EXQUISITE EDINBURGH BINDING
Italy.London, T. Cadell, 1830
FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION. 4to. Pp. (viii) 284. 44 vignettes by J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Stothard. Ms to fep ‘To Jemima, from her Loving Husband David’, blind stamp to fep ’31 Mortonhall Road, Edinburgh’. Minimal occasional ink marks, a very good clean copy in exquisite contemporary morocco probably by Joseph Mackenzie with gilt floral and geometric tools with undulating, flowing lines, acorns at each corner, four line gilt border, spine richly gilt, very small repair at foot, pastedowns of watered silk within floral gilt border and to ffep and eps, aeg, excellent fresh condition. In an oxblood straight grain morocco case with purple tie, some wear to edges, minimal scratching to covers.
Magnificent first illustrated edition of the banker-cum-poet Samuel Roger’s popular poem. This work contains the first illustrations J.M.W. Turner executed for a work of literature, altogether forming a most attractive volume of early Victorian craftsmanship. Rogers was of considerable means, in part thanks to his banking enterprises and his father’s death which left him a handsome income. Because of this, he was able to perfect his passion for poetry in relative leisure. He was part of an important circle of Victorian artists and writers including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Opie, Ruskin, Tennyson and Adam Smith, among others. Having established himself in London, Rogers travelled to the Continent in 1814 and kept a diary of his experiences. He returned again seven years later, and out of these inspiring trips emerged his longest and most important work, Italy. It was published in stages; the first part, without illustrations in 1821-22, then revised and expanded in 1823 and 1824. The second part was published in 1828, and finally Rogers commissioned this intensely revised, grand and sumptuously illustrated edition in 1830. It was this edition that made the work a commercial success.
The work is in the form of chaptered poems within which his wondrous impressions of the countryside of Italy are wrought in charming verse. Lake Como, Venice, the Alps, Naples, Florence and Rome are discussed and exalted through poetic musings. Corresponding with each section are either headpiece beautiful landscapes by Turner or tailpieces by Stothard which depict figural episodes. The steel engravings were executed by the brothers Thomas and John Bewick using the latest Victorian technology. Roger’s presided over each vignette, commanding small adjustments and insisting on them being completed in his favoured style, the Neoclassical. This luxurious creation created a new standard for illustrated books and was an enormous success, selling 50,000 copies by 1847. The work had a profound effect on John Ruskin, who received the 1830 edition for his 13th birthday.
The blind stamp to the fep indicates the address of the Scottish naturalist and archaeologist, James Ritchie (1882-1958). Ritchie was Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh as well as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Turner’s “delicate and graceful vignettes, which are miracles of fine detail, seem fairly to float upon the page” – Ray 13.