(London: Vale Press, 1900). 232 x 145 mm. (9 1/8 x 5 5/8"). cxxv, [i] pp.,  leaf. ONE OF 320 COPIES on paper (another 10 were issued on vellum).
ENTRANCING CONTEMPORARY OLIVE CRUSHED MOROCCO PRESUMABLY BY FLORENCE PAGET (stamp-signed "F P" and "1901" on rear turn-in), covers beautifully gilt with wide frame of scrolling floral vines around a central panel blank (except for titling on front board), raised bands, spine gilt with floral vine twining through the panels, front turn-in with the motto (in handsome capitals) "In great trials solitude is of assistance but I pray nevertheless that friends may be close at hand," floral paste-paper endpapers printed in greens and browns, with repeating pattern of circles containing a rose, a tulip, and a carnation (reminiscent of 17th century Dutch work), all edges gilt. With printer's device on final leaf facing colophon, two large foliated woodcut initials and full leafy border on first page, all designed by C. S. Ricketts and engraved by C. E. Keates. Recto of front flyleaf with engraved bookplate of Idina Brassey (see below). Tomkinson 29. ◆Spine sunned to a pleasing tan, otherwise IN SPLENDID CONDITION, the binding bright, lustrous, and scarcely worn, and the text virtually immaculate.
This handsomely printed edition of Tennyson's famed elegiac poem was bound with tasteful animation by a woman who was a student of the great Douglas Cockerell. Florence Paget (fl. 1899-1907) was one of a small group of distinguished female binders at work in England at the turn of the 20th century. As Tidcombe indicates--and as the present item attests--"her tastefully designed gold-tooled bindings are sometimes seen on private press books of the period" (we had another Vale Press book, Campion's "Fifty Songs," bound by Paget in our catalogue 38). Our binder achieved an important distinction by being selected (along with Katharine Adams and Alice Pattinson) to bind copies of the Ashendene Press "Song of Songs," the illuminated book printed on vellum that stands as one of the greatest achievements of the modern private press movement.
The Vale Press books, which Cave says were "far truer to the spirit of fifteenth-century printing than Kelmscott work," included nearly 50 titles issued during the eight-year life of the press, and both the impressive output and the press' considerable artistic success can be attributed to the fact that Ricketts, who was remarkably skilled as a designer, painter, and illustrator, was in control of every facet of the operation. One of the Poet Laureate's best-loved works, "In Memoriam" is a tribute to his college friend, Arthur Henry Hallam (1811-33), whose tragic death brought Tennyson's writing to a standstill for some time. Written in rhyming quatrains, the poem moves from grief and doubt to certainty that the universe is purposeful. It was a sensational best-seller, striking a deep note of resonance with Victorian readers and the queen herself, who told the poet that "Next to the Bible, 'In Memoriam' is my comfort."
The previous owner of this volume, Lady Idina Brassey (1865–1951), was the daughter of the 1st Marquess of Abergavenny and the wife of Thomas Brassey, 2nd Earl Brassey. She was active in the Settlement Movement (designed to offer basic housing and other needs as well as education to the urban poor), and served as a magistrate in Hastings during World War II. (ST17263-07)