UNBROKEN 25-VOLUME SET OF PUNCH’S ANNUAL ALMANAC AND CALENDAR, ILLUSTRATED BY LEECH AND TENNIEL
LEECH, John. Punch’s Pocket Book for 1857 [to 1881], Containing Ruled Pages for Cash Accounts and Memoranda for Every Day in the Year; an Almanack; and a Variety of Useful and Valuable Business Information. London: Punch Office (Bradbury & Evans), [1856-1880]. 25 volumes. 12mo, original full wallet-style straight-grain morocco (in various colors), front gusseted pockets, all edges gilt. Housed in two custom-made “book-shelves.” $4500.
Lengthy unbroken run of these wonderful 19th-century personal calendars and almanacs, from 1857 to 1881, with hand-colored folding frontispieces, illustrated title pages, and numerous in-text wood-engravings by John Leech and John Tenniel.
Twenty-year mainstay artist at Punch and illustrator of Dickens’ Christmas Carol (1843), caricaturist John Leech had studied with George Cruikshank and eventually developed “a convention of social humor that was to last until the 1920s” (Houfe, 207). “He comes, for practical purposes, between Cruikshank and Du Maurier, and in that order plays an indispensable part in the progressive transformation of humorous art from the broad brutalities of the earlier men to the gentler and more subdued satire now in vogue” (DNB). Leech’s collaborator on Punch’s Pocket Book was John Tenniel, who succeeded him upon his death in 1864 and later gained fame as the illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1866) and Through the Looking Glass (1872). He was ably assisted by Charles Keene and Linley Sambourne, both members of the Punch staff. First published in 1846 (with illustrations by Thackeray), the annual Pocket Book “was decidedly a welcome Christmas present, and it had a considerable, though, as it ultimately proved, an insufficient sale. It was a costly affair, as, apart from the expenses of the illustrations, there was a folding frontispiece, done by John Leech in colors; it was neatly bound in morocco, with a tab loop to fasten it; and the honorarium for stories… was at the rate of a guinea a page. ‘Now, gentlemen,’ Mark Lemon [the editor of Punch] used to say to us as we sat round the table at dinner on the penultimate Wednesday in November—’Walk up! Walk up! Stories! A guinea a page! Be in time!” (Sir Francis Cowley Burnand). This is an unbroken run of 25 Punch’s Pocket Books, from 1857 to 1881, in their original bindings and containing some of Leech’s most admirable images, at once broadly humorous and exquisitely graceful. His work for Punch “constitutes the main monument of his genius” (DNB). Occasional bookplate. The 1857 and 1875 issues contain a number of original pencil and pen-and-ink drawings in Leech’s style.
Interiors generally quite clean (many with owner annotations), several bindings with moderate rubbing (four with some loss of spine, several with splits near tabs). A very scarce run (even Tenniel’s own set lacked a volume), in very good condition.