1819 · London
MAGNIFICENT CADET BLUE MOROCCO, LUXURIANTLY GILT, INLAID, AND BEJWELLED, BY SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE (stamp-signed on front turn-in and with firm's logo on small inlaid lavender morocco medallion at foot of front doublure), upper cover with frame outlined with thin strip of brown morocco and heavily tooled in gilt, with swirling vines bearing 198 inlaid red morocco berries (each with a tiny gilt "seed" dot) on a densely stippled ground, rectangular recessed central panel of ivory morocco outlined in green morocco, large raised gilt fleur-de-lys of blue morocco enclosed by a frame of inlaid interlocking hearts and brackets of green and brown morocco, each of the hearts containing a spray of three jewelled flowers (12 blue topaz, 18 yellow topaz), the ivory morocco lightly stippled with gilt dots and with curling gilt vines blooming with 12 inlaid red morocco cinquefoils, two cabochon garnets, and two flowers composed of garnet center and four turquoise petals, the fleur-de-lys accented with nine amethysts, three garnets, and two yellow topaz; lower cover repeating the gilt frame design of the upper, recessed scalloped central medallion of brick red morocco, tooled with a wreath of lotus flowers accented with six moonstones and six garnets surrounding a mother-of-pearl lyre with gilt strings over a circle of black morocco, a red morocco heart at its center; raised bands, spine compartments outlined in brown morocco with stippled gilt and vine frame enclosing a central mandorla containing a fleur-de-lys; IVORY MOROCCO DOUBLURES AND ENDLEAVES, RICHLY INLAID, the doublures framed in brown and blue morocco, the latter lettered in gilt with lines from Shelley's poems, front doublure with large central recessed medallion containing Shelley's monogram in gilt on a background of interlacing turquoise and tan morocco, a purple morocco banner beneath the initials bearing the poet's birth and death dates, a large square blue topaz at the center of the monogram, and the strapwork accented with eight amethysts, eight emeralds, and eight garnets, the medallion surrounded by gilt-tooled grapevine with many inlaid leaves and 10 purple morocco grape clusters, rear doublure with similar grapevine decoration, a heart centerpiece of purple morocco with a mother-of pearl heart inside it, this framed by inlaid laurel wreath and interlacing strapwork, endleaves elaborately tooled and inlaid with a design of Tudor roses and leaves, verso of endleaves covered in pale blue watered silk, edges untrimmed. In the original dark blue straight-grain morocco clamshell box, simply tooled in gilt, gilt lettering on back, the interior padded in brick red silk and velvet. Granniss 49; Tinker 1897; Wise, p. 50; Ashley Library V, 68. Isolated trivial marginal spots, but A BREATHTAKING COPY, the clean, fresh text in close to original condition, and THE BINDING ABSOLUTELY SPLENDID, striking in its notable brilliance.
This is an especially desirable combination: a top-notch collector's copy of a first edition from a major Romantic poet in a dazzling binding that must number among the most beautiful productions of a preeminent English bindery. Written after Shelley (1792-1822) had left England for good and with a preface dated at Naples, December 20, 1818, "Rosalind and Helen" tells the story of two lovers--apparently based on Percy and Mary Shelley--whose love is sacred and justified, though unconsecrated by marriage. One of the "Other Poems" included here is the well-known "Ozymandias," a sonnet exploring the impermanence of grandeur, a piece apparently inspired by the British Museum's acquisition of a massive Egyptian statue of Ramesses II.
Francis Sangorski (1875-1912) and George Sutcliffe (1878-1943) had learned the craft of binding from Douglas Cockerell before founding their own bindery in 1901. As early as 1905, Sangorski & Sutcliffe began to specialize in custom-made jewelled bindings incorporating elaborately gilt and inlaid designs, and the bindery reached its zenith in the first dozen years of the 20th century, when their most gorgeous jewelled bindings were produced. An intense rivalry between Riviere and Sangorski developed, and the two firms began putting out intricately decorated bindings described by Nixon as having as their main aim the putting of "so much gold and color on the cover that the hue of the original leather could no longer be determined." It seems apparent that our binding came from that period. Ratcliffe estimates that of these special bindings "no more than 300 were ever produced," and given the labor-intensive process required to produce a binding like the present one, this small number is not surprising. There are a number of features here that are striking, but the doublures stand out for the beauty and intricacy of their design as well as for the consonance of their colors; they do not have the intense gilt of the front cover, but they have an elaborate elegance we have scarcely ever seen, even on the finest of bindings from the period. Even without the opulent binding, this would be an outstanding copy of this title, complete with oft-lacking half-title and publisher's ads, and with wide, often untrimmed margins, the interior virtually pristine.. (Inventory #: ST16348)