Fine Private Press, Modern First Editions & Children’s Books

Thursday 17 June 2021


Our bi-annual offering of illustrated books, modern first editions, and children’s books this month includes almost 100 lots from a fine private collection of illustrated books and private press publications of the later 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus around the Arts & Crafts movement and British book design of the first half of the 20th century. One major highlight is the magnificent Urne Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne, illustrated by artist Paul Nash (1889-1946), and published by the Curwen Press in 1932. Described by Herbert Read as “one of the loveliest achievements of contemporary art”, the book is a triumph of co-ordinated modern design, all of which was overseen by Nash himself, including the selection of typeface, layout, illustration, and binding design. This remarkably fine copy was reserved by the publisher of the work, Desmond Flower, for himself (Estimate £3000-5000).

Also included are a number of beautiful designer bindings, reflecting the impact of the Arts & Crafts movement on book design. Highlights in this field include a magnificent Sangorski & Sutcliffe peacock binding on vellum, coloured in green, red and mauve, with a gilt motif of a peacock in a branch with sunburst to the upper cover, as well as original fretwork clasps studded with red amethysts. Again, this highly decorative binding is in very fine condition, and protected in a fleece-lined book box (Estimate £1500-2000).

There are several examples of the vellucent method of bookbinding most commonly associated with the firm of Cedric Chivers of Bath, during the early years of the 20th century. A lovely copy of the Whytford translation of Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, is offered with medieval style decoration to the upper cover and spine, and signed with the gilt stamp of the Chivers Bindery to the inside rear cover (Estimate £500-800). In a similar vein, although not signed, is the set of three vellucent bindings of the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser in the edition illustrated by Louis Fairfax Muckley, and published by J.M. Dent in 1897. Each cover repeats the same overall motif of a knight and his lady on horseback, but with the colours changed from one volume to the next, providing a remarkable alteration of feeling and mood (Estimate £1500-2000).

The ground-breaking productions of the Kelmscott Press, founded by the artist and designer William Morris (1834-1896) form the core of the collection, and these include News from Nowhere, by William Morris, published in 1892, which includes the famous frontispiece view of Kelmscott House, by the Cotswold artist Charles March Gere (1869-1957), issued in an edition of 300 copies only (Estimate £3000-4000), and Love is Enough, also by William Morris, published in 1897 with designs by the Pre-Raphaelite artist and close friend of Morris, Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), bound in the original medieval-style limp vellum, and carrying an auction estimate of £2000-3000.

Alongside such classics of British book design are a number of beautifully decorated bindings by the Birmingham School bookbinder Frank Garrett, a leading exponent of the Arts & Crafts renaissance that centred on the Birmingham Municipal School of Art, which flourished in the 1890s and early 1900s, with the whole-hearted support of both William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, both of whom visited the School of Art regularly, providing significant encouragement to its students. Birmingham Artists who benefitted from this artistic patronage include Bernard Sleigh (see lot 668), Arthur Gaskin (illustrator to the Kelmscott Press edition of The Shepheardes Calender, by Edmund Spenser, lot 647), and Charles M. Gere, illustrator of News from Nowhere by William Morris referred to above (lot 641).

Amongst a wide selection of modern first editions of major literary works is the limited signed edition of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, in the 1926 edition with engraved illustrations by Vivien Gribble (1888-1932), in remarkably fine condition, with pages uncut and complete with dust-wrapper (Estimate £1500-2000), a very good copy of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s classic Hound of the Baskervilles of 1902 in its original pictorial binding (lot 593, estimate £1000-1500), Virginia Woolf’s 1921 Monday or Tuesday, illustrated by her sister Vanessa Bell (lot 562, estimate £600-800), John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, in the original dust-wrapper (lot 565, estimate £500-800), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the first edition in the red dust-wrapper (lot 544, estimate £800-1200), W.B. Yeats’ collection of poems entitled The Tower of 1928, rare in its dust-wrapper (lot 677, estimate £800-1200) and last but not least the first in the classic series of James Bond novels, Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, a first edition of 1953, in excellent first issue dust-wrapper, without the Sunday Times Review that is printed on all subsequent issues of the first edition wrapper (lot 527, estimate £10,000-15,000).