"THE BEST WORK EVER PUBLISHED ON PEARLS"
KUNZ, George Frederick; STEVENSON, Charles Hugh. The Book of the Pearl. New York: Century, 1908. Quarto, original elaborately gilt-stamped light blue cloth, top edge gilt, uncut. $2300.
First edition of "the best work ever published on pearls" (ANB), illustrated with frontispiece portrait of the Czarina of Russia, five maps and 102 plates—two folding, three engraved and 17 in color.
"Unable to afford college, Kunz taught himself mineralogy… [and] began working for Tiffany & Company in 1879, an association that lasted until his death [in 1932]. His first position was, simply, gem expert, but most of his duties involved making acquisitions, at which he was most successful. His rise was rapid, and he was made a vice president; finally he became a trustee. The contacts he gained through Tiffany & Company made Kunz a socially prominent person. His clients included important people of commerce and letters who were mineral and gem collectors [including J. Pierpoint Morgan, Thomas Edison and Irénée du Pont]. Kunz also assembled and sold large collections of gems and minerals to many museums in the United States and abroad… He made the world of gems, jewelry, and minerals exciting and interesting to the public" (ANB). Kunz and Stevenson's comprehensive study examines, among other topics, the formation of pearls, their occurrence in various parts of the world, famous specimens such as the 1800-grain Hope pearl, proper care of the gems and even their symbolic significance in religion and literature. The numerous illustrations largely focus on the pearl in art and fashion, depicting various monarchs and members of high society adorned with pearls (among them Maria Theresa; Mary, Queen of Scots; Prince Chulalongkorn of Siam and Mrs. George J. Gould) as well as various ecclesiastical and imperial artifacts and regalia (including the Ashburnham manuscript and the crown of St. Edward). Ink gift inscription, dated 1919. Publisher's four-page advertising leaflet laid in; 1971 bookseller's invoice also laid in.
Interior clean and fine, only light rubbing to cloth, gilt bright. A near-fine copy.