1st edition of the venerable Sir Thomas Malory's King Arthur with the illustrations and embellishments of Aubrey Beardsley; this work launched Beardsley's career. From its Art Nouveau publisher's binding, through its wonderful typography, to its beautiful illustrations, this work has been stunning readers for over a century. It's also a limited edition, only 1800 copies were produced.
When the Swann gallery auctioned several of the original Beardsley embellishments, they wrote, "To please Dent and emulate his artistic heroes, Beardsley's first drawings were modeled after the Kelmscott artist, Edward Burke-Jones. This enraged (William) Morris, who accused Beardsley of plagiarism".
These volumes are richly garnished. Lorraine Janzen Kooistra writes, "240 chapter headings, 43 large and small borders, 25 initial letters, 20 full-page and double-page illustrations, 19 small ornaments, and 4 head pieces" (Beardsley's Reading of Malory's Morte Darthur). I've verified the 20 full and double-page illustrations are present; no illustrations are missing from the volumes.
Full (Descriptive) Title -
THE BIRTH LIFE AND ACTS OF KING ARTHUR OF HIS NOBLE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE THEIR MARVELOUS ENQUESTS AND ADVENTURES THE ACHIEVING OF THE SAN GREAL AND IN THE END LE MORTE DARTHUR WITH THE DOLOROUS 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 AUDREY BEARDSLEY. MDCCCXCIII
Physical Attributes -
Each measures approx. 25 x 20 x 5 cm. Cloth publisher's bindings, with gilt decoration to boards and spine. Top edge gilt (dusty). Marbled endpapers. Complete in two volumes. Illustrated. Limited edition (regular paper, 1500 copies; also, 300 others were made on special paper). Pages: Volume one - (1) 1/2 title, frontis, title, contents, list of illustrations, ix-lxiv, 456, (1). Volume two - (1) 1/2 title, frontis, title, contents, list of illustrations, lxv-xc, 457-990, colophon, (1).
See pictures. Bindings have had quite a bit of wear. They have cloth loss at edges, some joint and hinge cracking, fraying at edges, etc. The boards are still connected but they might benefit from some stabilization work to ensure generations more of enjoyment. Should only be opened in a cradle (v-shape; rolled towels work for this). All four endbands are good/present.
Ex libris plate on pastedown of both volumes. 1st blank unpaginated endpaper has 2" tear at bottom edge near gutter. Some toning to pages, with dust to edges. Some ghosting of illustrations; this is typical for this printing. Most tissue guards missing. Thumb at bottom of list of illustrations. V.1 p.xv spot at top margin. p.105-111, crease from dog-earing at corner. V.2 p.553 mark top margin. I may have overlooked a spot, but mostly the inside is very clean, with only the toning of aging. I love that there are no signs of bookseller marks on the endpapers. Unsure how the bindings were well-worn, but inside was not.
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