“THIS DIRECT, BEAUTIFUL, NATURAL THING, FULL OF WORTH AND VITALITY”
EISEN, Gustavus A. The Great Chalice of Antioch. New York: Kouchakji Frères, 1923. Two volumes. Folio (measuring 14-1/2 by 18 inches), original half black morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, top edges gilt. $2600.
Limited first edition, number 187 of 1000 copies, of Eisen’s description and investigation of the artifact that many people once held (as some still do) to be the Holy Grail, with 60 plates: 48 photogravures depicting the chalice and numerous details of its iconography and 12 etchings on copper of Jesus and the Apostles, after the chalice’s depictions.
Purportedly unearthed in Antioch circa 1910—the city where Christians were first called by that name (Acts 11:26), and considered, along with Rome and Alexandria, as one of its principal sees—the Great Chalice has an outer shell of cast-metal enclosing a plain silver inner cup. "The fruited grapevine forming the rinceau pattern of the gilded shell is inhabited by birds, including an eagle; animals, including a lamb and a rabbit; and 12 human figures holding scrolls and seated in high-backed chairs" (Metropolitan Museum of Art). In this comprehensive and copiously illustrated monograph, Eisen—the Swedish-American "authority on biology, archaeology, zoology, anthropology and other fields of learning" (New York Times)—concludes that the portraits are "not mere conventional types, but actual and well characterized; and that in all probability we must recognize in them originals of Christ and His Apostles, made while the latter were yet alive" (Preface). As for the inner vessel, since its discovery, speculation has persisted that it is, in fact, the Holy Grail, the cup with which Jesus instituted the Eucharist. (It was even exhibited as such during the 1933 World's Fair.) More recent scholarshi has proposed that the artifact dates only as far back as the sixth century and may have been either a liturgical chalice or a hanging lamp, but fascination with the Chalice's origin and significance endures. The first volume contains extensive scholarly commentary, principally authored by Eisen; the second volume presents 60 plates: 46 photogravures after original negatives, two photogravures of diagrams and 12 original etchings on copper of the chalice's iconography.
Plates and text clean. Boards with one corner lightly bumped; Volume II with very faint discoloration to lower portion of front board. Gilt bright. A fine copy of an impressive production.