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    Aubrey Beardsley's Arthurian Masterpiece, In Three Stunning, Hand-Painted "Vellucent" Bindings by Master Binder Cedric Chivers

    Aubrey Beardsley [illustrator]. Sir Thomas Malory. The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur, of His Noble Knights of the Round Table, Their Marvellous Enquests and Adventures, the Achieving of the San Greal, and in the End, Le Morte Darthur, with the Dolourous Death and Departing out of This World of Them All. The text as written by Sir Thomas Malory and imprinted by William Caxton at Westminster the year MCCCCLXXXV and now spelled in modern style. With an introduction by Professor Rhys and embellished with many original designs by Aubrey Beardsley. [London: J.M. Dent & Co.], 1893-1894.

    First edition. One of 300 numbered copies of the "superior issue" on Dutch handmade paper, out of a total edition of 1,800 copies. Three quarto volumes. [4], xc, 290; [4], [291]-664; [4], [665]-990, [1], [1, blank] pages. With two photogravure frontispieces on India paper mounted (in Volumes I and III), eighteen wood-engraved plates (including five double-page and one frontispiece in Volume II), numerous text illustrations, and approximately 350 chapter headings, borders, and initials, all after designs by Beardsley. Title vignettes and initials printed in red. With twelve front and back printed paper wrappers from original parts issue bound in throughout the three volumes. With inserted slips to subscribers and binders from the publisher, tipped in at front of Volume I.

    Beautifully bound by Cedric Chivers of Bath, at or just after the time of publication, in three superb "vellucent" bindings of full light brown niger morocco over beveled boards. Front covers paneled in gilt and blind around large central inlays of transparent vellum over hand-drawn ink and watercolor scenes from the Arthurian legends, heightened in gilt, back covers ruled in gilt and blind around similar small central inlays. Spines paneled in gilt and blind in compartments, each with two inlays of transparent vellum over hand-decorated ink and watercolor lettering pieces, heightened in gilt, in the style of an illuminated manuscript. Turn-ins ruled in gilt and blind, doublures of transparent vellum over marbled paper decorated with an ink and watercolor border with decorative cornerpieces, marbled free endleaves, top edge gilt on the rough, others uncut. Occasional minor offsetting from plates to text and light browning to the French etching paper, as usual. An absolutely superb set, each volume is housed in a fleece-lined tan buckram clamshell case with manuscript calligraphic paper labels, the whole set housed in a protective slipcase of brown cloth.

    The romantic, lush illustrations on the covers (in the style of, or possibly by, the well-known artist of the period H. Granville Fell) and the lovely illuminated lettering pieces on the spines perfectly complement Beardsley's famous and masterly pen-and-ink illustrations to this classic and legendary work, about which John Lewis writes: "In Le Morte D'Arthur Beardsley learnt his job, but the result is no bungling student's work ... If he had never illustrated another book, this edition of Morte D'Arthur could stand as a monument of decorative book illustration" (The Twentieth Century Book, pp. 148-149).

    Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, 314.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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