William Shakespeare The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. Edited by J. Dover Wilson from the Text of the Second Quarto; with which are also printed the Hamlet stories from Saxo Grammati-cus and Belleforest and English translation there-from.
by Cranach Press.
Folio. Weimar: Cranach Press, 1930. Folio, 186, (2, colophon) pp. Printed in red and black in a Fraktur type designed by Edward Johnston, title-page by Eric Gill, 80 wood-engravings by Edward Gordon Craig, including one tinted with blue and one of stars with color highlights. Original boards, vellum backstrip; with the supplement present in the pocket at the back. Some foxing to the title-page and a few leaves mostly at the front and back, and a small stain at the top corner of the upper cover. A unique “ad personam” copy, with the colophon printed entirely in red and reading “This copy is not for sale; it was printed for Eric Gill.” Issued in an edition of 300 copies, this is one of the greatest illustrated books of the 20th century and the best possible association copy. As best we can can tell it is one of three copies with a dedication colophon specially printed for an individual, the other two being Kessler himself and one for his younger sister. One of the most meaningful association copies of any 20th-century press book, akin perhaps to a Kelmscott Press Chaucer dedicated by Morris to Cobden-Sanderson or a Doves Bible from Cobden-Sanderson to St. John Hornby. Association copies of great press books from one master to another are of the utmost rarity.Originally conceived by Craig as a theatrical presentation, the book was designed (ca. 1910) to encompass Craig’s notes around the text and the magnificent and subtle woodcut illustrations. These 80 illustrations were designed and cut in wood by Craig who obtained a black and gray in one impression from these cuts by lowering portions of the block. The half-title illustration was cut by Eric Gill. The typeface was designed by Edward Johnston after a letter used by Fust & Shoeffer in the Mainz Psalter of 1457; the punches were then cut by Edward Prince and completed after his death by George T. Friend. The handmade paper, with the watermark of the Press, is made of pure hemp and linen by a process devised by Kessler and Aristide and Gaspard Maillol. The text, from the second quarto of 1604–5, was edited by J. Dover Wilson and is printed with the Hamlet stories from Saxo Grammaticus and Belleforest, together with an English translation. World War I halted work on the book and, when it was resumed, Craig had lost interest so the space around the text was filled with the text of the sources - creating an almost Biblical effect. The English-language edition was issued a year after the German-language edition and has 6 more woodcuts, but only 186 pages and is laid out somewhat differently. The Artist and the Book 66. Blumenthal, The Art of the Printed Book, p. 38. Huntington Library, Great Books in Great Editions, 27. Lewis, The Twentieth Century Book, p. 29. Ransom 253. Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790-1914, p. 177: “his grandest achievement.” See also Brinks, The Cranach Press, p. 267 (illustrating the binding) and #79 (book) and #81 (US prospectus). Sophie Schneideman notes of her copy: “Intended by Count Kessler as the crowning glory of his private Cranach Press, Hamlet was 17 years in gestation from when he had seen Gordon Craig's black figures for his Moscow Hamlet and decided that spectacular woodcuts could be printed from them. The result is one of the most important and spectacular works of the private press movement.” DNB (Fiona McCarthy) writes: “Gill became the greatest artist–craftsman of the twentieth century: a letter-cutter and type designer of genius, whose Gill Sans and Perpetua typefaces have continued in world-wide use for many decades; a sculptor whose powerful work initiated a return to the directness of hand carving; a draughtsman and wood-engraver of consummate subtlety and skill. In any one of these crafts Gill would be considered a prime practitioner. He was also a copious essayist and a vociferous polemicist. The energy and spread of his activity, underpinned by a fervent belief in the values of making by hand as a bastion against the dehumanizing forces of industrialization, make his achievement comparable with that of William Morris in the century before.” To hold his own copy of the typographic masterpiece the Cranach Hamlet is to hold 20th-century printing history at its peak. (Inventory #: 107137)
Bibles, theology and religion, Bindings, Early & Fine Printing, Illustrated Books, William Blake & His Circle, Illuminated Manuscripts, Private Press Books, T.F. Dibdin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Children's Books 1600-1950
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