gutter (but free endleaves held firmly in place by the leather hinges), a couple of tiny red spots to front flyleaves, one faint corner crease, but A SUPERB COPY, the contents entirely clean, fresh, and bright, AND THE BINDING IN SPARKLING CONDITION.
The magnificent binding on this very attractively illustrated Kelmscott printing of "The Glittering Plain" is itself glittering, thanks to the profuse use of gold pointillé tooling--thousands of minuscule gold dots painstakingly applied to create a field of gilt. The lavish use of this technique and the hundreds of meticulous inlays are characteristic of the workmanship of Alfred de Sauty (1870-1949), a finisher at the Riviere firm in the 1890s. In "Modern Bookbinding," Sarah Prideaux says de Sauty's work "is of considerable merit. His inlays are distinguished for the taste shown in the association of colours, and his finishing has some of the brilliant qualities of the French school, seen particularly in the finely studded [i.e., pointillé] tooling of which he seems particularly fond." The inlay colors here are both true to nature (the darker, brownish red rind of the pomegranate contrasting with the brilliant scarlet seeds) and harmonious. The binding design itself--central medallion linked by extensions to the frame--is also one de Sauty favored. In his "Styles and Designs of Bookbindings from the 12th to the 20th Century," illustrated with specimens from the Broxbourne Library, Nixon features a binding similar to this one in overall design and in the techniques employed, as an exemplar of de Sauty's work, citing it as "a most accomplished piece of finishing." He further notes that de Sauty's "finishing was of a very high standard and he was a patient and careful worker." The son of an engineer, de Sauty had studied engineering himself before taking up bookbinding, and he brings an engineer's precision to his handiwork. After leaving the Riviere firm in the late 1890s, he worked as a designer at the Hampstead bindery; in her essay "The Mysterious Mr. De Sauty," binding authority Marianne Tidcombe observes, "De Sauty was responsible for some of the best designs of the two binderies, and carried out all the stages of the craft himself, from sewing to the designing and exceptionally delicate tooling of the covers." De Sauty also taught bookbinding at the London County Council School of Arts and Crafts, passing on his knowledge to a new generation of binders and advising them to create their own tools, as he did. In 1908, he emigrated to America to become the manager of the Extra Bindery at RR Donnelly Co. in Chicago. He returned to England after his retirement in 1935.
The text here is the only title to be printed twice by the Kelmscott Press. Morris' prose romance set in a fantasy world originally appeared as the first publication of the press in 1891, without the illustrations, because Morris had grown impatient waiting for artist Walter Crane to produce the designs commissioned to accompany his tale. Perhaps regretting his haste, Morris later approached Crane about completing the project as planned, with half of the profits from the new issue to be paid to Crane. The result was our larger-format illustrated edition with 23 wood engravings in various sizes by A. Leverett after Crane, each enclosed in a decorative wood engraved border designed by Morris. Neither the borders in this book, nor six out of the seven frames around the illustrations, appear in any other Kelmscott book. There are more illustrations in this 1894 edition than any of the other 53 books printed at the Kelmscott Press except "The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer." Apart from its decorative appeal, the work is viewed now as a precursor of today's fantasy literature, which occupies such a prominent position in our popular culture.
Even without the spectacular binding, this would be a copy of "Glittering Plain" to be coveted for its immaculate internal condition. With the addition of a binding that is breathtaking in design and execution, it seems irresistible. (ST17056)
Add to Cart Price: $85,000.00
PJP Catalog: CA22BF.026