Phoebe Boyle's Copy of a Striking Sangorski Illuminated Manuscript in Perfect Condition


(London: [1914]). 265 x 207 mm. (10 1/2 x 8 1/4"). 41, [3] (blank) pp., [1] leaf (colophon).

RESPLENDENT IN DARK BLUE MOROCCO, RICHLY GILT AND ONLAID, BY RIVIERE & SON (stamp-signed on front doublure), covers with wide frame of swirling gilt vines bearing red morocco blossoms and blue and green berries, bordered by strips of green and tan morocco, central panel of upper cover with recessed oval containing a portrait of a young nun sculpted in leather with painted details, this encircled by an onlaid ivory morocco rosary and surrounded by an exuberant spray of red morocco poppies with green and tan leaves, central panel of lower cover with an arch-backed black morocco cat beneath the arch of a gray morocco horseshoe at center, a black and red witch's hat above the horseshoe, and the whole on a very densely stippled gilt ground, incised with calligraphic curls and set with nine silver stars around the cat, this centerpiece surrounded by curling gilt vines bearing red morocco and gilt posies, raised bands, spine compartments framed with tan morocco, and containing a gilt and onlaid floral sprig, TAN MOROCCO DOUBLURES bordered by a strip of purple morocco, this with onlaid green morocco frame adorned with gilt latticework, densely stippled gilt cornerpieces set with purple morocco passionflowers, all accented with inlaid circles of purple, navy, and green in varying sizes, leather hinges, apricot watered silk endleaves, all edges gilt. In the original silk- and velvet-lined green morocco box. Numerous two- to three-line initials in red, blue, or burnished gold, three three-line illuminated initials, 11 five- to six-line initials in shades of purple, blue, and green, with highlights of pink and burnished gold, two of these with extensions running the length of the text and two incorporated into full borders, four very large initials (12 lines or more) in colors and gold, five full borders, that on title page incorporating a small oval miniature of Whittier, and TWO FULL-PAGE MINIATURES, one of a young nun at prayer, the other of two lovers walking in a forest. Calligraphed colophon SIGNED by Sangorski stating: "This manuscript . . . was designed, written out, and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski for Messrs. R. Rivière & Son, Bookbinders & Booksellers to his Majesty King George V. London. This manuscript will not be duplicated. This manuscript was executed by me." From the collection of Phoebe A. D. Boyle (her sale at Anderson Galleries, 19-20 November 1923, lot 368). Front flyleaf with engraved bookplate of comic book pioneer M. C. Gaines (1894-1947); typed description from "Kolb Collection" (Louis Kolb?) laid in. Ratcliffe, "Albert Sangorski Bibliography" SJR 245. ◆Vellum a bit wavy (as is typical), but A BEAUTIFUL COPY, the leaves creamy and bright, being painted with rich colors and glittering gold, and IN A FLAWLESS BINDING.

This is an outstanding example of the artistry of Alberto Sangorski and that of the binders, gilders, and finishers of Riviere & Son, the volume being executed at the zenith of their creative powers, and formerly owned by the most important collector of Sangorski's manuscripts. Sangorski has written out and illuminated three poems by American author John Greenleaf Whittier: "The Female Martyr," inspired by an 18-year-old nun from the Sisters of Charity who died nursing cholera victims; "The Witch's Daughter," set in Puritan New England; and "Memories," a lover's touching reminiscences of youthful romance. In addition to elaborate initials and borders in his preferred palette of blues, purples, and greens brightened with burnished gold, Sangorski has created two full-page paintings, one of the beautiful young nun at prayer, the other of youthful sweethearts strolling arm-in-arm through a wood.

Alberto 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. Like the manuscript here, our binding by Riviere is the work of many months, with hundreds of individual inlays, onlays, and applications of gilt. Robert Riviere began as a bookseller and binder in Bath in 1829, then set up shop as a binder in London in 1840; in 1881, he took his grandson Percival Calkin into partnership, at which time the firm became known as Riviere & Son, and the bindery continued to do business until 1939. New York collector Phoebe A. D. Boyle was the widow of a canvas manufacturer who had made a fortune providing tents to the U.S. Army in the Civil War. George Sutcliffe described this important client as "rivalling the Medici in her patronage of the production of beautiful books." Stephen Ratcliffe deems the Boyle collection as "unrivalled" for its jewelled bindings and modern illuminated manuscripts; 33 of Alberto Sangorski's creations appeared in her sale at Anderson Galleries in 1923, and during World War I, she was one of the only customers for extravagant productions like the present item. Any book from the Boyle collection, which was put together with the greatest taste and discrimination, is recognized as desirable beyond its intrinsic literary merit.

Price: $45,000.00