THE WORKS OF ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON, POET LAUREATE.
(London: Macmillan and Co., 1903). 188 x 123 mm. (7 3/8 x 4 3/4"). viii, 900,  pp.
CHARMING HAND-PAINTED VELLUM BY RIVIERE & SON (stamp-signed on front turn-in), front cover with a view of an arched balcony, a potted plant in the foreground, a book resting on the ledge, tree branches, blue sky, and two tiny gilt birds visible through the arches, rear cover framed by gilt fillets, smooth spine with a hand-painted tree outlined in gilt rising through two compartments, another compartment with gilt lettering, gilt-ruled turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With engraved frontispiece portrait of the poet. Front flyleaf inscribed in ink, "To Rumply / from Mummy & Daddy / in recognition of her / matriculating. 1945 / 'Well Done.'" ◆A trace of soiling to head of rear joint, portrait and adjacent leaves a little foxed, but A FINE COPY with no other signs of use inside or out.
This volume of the complete works of Tennyson was bound by Riviere in painted vellum reminiscent of the bindings produced at the Royal College of Art Needlework in the 1890s. Our binding was likely executed soon after the book was published (and definitely before it was presented in 1945, Riviere having merged with the Bayntun bindery in the 1930s). A problem with the Royal College of Art Needlework's painted vellum bindings was that the gilt--which was painted on, as it would be in an illuminated manuscript--tended to flake or rub off. Riviere solved this difficulty by tooling the gilt rather than painting it. The colors on painted vellum bindings can rub or fade with too much handling, but the present item has rarely, if ever, been read, and clearly was lovingly preserved by previous owners.
Riviere was one of the great English binderies of both the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Robert Riviere began as a bookseller and binder in Bath in 1829, then set up shop as a binder in London in 1840; in 1881, he took his grandson Percival Calkin into partnership, at which time the firm became known as Riviere & Son, and the bindery continued to do business until 1939. They produced bindings in a bewildering range of styles, from the restrained to the extravagant, and always enjoyed a reputation for work of the highest quality. (ST17202)