A Great Cover Story: Torn Asunder in a Rage by Cobden-Sanderson, Later Used as a Visual Aid


(Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1894). 206 x 140 mm. (8 1/8 x 5 1/2"). 1 p.l., 63 pp.Edited by F. S. Ellis. ONE OF 300 COPIES ON PAPER (and 12 on vellum.).

A BINDING IN-PROCESS, likely BY COBDEN-SANDERSON PUPIL MADELEINE WHYTE, the book sewn, glued, and with cardboard boards attached (see below), all edges gilt. Six very pleasing woodcut borders, woodcut printer's device, woodcut initials. Printed in red and black. Front free endpaper with the pencilled name "M. Whyte" and then an address ("Bridgelands"?); rear pastedown with vellum armorial bookplate of Lord Wardington. Peterson A-30; Sparling 30; Tomkinson, p. 114; Sotheby's, "The Wardington Library Bibles," 12 July 2006, Lot 162 (this copy). For the binder: Tidcombe, "Women Bookbinders," p. 162. ◆Three of five bands broken at rear joint (and one at front), spine and boards with obvious glue residue, rear pastedown lifted (and foxed), but A FAULTLESS COPY INTERNALLY.

This title shows "the most delicate taste and judgment" among the smaller Kelmscott productions in Franklin's opinion, and our partially bound copy from the Wardington Library has an intriguing history. The description of this item in Sotheby's catalogue for the sale of Lord Wardington's Bibles held on 12 July 2006 records a handwritten note on a scrap of lined paper (now missing) that read: "This [book] was bound [and] ready for tooling[.] Madeleine showed it to Cobden-Sanderson, whose wife had been put into prison for being a suffragette [in 1906], and he was in [such] a state [that] he said the leather (which he had picked for her) was not good enough, and in a rage he tore it off!!!" One has to ask why the volume never received a new covering, and we offer the following plausible conjecture as an explanation. "Madeleine" here is surely Madeleine Whyte and the same "M. Whyte" whose name is written at the front of our volume. According to Tidcombe, Whyte was the only Englishwoman to have been taken on by Cobden-Sanderson as a pupil (beside his own daughter, Stella, who had little interest in the work). Whyte was the grand-daughter of Lady Airlie, a great friend of Cobden-Sanderson, and she was taught for free as the daughter of a widow in need. Tidcombe says that Madeleine "may have been [Cobden-Sanderson's] last pupil, to whom he said a tearful goodbye on 15 April 1909, before moving the Press to 15 Upper Mall, and reducing the work of the Bindery." Whyte soon after moved to St. Andrews, where she taught bookbinding, probably at three different schools, and Tidcombe indicates that Cobden-Sanderson probably gave her, at some undetermined time, his set of 10 demonstration volumes--binding specimens at various stages of preparation--to use in her teaching. Since these demonstration volumes were in use well before 1906 (Tidcombe says that Cobden-Sanderson used them in 1899 when he gave a talk at Stella's school), our volume would not be one of the originals. But it could possibly have been a substitute--three of 10 originals are described by Tidcombe as missing, and our volume would seem to match the description of missing #8. In any case, since it seems to have belonged to Madeleine Whyte, and since she taught bookbinding, and since the book is in an obviously unfinished state, the inescapable conclusion is that the present object was used in her teaching. The text here is a rhymed version in English of the Penitential Psalms, done in a Kentish dialect in the 14th century and passed down to us in a manuscript executed in Gloucester about 1440, which is here transcribed and edited by Ellis.

Price: $4,000.00