ca. 1916 · s.l.
STRIKING TAN MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID, FOR HATCHARDS (stamp-signed on front turn-in), upper cover with gilt rule border, central panel with five inlaid red morocco poppies blooming on inlaid khaki branches rising on a background stippled with gilt crosses, tear-shaped central compartment SET WITH A SMALL CAMEO OF JESUS, the lettering "APOCRYPHA" around the top of the frame, smooth spine with inlaid poppy and leaves on cross-stippled background, wide turn-ins tooled with poppy leaves, corners stippled, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. In a later tan buckram clamshell box. Front flyleaf with pencilled note: "Hatchard's exhibition binding." ◆A sprinkling of small, dark spots to lower cover (and a few to the front), otherwise A FINE COPY, with no signs of use and apparently unread.
This is an unusual, imaginative, and pretty binding executed for the bookseller Hatchards of Piccadilly. One is instantly drawn to the bright red inlaid poppies (symbols of Christ's blood and his resurrection) surrounding the small cameo of Jesus in profile. The flowers are styled into a surprisingly naturalistic design with curling serrated leaves and detailed gilding that includes the application of even the tiniest hairs on the stem of each flower. Although the Hatchards name readily calls up the image of attractively bound books, the quality of the execution and the exuberance of the design seen here are very much more remarkable than one would normally expect to see in a binding executed for the bookseller. (Hatchards did have its own bindery, but commissioned bindings from well-known firms like Bayntun and Morrell.) Though we cannot say for certain which binder covered the present work, the style calls to mind the work of the Guild of Women Binders. Like their bindings, it is certainly professional in quality of execution, but it departs from the traditional in presenting design elements that make a forceful impact, rather than conform more quietly to classical expectation. It is also possible that Hatchards intended for this to be an exhibition binding (as someone has noted in pencil on the front free endpaper). We have not yet been able to determine the veracity of this statement, but the beauty, complexity, and effect of the binding certainly support this theory.. (Inventory #: ST17881)