A Gorgeous Binding by John Wright


(London: William Pickering, 1843). 280 x 190 mm. (11 x 7 1/2"). [48] leaves. Volume I only (of two). FIRST EDITION.

DAZZLING CONTEMPORARY PEBBLE-GRAIN RED MOROCCO, GILT, by J. Wright (stamped in ink on verso of front free endpaper), covers ornately gilt with plain and dogtooth rule borders enclosing wide frames formed by swirling vines with a remarkable number of flowers and other tools, with two dozen birds scattered among the blooms, raised bands, compartments gilt in double-ruled compartments, three with dense floral tooling, two with gilt lettering, and one with a griffin tool, wide gilt turn-ins with multiple straight and decorative rules, glossy cream paper pastedowns, front pastedown with gilt initials "B. B." beneath a gilt griffin, red leather hinges, all edges gilt. With intricate color initials resembling those in Medieval manuscripts at the beginning of each entry, numerous color and black & white illustrations in the text, AND 38 PLATES, as called for, MANY FINISHED BY HAND, and one of them double-page. Front free endpaper with ink signature of Beckford Bevan dated 1843. Colas 2720; Hiler, p. 796; Lipperheide 325; Vinet 2123; Brunet V, 363. ◆With a little light scattered foxing internally, but THE EXCEPTIONALLY BEAUTIFUL BINDING EXCEPTIONALLY WELL PRESERVED.

This is the splendidly bound first volume of a colorful monograph on the fashion, art, and objects of the Middle Ages. McLean calls "Dresses and Decorations" the "most ambitious" of several important illustrated books produced by Henry Shaw (1800-73), a gifted draughtsman and illuminator known for his reproductions of Medieval ornamentation. Ray says that "Shaw's career was devoted to rescuing the English past through a long series of imposing books on architecture and art, published chiefly by William Pickering at the Chiswick Press [as here]," and that the present work "is one of the finest of his works." Ruari McLean goes further: "There are 94 plates [in the two volumes], showing paintings, miniatures, stained glass, furnishings, glasses, chests, vestments, gold cups, jewellery, etc., etc., most on copper, hand-colored in the most sumptuous way; in addition, the text accompanying every item is . . . adorned with elaborate initials and decorations printed in color from wood blocks." Partly because of the typographic beauty of the work, McLean says that the book "has a considerable claim to be called the most handsome book produced in the whole of the 19th century." The binder John Wright is listed by Packer as working in London for 13 years until the summer of 1854, when he died of cholera (along with his nephew and four workers in his bindery). Ramsden says that Wright "was a binder of the first order." The tooling here is nothing short of a tour de force, and the condition cannot be overpraised. The original owner of this volume, Beckford Bevan (1823-98), obviously bought this book and had it bound in the year of its publication, as indicated by the "1843" date on the front flyleaf. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford in 1841 and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1844. He married Louisa Sophia Hoffman in 1851 and had a son and four daughters. Given how splendid the present binding is, the book was perhaps given to him as a gift. (Volume II was stolen in transit from the seller, leaving us with flawed beauty, but notable beauty nevertheless.).

Price: $750.00