A Thing of Beauty with Extraordinary Illuminations on Every Page by Rachel Gribillac And with a Flamboyant Binding to Match by Marie de Jouvencel

ENDYMION: A POETIC ROMANCE

(New Rochelle, New York: Elston Press, 1902). 240 x 165 mm. (9 1/2 x 6 3/4"). 4 p.l., 115, [2] pp. ONE OF 160 COPIES.

HANDSOME MOSAIC CHOCOLATE BROWN CRUSHED MOROCCO, BY "MYRIAM" [Marie de Jouvencel] (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with inlaid border and repeating rows of interlocking circles in green morocco, raised bands, spine compartments with inlaid light brown frame, gilt titling, stylized monogram ("E L"?) formed by gilt arrows at foot of spine, GREEN MOROCCO DOUBLURES inlaid with two brown morocco frames (lobed at head and foot) and brown morocco circlets containing a blind-tooled and inlaid brown morocco flower at each corner, green silk free endleaves, marbled flyleaves, top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. CHARMINGLY ILLUMINATED THROUGHOUT BY RACHEL GRIBILLAC, with added double page pictorial title on front flyleaves, the decorative lettering within architectural frames with medallions at head featuring Endymion and his lover the Moon Goddess, putti on clouds at lower fore-edge corners, engraved title page decoration and woodcut initials by H. M. O'Kane hand-colored, EVERY PAGE WITH INHABITED HALF (or sometimes quarter) BORDER depicting the events and characters described in the poem, among them shepherds, fauns, nymphs, putti, gods, goddesses, and sea creatures, and WITH A FULL-PAGE MINIATURE of the Moon Goddess gazing down at a sleeping Endymion. Spine evenly sunned to a slightly lighter shade of brown, a hint of bowing to boards, corners faintly rubbed, a touch of browning to untrimmed edges, but A VERY FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally, the paintings with vibrant colors and bright gold, and the binding virtually unworn.

Keats' immortal phrase "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" opens this poem and describes the book that presents it: an attractive printing from a leader in the American private press movement in an intricately inlaid binding and with delightful illumination illustrating the story of a young shepherd beloved by the goddess of the moon. Founded by Clarke Conwell in 1900, the Elston Press printed some 20 books between 1900-04 and helped to reestablish the hand printing press in America. At first showing the influence of William Morris, the press soon took on its own distinctive appearance and became the most successful of the private American presses that emerged at the turn of the century. Franklin calls the work of this press "truly fine" and reflecting "the skill and taste which make good books"; he is especially impressed with the excellent handmade paper.

The fine paper and generous margins, plus the imaginative subject matter, made this book a superb choice for an illuminator, and our artist has taken full advantage of each available blank space to bring the tale from classical mythology to life. In addition to idyllic pastoral scenes, she shows us Endymion's adventures under the sea, in which he rescues a sea-god trapped by the witch Circe, encounters Neptune in his palace, and rides a sea monster. Endymion also takes to the air, on a giant eagle sent by Jupiter and on a winged steed provided by Mercury. The gods Phoebus, Apollo, Diana, and Pan also flit through the margins, along with Bacchus and his bacchantes, the Nine Muses, and assorted nymphs, fauns, and demi-gods. Venus and her human lover Adonis appear, to support the goddess-and-mortal relationship between Cynthia the Moon and her beloved Endymion. We have not been able to discover any information or other works by our artist, Rachel Gribillac, but her style suggests that she was a talented and enthusiastic amateur skilled in the application of gold and with an eye for whimsical details. The artist makes clever use of the narrow vertical and horizontal spaces by balancing lush greenery and fluffy clouds with stylized organic elements and lines that add structure to the composition, with brightly hued robes to pull the eye toward the central figures. Each illustration is also heightened with gold in some way--from delicate gilt accents to gold grounds etched with patterns--adding an element of luxury and sophistication to this work.

Though unrecorded by Flety or Duncan & De Bartha, the binder Marie de Jouvencel, who signed herself Myriam, appears in several auction records describing beautifully inlaid bindings, including one quite similar to the present design (only executed in blue and red) that was owned by binding connoisseur Maurice Burrus. She did work for the Mabilde bindery, which executed bindings for Paul Bonet, and seems to have been active in France in the 1920s and 1930s. It is possible that our illuminator was also French, and that the illumination and binding were done at about the same time.
(ST17129-001)