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SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE
London: Vale Press, 1897. ONE OF 300 COPIES on paper (and eight on vellum) n. Hardcover. 152 x 121 mm (6 x 4 3/4"). 46 pp., [1] leaf. ONE OF 300 COPIES on paper (and eight on vellum). Pleasing blue-gray crushed morocco by Zaehnsdorf (stamp-signed on front turn-in and with the firm's oval exhibition stamp on rear pastedown), covers with delicate gilt frame of swirling tendrils bearing azured leaves, flat spine with gilt tendrils and titling, turn-ins with multiple plain and decorative rules, crimson watered silk endleaves, top edge gilt. With two large woodcut white-vine initials by Charles Ricketts, printed in red. Ransom, p. 435; Tomkinson, p. 166. Spine evenly sunned, small dark stain (a half inch in diameter) at middle of fore-edge of book block (just barely extending onto the margin of most pages), otherwise fine, the binding unworn and the text fresh and clean. This is an appealing edition of Barrett Browning's remarkable love poems in a pretty, feminine binding. It is the 14th work from the press that was founded--and closely supervised by--Charles Ricketts, who was perhaps the most significant figure in the private press movement after William Morris. From 1896-1903, Ricketts ran the Vale Press, which produced books that in Cave's words were "far truer to the spirit of fifteenth-century printing than Kelmscott work." The Press issued nearly 50 titles, and both its impressive output and considerable artistic success can be attributed to the fact that Ricketts, who was remarkably skilled as a designer, painter, and illustrator, was in control of every facet of the operation. Tomkinson observes that "although the actual printing was done on the premises of the Ballantyne Press, the Vale books were built entirely on Mr. Ricketts' design under his personal supervision on a press set apart for his sole use; the founts, decorations, illustrations (including the engraving on the wood), watermarks, and pagination were all the work of Mr. Ricketts, and it is doubtful if, in the history of printing, books have been made which reflect the invention and work of one man more explicitly than do the Vale books." One of the most famous female poets in English literature, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) is best remembered for the present "Sonnets from the Portuguese," including her famous Sonnet 43, beginning, "How do I love thee." These sonnets depict the author's unleashed emotions during her celebrated love affair with fellow poet Robert Browning, a romance that led to their elopement and marriage in 1846. Alternating between joy and melancholy, the poems are still beloved today for their lyrical and emotive powers. The delicate tooling here is typical of the work of the Zaehnsdorf bindery, and the oval stamp on the rear pastedown is a special sign of the firm's satisfaction with the binder's level of achievement.
      [Bookseller: Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Mediev]
Last Found On: 2015-10-11           Check availability:      Biblio    

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