“MOST HANDSOME BOOK PRODUCED IN THE WHOLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY”: LOVELY FIRST EDITION, WITH EXQUISITE HAND-COLORED COSTUME PLATES, HANDSOMELY BOUNDSHAW, Henry. Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages from the Seventh to the Seventeenth Centuries. London: William Pickering (Charles Whittingham, Chiswick Press), 1843. Two volumes. Quarto, early 20th-century three-quarter brown crushed morocco gilt, raised bands, patterned cloth boards, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $3500.First edition of this beautifully illustrated study of costumes and decorations by Shaw, one of the greatest illuminators of the 19th century, with 94 plates of finely tailored and crafted French and English Medieval dress and accoutrements, many exquisitely hand-colored and heightened with gold and gum arabic, handsomely bound by Hatchards of London.“Shaw’s career was devoted to rescuing the English past through a long series of imposing books on architecture and art, published chiefly by William Pickering at the Chiswick Press. He used a variety of processes to reproduce his drawings: copper engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, wood engravings, and woodblocks printed in color. Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages… is one of the finest of his works” (Ray 102). Appearing in monthly parts from 1840, this was Shaw’s “most ambitious work… [with] plates highly finished and heightened in gold… It is a magnificent production. There are 94 plates, showing paintings, miniatures, stained glass, furnishings, glasses, chests, vestments, gold cups, [and] jewelry… mostly on copper, hand-colored in the most sumptuous way; in addition the text… is adorned with  elaborate initials and decorations printed in colors from wood blocks, the only Shaw-Whittingham book in which this occurs. It has a considerable claim to be called the most handsome book produced in the whole of the 19th century” (McLean, 66). With an additional 128 uncolored in-text woodcuts serving as tailpieces. Issued the same year as a large-paper copy, no priority determined. Colas 2720. Hiler, 796. From the library of Britain’s National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies, with records of the preservation treatment of the original vellum-backed bindings laid in.An extremely good copy, with occasional patches of foxing (mostly to first and last few leaves).
Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages