Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books Archives - Rare Book Insider

Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books

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260 x 218 mm. (10 1/4 x 8 1/2"). [9] leaves (illumination on rectos only). VERY ATTRACTIVE PRUSSIAN BLUE MOROCCO, GILT, BY SLINN (stamp-signed in gilt on upper cover), expertly rebacked to style, upper cover with central panel containing two red morocco onlays with gilt lettering over green morocco onlays with gilt vines and flowers, the center with a burgundy only containing the initials "EGS," all this surrounded by a thick frame of dark blue morocco with gilt vines, each corner with a square of burgundy morocco with gilt quatrefoil and leaves, multiple gilt rules and decorative rolls, lower cover with a gilt medallion at the center decorated with flowers and leaves, a simple blind-tooled frame and gilt ruled border with foliate decoration, smooth spine with gilt head and tail, gilt-tooled turn-ins, muslin hinges (added later as reinforcement?). Housed in the original (soiled and frayed) blue cloth portfolio. Lettering primarily in black and occasionally in red, blue, or gold, ILLUMINATED THROUGHOUT, TITLE PAGE WITH A FULL BORDER INCORPORATING bars with colorful tile patterns or vinestem and featuring TWO SMALL MINIATURES IN THE LOWER CORNERS DEPICTING THE KNIGHT AND THE WIFE OF BATH, a shield at the head and tail; the rest of the text embellished with blue and green vines and red penwork, eight large ink initials as well as six large gilt initials on colored ground, each leaf with either a panel border or "L" shaped border composed of leafy vines and flowers, penwork embellishments, colorful patterns and acanthus, and gold bezants, one border with three birds nesting in the decoration, one with the bust of a woman dressed in Medieval garb, and one with a small dragon. ◆Just a hint of rubbing to fore edge and corners, but in extremely fine and attractive condition inside and out. This is a charming modern illuminated manuscript penned at the end of WWII, containing excerpts from the prologue to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." As stated in the colophon, the manuscript "was Designed, Written out and Illuminated by . . . John Wilfred Clarke of Ribbleton Ho: Preston, for [his] friend Edwin Goddard Stokes of Ringinglow, at Sheffield." We have been unable to find any information about the artist, but he was clearly a talented amateur with a flair for pattern and design. Though he incorporates elements found in Medieval manuscripts--trailing ivy leaves, penwork decoration, tessellation, and illuminated initials--the style is at the same time modern, utilizing bold color combinations, and layered shapes and patterns. A different manuscript finished by the same artist the year prior gives his location as Ecclesall, Sheffield, and it seems quite possible that he may have learned his craft at the Sheffield School of Art, which was founded in 1843 and offered classes in fine arts and crafts. We do know that the binder, Walter Slinn (d. 1964), was a staff member at the school, as well as a prominent local bookbinder. This work was completed just a few months after the Allied victory in Europe, making its nationalistic sentiment, bright colors, and exuberantly gilt binding quite moving when seen in this context, as though the artist is brushing off the austerity and bleakness of the past and looking forward to a brighter, more joyous future. We have no information about the recipient other than a name, but it is clear that this item was carefully looked after, as clearly suggested by its fine condition and the presence of its original homemade portfolio.