As Fine a Copy as one Could Hope To Find of the Supremely Successful Collaboration of Text, Decoration, and Typography


(Waltham St. Lawrence: Golden Cockerel Press, 1929-31). 318 x 197 mm. (12 1/2 x 7 3/4"). Four volumes. No. 344 OF 485 COPIES on paper (and 15 on vellum).

Original Niger morocco-backed patterned paper boards by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, raised bands, gilt titling, top edges gilt, others untrimmed. The four volumes housed in two burnt orange morocco-backed cloth clamshell boxes with gilt lettering on the backs. Red and blue initials, ONE FULL-PAGE AND EIGHT HALF-PAGE WOOD ENGRAVINGS, AND 267 VERY PLEASING WOOD-ENGRAVED BORDERS (frequently inhabited) AND TAILPIECES BY ERIC GILL (each border design repeated two to five times, so that nearly every page is thus adorned). Chanticleer 63; Gill 281. Spines softly sunned--though uncharacteristically very minor and uniform in the fading; otherwise faultless. AN EXEMPLARY COPY, PRISTINE INTERNALLY.

This is as fine a copy as one could hope to find of one of the best examples in modern fine press work of the successful collaboration of text, decoration, and typography. With the "Four Gospels" of 1931 and "Troilus and Criseyde" of 1927, it is one of the three greatest Golden Cockerel Press books, and according to Cave & Mason, its "naughty, amusing" engravings make it one of the five "foremost English illustrated books of the 20th century." It was produced at the zenith of the decade-long collaboration between Golden Cockerel Press director and book designer Robert Gibbings (1889-1958) and artist Eric Gill (1882-1940) which, in the words of Gill biographer Fiona McCarthy, "resulted in some of the classic examples of specialist book production of that period," works that "have a forcefulness and clarity which still excites one." While some squeamish critics deemed Gill's racy engravings inappropriate, the bawdy Chaucer would no doubt have been delighted with them and found them most apt. Colin Franklin astutely observed that the "Gill/Gibbings version [of 'Canterbury Tales'] tackled the problems of illustrating Chaucer IN ALL HIS MOODS. [emphasis in original]." Cave & Mason report that its publication was "regarded as a literary event" and was widely reported and well received by the press. The book was very profitable, grossing some £14,000 for the Press. It is to be expected that a major production from a major press like the Golden Cockerel "Tales" would in many cases be very well treated by owners down through the years, but copies now are almost never found in the immaculate condition seen here.

Price: $29,000.00