"THE MOST HANDSOME BOOK PRODUCED IN THE WHOLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY"
SHAW, 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, contemporary full red pebbled morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spines and covers, raised bands, black and tan morocco spine labels, all edges gilt. $4500.
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, most exquisitely hand-colored, as well as numerous in-text wood engravings and initials printed in colors from wood blocks. A lovely copy in contemporary full morocco-gilt by J. Wright.
"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. Bookplates.
Double-page plate of Francis I in Volume II split along fold, repaired on verso; faint abrasion to front cover of Volume I. A clean, very handsomely bound copy in near-fine condition.