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Chaucer, Geoffrey; Saunders, John (editor); [Sandys, Winifred] (artist); [Crane, Walter]. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; WITH: sixteen original painted miniatures after figures in the book. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1894.
Octavo, measuring 7 x 4.75 inches: xiv, , 487, ; 15 postcards measuring 5.5 x 3.5 each and an additional sheet of thick paper cut to the same size (16 total). Book: original full green cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Wood-engraved frontispiece and 22 full-page wood engravings of Chaucer’s pilgrims, most graphed or annotated in pencil by Sandys, many hand-colored; woodcut headpieces and initials throughout text. Pencil notations regarding Chaucer manuscripts on front free endpaper; ink presentation inscription by the editor’s son to Walter Crane, father-in-law of Winifred Sandys. Some rolling to spine, front hinge split, minor spotting to boards. Cards: original miniature paintings of Chaucer and his pilgrims on rectos; printed postcard instructions on versos of all items but one. Chaucer portrait labeled by the artist in black ink, Miller and Monk portraits labeled by the artist in pencil.
Walter Crane’s copy of The Canterbury Tales, inscribed to him by the son of the late editor, with annotations and hand-coloring by Crane’s daughter-in-law, the miniaturist Winifred Sandys, accompanied by sixteen of her original miniatures in imitation of the Harleian and Ellesmere manuscripts of the Tales.
John Saunders first published this edition of The Canterbury Tales in 1845, an accessible text for general readers, featuring a modernized translation of Chaucer’s Middle English verse. In 1889, his edition was reissued with illustrations inspired by two early Chaucerian manuscripts: a frontispiece portrait based on the Harleian manuscript, and Canterbury pilgrims drawn from the Ellesmere manuscript. This 1894 copy was presented to Walter Crane, the leading illustrator of the Arts and Crafts movement, by John Saunders’s son, E.M. Saunders.
The eldest child of Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederick Sandys, the miniaturist Winifred Sandys (1875-1944) supported her nine siblings as an artist after their father’s death. In 1921, she married Walter Crane’s son Lionel, presumably gaining access to this family copy of The Canterbury Tales. Sandys has made a careful study of the illustrations in this volume as the basis for her own series of Chaucerian miniatures. Many of the illustrations have grid lines added in pencil, which Sandys would have used to approximate correct proportions in her own versions. She appears to have researched the fifteenth-century manuscripts that inspired the illustrations: her notes and coloring closely match the coloring of the originals. (While it is possible Sandys viewed the manuscripts directly, she more likely consulted facsimiles: on page 33, she marks Saunders’s description of the 1868 Ellesmere facsimile.) The completed miniatures include the Harleian portrait of Chaucer, the Clerk, the Monk, the Miller (once on postcard, once on paper), the Friar, the Summoner, the Pardoner, the Parson, the Serjeant-At-Law, the Doctor of Physic, the Canon’s Yeoman, the Franklin, the Merchant, the Shipman, and the Cook. From the library of Anthony Crane, grandson of Walter Crane and son of Winifred Sandys, who has attributed the coloring and annotations to his mother. A wonderful collection, connecting the medieval manuscript tradition, the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and the Arts and Crafts movement.