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THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
New York: Printed for the members of the Limited Editions Club at the Harbor Press, 1937. No. 1,303 of 1,500 copies, signed by the artist in the colophon n. Hardcover. 279 x 184 mm (11 x 7 1/4"). xii, 42 pp. No. 1,303 of 1,500 copies, signed by the artist in the colophon. EVOCATIVE BLACK MOROCCO BY ROGER POWELL (stamp-signed and dated 1984 on rear turn-in), covers with an all-over grid of blind rules, large "T"-shaped central gilt ornament of multiple rules, this repeated as a small blind stamp below, flat spine with vertical gilt titling, all edges gilt. In the original morocco-trimmed chemise and matching slipcase. With nine lithographs by Zhenya Gay depicting prison life. "Quarto-Millenary" 87. In mint condition. In a very effective correlation of cover design and volume content, Wilde's haunting poem is clearly echoed in this severe, somber binding by the man Bernard Middleton has called "one of the most important and influential bookbinders of the last hundred years and, arguably, of any period." The all-over blind-tooled grid on the boards effectively suggests the tight restriction of prison bars, and the gilt tooling intimates a crucifixion, appropriate for a poem about both execution and the redemptive power of Christ's love. Roger Powell (1896-1990) served in World War I and briefly operated a chicken farm before entering London's Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1930. There, he trained under Peter McLeish, William Matthews, and the great Douglas Cockerell, who later invited Powell to join his firm, where he soon became a full partner. As an indication of the esteem his work had earned, he was chosen by Trinity College Dublin to rebind their priceless Book of Kells in 1953, and the result was so impressive that the college awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree. As his career progressed, Powell became more and more concerned with conservation. According to DNB, "for Powell the conservation and design aspects of the craft were complementary, . . . and while many binders have, since the 1950s or 1960s, increasingly been drawn to treat the book as an art object, Powell was always highly resistant" to any design elements that might jeopardize a book's use or durability. A long poem in six-line rhymed stanzas, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" was written in France in 1897 after Wilde's release from prison. Written in memory of Charles Wooldridge, who was executed in 1896 for killing his wife in a jealous rage, it is generally considered to be Wilde's greatest poem. Day identifies the poem's theme as "society's cruelty in inflicting of punishment without understanding." Despite the stigma attached to Wilde at the time (or perhaps because of the publicity related to his infamy), the poem was a considerable commercial success. It also was hailed by the critics as a successful change in direction in Wilde's poetry, characterized by a much greater expression of sincerity.
      [Bookseller: Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Mediev]
Last Found On: 2014-10-26           Check availability:      Biblio    

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