ITALY, A POEM. [and] POEMS.
(London: Printed for T. Cadell, 1830, 1834). 202 x 135 mm. (8 x 5 1/2"). iv, , 284 pp.; viii, 295,  pp. Two separately published works bound in two volumes (but often found as companion volumes). First Illustrated Editions.
VERY ATTRACTIVE GREEN MOROCCO BY RIVIERE & SON (stamp-signed on front turn-in), BEAUTIFULLY GILT-TOOLED BY FINISHER CHARLES MCLEISH, covers with frame of two gilt rules, with gilt dots along the inner frame, raised bands, spine lavishly gilt in compartments with complex design formed by trefoils sprouting from a central branch along with clusters of berries, the background with gilt pointillé, gilt lettering, gilt-rule-and-dot frame repeated on turn-ins, maroon endpapers, all edges gilt. The two volumes with a total of four plates, 20 illustrations in the text, and more than 100 fine steel-engraved headpieces and tailpieces, after designs mostly by J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Stothard. Italy with A HANDWRITTEN NOTE SIGNED BY ROGERS bound in at front. Ray 13, 15. Spines evenly sunned to a light brown (as usual with green morocco), a hint of sunning to top inch of three covers, faint offsetting from engravings, other trivial imperfections, but A FINE SET, clean and fresh internally, IN LUSTROUS, UNWORN BINDINGS.
In handsome morocco finished by one of the finest binders of the day, this is an extremely appealing set of two poetic works with illustrations of considerable interest. Born in 1859, finisher Charles McLeish was apprenticed to Andrew Grieve in Edinburgh, then came to London to work for the prestigious Riviere firm. When Cobden-Sanderson founded the Doves Bindery in 1893, he hired McLeish as the firm's finisher; McLeish held that estimable position until 1909, when he left to go into partnership with his son, also named Charles, who had apprenticed under Roger de Coverly. McLeish's expertise in applying the gilt decoration to bindings is evident here in the intricate tooling of the spine compartments, which required applying individual small tools dozens of times, and doing so with such exactness that only the most careful inspection will spot a couple of minute variations between one compartment and another.
The scion of a wealthy banking family, Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) first achieved fame with the publication in 1792 of "The Pleasures of Memory." After Italian travels, during which he met Shelley and Byron in Pisa, Rogers produced a first version of "Italy" in 1822 and issued a sequel in 1826, both of which sold poorly. He destroyed the unsold copies, revised the poems, and published them at his own expense in the present edition of 1830 (our first volume), embellished this time by illustrations. These were the work of two artists with very different propensities--Stothard (1755-1834), who did demure figure scenes, and Turner (1775-1851), who provided landscape vignettes. The success of this edition was perhaps due as much to the artists as to the poet.
Britannica describes Rogers as a "witty conversationalist" who "maintained an influential position as a leading figure in London society and as a generous host to brilliant company." Bound in here is an invitation to tea at his lovely home at 22 St James's Place: "Dear Katherine / If you & Miss Mallet / & Wm. have nothing better to do, / pray come & drink tea with me / next Sunday, the earlier the better. / Yours very truly, Saml Rogers / St. James's Place / Thursday Evg." It is possible "Katherine" was London socialite Katherine Jane Canning, daughter of British diplomat Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe; Rogers inscribed a copy of the 1845 edition of his poems to her, according to auction records. (ST17640v)