A Spectacular Illuminated Vellum Manuscript, with 16 Full-Page Miniatures, In a Dazzling Sangorski Binding Adorned with more than 80 Jewels


([London: 1931]). 307 x 215 mm. (12 x 8 1/2"). 40 pp., [1] leaf (colophon).

DAZZLING CRIMSON CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT, INLAID, AND BEJEWELLED, BY SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE (stamp-signed on rear turn-in), covers with inlaid light blue morocco border, blue Celtic knot strapwork at middle of each side and at corners, those on upper cover with a ruby or sapphire at center, those on lower cover with a circle of red or blue morocco at center, cornerpieces connected by a graceful loop to the blue morocco strip framing the central oval panel, the spaces between the strapwork ornaments and the inner and outer frames filled with pointillé gilt compartments tooled with gilt vines bearing inlaid white morocco flowers (upper cover) or purple morocco thistles (lower cover), a recessed medallion of green morocco at center of upper cover set WITH BURNS' INITIALS IN METAL ENCRUSTED WITH 80 JEWELS (40 CABOCHON RUBIES AND 40 CABOCHON SAPPHIRES) of varying sizes, central oval panel on lower cover with gilt lyre at center within a laurel wreath, surrounded by swirling branches of inlaid white morocco roses; raised bands, spine compartments with inlaid green and white morocco thistle at center, enclosed by light blue strapwork, the pointillé gilt background with inlaid white morocco flowers at corners, CERULEAN BLUE MOROCCO DOUBLURES AND ENDLEAVES, the front doublure inlaid at center with Burns' personal seal of a tan and white morocco woodlark perched on a branch of bay leaves bearing red berries, a red morocco banner below the bird lettered in gilt "Woodnotes Wild," corners of doublures with three inlaid pink morocco roses and a gilt thistle, free endleaves with gilt borders, all edges gilt on the rough. In a velvet-lined navy blue morocco case by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. EXTRAVAGANTLY ILLUMINATED THROUGHOUT: title page with large decorative initial and full illuminated border of thistles and acanthus leaves enclosing title and the royal arms in Scotland, frontispiece portrait of Burns (signed with Sangorski's cipher and dated 1931) within a laurel wreath surrounded by a frame of thistles on a textured gold ground, large illuminated initials on almost every page, WITH 16 MINIATURES, EIGHT OF THEM FULL-PAGE WITHIN FULL BORDERS, nine other full borders, seven panel borders, one three-quarter border (six of the borders inhabited by a faun, various birds, a squirrel, or a lizard, the borders all with varying types of foliage in shades of blue, purple, and green with backgrounds of burnished or incised gold, the border for "Rosy Brier" containing many pink roses), all protected by the original ivory silk guards. Ratcliffe, "Alberto Sangorski Bibliography" (2015) and "Hidden Treasures" (2008) MWE 61; "The History of the Book: The Cornelius J. Hauck Collection," Christie's, 27 June 2006, lot 669 (this copy). ◆Very minor fraying to some of the silk guards, but essentially unblemished--A LOVELY COPY IN A SPARKLING BINDING.

Done during the mature years of Alberto Sangorski's career, this lavishly illustrated and illuminated manuscript reunited the artist with his late brother's bindery, restoring a working partnership after 20 years of estrangement. Sangorski (1862-1932) started his professional life as secretary to a goldsmith's firm, became attracted to the book arts at the age of 43, and began doing illuminated manuscripts that were then bound by his brother Francis' firm, Sangorski & Sutcliffe. Sometime around 1910, Alberto and Francis had a falling out, and the artist went to work for Riviere, the chief competitor to his brother's firm. Francis drowned in 1912, while the brothers were still unreconciled; in "Cinderella of the Arts," a history of Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Rob Shepherd notes that Alberto apparently did not speak to George Sutcliffe again until 1930. The men must have reconciled sometime that year, because at least four of the six works Alberto created in 1931-32 (per Stephen Ratcliffe's checklist) were bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. The jewelled binding George's firm created for this manuscript hearkens back to the pre-WWI glory days when an intense rivalry between Riviere and Sangorski developed, and the two began putting out intricately decorated bindings described by Nixon as having as their main aim the putting of "so much gold and color on the cover that the hue of the original leather could no longer be determined." In "Hidden Treasures: Jewelled Bookbindings and Illuminated Manuscripts in England, 1900-1939," Ratcliffe notes that this is "an exceptionally elaborate binding" for 1931; costs of materials and labor had skyrocketed in the decade before, while the Great Depression and American protectionist tariffs were shrinking the market for luxury books like this. It is truly one of the last great relics of an era that produced some of the loveliest manuscripts and bindings ever made. The contents here include the Burns poems "Tam O'Shanter," "Meg o' the Mill," "The Ploughman," "To Mary in Heaven," "The Sodger's [Soldier's] Return," "There was a Lass," "O Bonnie was Yon Rosy Brier," and a five-page life of the poet. The full page (or very large) miniatures include depictions of Tam on horseback riding through a thunderstorm, Tam dancing with pixies, Meg of the Mill, the return of the soldier, the lass and her farm, and Rosy Brier; the smaller miniatures include landscapes (mostly of the area around Burns' birthplace in Ayr), scenes from the poems, or portraits of their subjects. Like the binding, the manuscript is unusually flamboyant, with lavish borders and substantially more miniatures than is customary--as if Alberto knew the end of his career was nigh and wanted to go out with a flourish. This gem was once in the illustrious collection of Cincinnati businessman and philanthropist Cornelius J. Hauck (1893-1967); the sale of his library at Christie’s in 2006 totaled more than $12.4 million (this lot--one of six Sangorski manuscripts in the sale--sold for $42,000, all in).

Price: $110,000.00