(London: Riccardi Press, for the Medici Society, 1913). 272 x 204 mm. (10 5/8 x 8"). Three volumes. No. 129 OF 500 COPIES ON PAPER (and 12 on vellum) SIGNED by the artist.
Original flexible vellum, gilt titling, silk ties. IN THE ORIGINAL PRINTED BLUE DUST JACKETS AND (somewhat worn and faded) MATCHING SLIPCASES. With 36 COLORED PLATES, each with printed tissue overlay, and three engraved title vignettes, all AFTER DRAWINGS BY W. RUSSELL FLINT. Two Riccardi prospectuses and/or advertisements in the form of bookmarks laid into volume I; four-page Medici Society booklist laid into volume II. Tomkinson, p. 149. ◆Dust jacket spines evenly faded, jacket to first volume a little creased and rumpled (but still doing its job), the vellum with a little bit of grain showing (but much less than is almost always seen); otherwise (and apart from the damage to the slipcases), a pristine set, the volumes themselves with no signs of use.
Protected by the original jackets and slipcases for more than a century, these volumes are virtually unchanged from the day they were issued, being highlighted by bright leaves and plates, spotless bindings, and never-used silk ties. One of the later entries in what Houfe calls "a brilliant series of luxury editions" Flint illustrated for the Riccardi Press between 1905-24, "Canterbury Tales" is also one of the longest and most extensively illustrated; only the four-volume "Le Morte D'Arthur" had more plates, with 48. According to DNB, painter and illustrator Sir William Russell Flint (1880-1969) "was inspired by 'many sorts of beauty' and a determination to address both populist and artistic milieus with his artwork." Flint's figures, says Houfe, "are finely modelled and contain elements of a Burne-Jones influence by way of Byam Shaw." He was especially known for idealized female nudes, and while Chaucer's Medieval English setting required more clothing that he would normally have provided his subjects, they retain a charge of eroticism; the Wife of Bath may be fully dressed, but the mischievous leer on her face reveals her bawdy character. As Tomkinson relates, the Riccardi Press "was adopted in 1909 by the Medici Society at 7 Grafton Street, London; the books [were] printed at the Chiswick Press (under the supervision of Charles T. Jacobi until his retirement in 1922) and published by Philip Lee Warner, who was Publisher to the Medici Society until his death in 1925 . . . . The aim of the Press has been to produce finely printed books at reasonable prices and for sale through the ordinary channels of trade. . . . All editions are strictly limited, and the type is distributed after the edition has been printed." And although Riccardi Press books do not rank with Kelmscotts or Ashendenes, those with plates after Flint have a very substantial appeal, especially when the volumes in question are in the immaculate condition seen here. (ST17640a)