by Humphreys, Henry Noel (compiler, editor, and illuminator)
London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849. Small 4to. Title-page, 2 ff., (4), xcv, , ii (Descriptive Index of the Embellishments), 1 f. (Illuminated Works by H. Noel Humphreys). Printed in black and red, with woodcuts throughout, and 4 full-page chromolithographs and 2 smaller chromolithographs illustrating the text. In beautiful original state, the famous pierced "Gothic" binding created from a mould formed by a papier-mâché and plaster mixture, almost perfect condition save a very small (6 mm) and unimportant wormhole inside the front cover (at the foot of the gutter margin), edges of the corners a trifle rounded. Original black leather spine, a.e.g. On the recto of the first blank leaf, in calligraphic MS on recto: "S.J. Hannam" surrounded by fine penwork. This is the finest copy we have seen, and it may be the finest copy we will ever see. The justly famous pierced Gothic binding is, according to Ruari McLain, "the most elaborate yet of the black papier-mâché kind." This is a celebration of Victorian antiquarianism by its early champion. It could be argued that the text itself is merely a vehicle for Humphreys' passionate excursions into what we now describe as the Victorian Gothic book. In our opinion. "A Record of the Black Prince" is his masterpiece. It may be the ne-plus-ultra of its genre. Humphrey's text relates the the life and deeds of Edward, the "Black Prince" of Wales (1330-1336), and is based on Froissart's near-contemporary Chronicles. The book is illustrated with chromolithograph reproductions of 15th-century Froissart manuscripts, which portray "in compelling detail the chivalric ethos, with its emphasis on honor, valor, and charity. Froissart's texts contributed to the vision of John Ruskin and William Morris, who hoped to inspire and elevate their fellow Britons through knowledge of the days of chivalry. The book is a mixture of popularized medieval history and machine craft. The black papier-mâché cover is modeled after a plaque from the Black Prince's tomb. Gothic Revival architectural sculpture is echoed in the trefoils and shield of the deeply pierced cover, which is strikingly accentuated by red paper set behind the openings. Such a binding made readers feel as if they held an object from the world of the Black Prince himself." (SOURCE: Beckwith, Victorian Bibliomania: The Illuminated Book in Nineteenth-Century Britain, no. 63).
Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914, no. 233.
(Inventory #: 2731)
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