FRIAR JEROME'S BEAUTIFUL BOOK.
([Chicago]: Written and Illuminated for The Renaissance Society, ca. 1915). 216 x 153 mm. (8 1/2 x 6"). [ii], 28 pp.,  leaf (colophon). Single column, 18 lines in an attractive calligraphic hand.
VERY PRETTY VIOLET CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID for The Renaissance Society (stamp-signed in gilt on front doublure), smooth spine with gilt titling, FULL MOROCCO DOUBLURES consisting of a green morocco panel framed by purple morocco with gilt dots and scrolling floral motifs at each corner, each with an inlaid white morocco flower, cream-colored watered silk endleaves. In a lavender buckram chemise and matching purple morocco-backed slipcase with raised bands and gilt lettering. With many one-line initials in pink, each leaf with a different two- to four-line initial in a different style (with both painted and gilt elements, and exuberantly decorated), most leaves with a panel or "L"-shaped border ranging from simple lines to elaborate decorative bars, a few borders with small landscapes and a total of FOUR FIGURAL SCENES, decorative title page with colorful initials, lettering, and decorative flourishes, text beginning with A HALF-PAGE MINIATURE OF ST. JEROME AT HIS DESK, surrounded by A FULL BORDER of flowers, gilt detailing, and stylized heads of putti. Front free endpaper with bookplate of Phoebe Boyle. Leather with a slight chalky appearance, silk endleaves starting to fray at fore edge, a few leaves with a hint of waviness, but THE MANUSCRIPT IN BEAUTIFUL CONDITION, the vellum entirely clean, and the paint especially bright and fresh.
Exuberantly decorated by a mysterious artist, this manuscript was commissioned and bound for The Renaissance Society of Chicago before making its way into the superb collection of American bibliophile Phoebe Boyle. The text here comes from a poem by "Atlantic Monthly" writer and editor Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907), imagining the agony and the ecstasy of St. Jerome as he sat down to write his translation of the Bible. The illumination, though certainly inspired by the decorative programs of Medieval manuscripts, is decidedly modern in appearance, drawing on the Art Nouveau movement and utilizing bold color combinations and whimsical design motifs. Although we were unable to find any information about its scribe and illuminator, Siuol Na-Huab, the artist must have been highly regarded in contemporary circles. The colophon states that the manuscript was written and illuminated for The Renaissance Society--an artistic group associated with the University of Chicago whose mission was to cultivate and promote modern art--and it was given an appropriately luxurious binding by the same organization. The manuscript was obviously valued highly enough to join the collection of Phoebe A. D. Boyle, a client George Sutcliffe described as "rivalling the Medici in her patronage of the production of beautiful books." (Shepherd, "The Cinderella of the Arts," p. 63) Stephen Ratcliffe describes the Boyle collection as "unrivalled" for its jewelled bindings and modern illuminated manuscripts, and any book from the Boyle collection, which was put together with the greatest taste and discrimination, is recognized as desirable beyond its intrinsic literary merit. (ST17129-042)