WITH EIGHT STUNNING WOOD-ENGRAVINGS BY BLAIR HUGHES-STANTON
(HUGHES-STANTON, Blair) MILTON, John. Comus: A Mask. (Newtown): Gregynog Press, 1931. Narrow quarto, original half wheat cloth over paper-covered boards, original glassine wrapper. $800.
Striking private-press edition of Milton’s famous drama in verse, number 243 of only 250 copies, handsomely illustrated with frontispiece and tailpiece, vignette title page, and five full-page white-line wood-engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton.
Milton's pastoral drama (first published 1638) was written on the occasion of one of the political appointments of the Earl of Bridgewater, and the masque was first acted by the earl's children. This handsomely printed and illustrated version of Comus is the product of the Gregynog Press, whose intention was to print "a series of volumes in which at very least the typography shall be clean and honest." The Press "has maintained consistently high literary, artistic, and technical standards and the books are eminently collectible" (Ransom,153). In 1930 illustrator Blair Hughes-Stanton, co-founder of the English Wood-Engraving Society, joined the Press as its designer. Initially the "fine lines and the delicacy of tone" in Hughes-Stanton's engravings were difficult to print satisfactorily, but the challenge was met magnificently by pressman Herbert Hodgson, brought up from London expressly to achieve the engraver's subtle tones (see Cave, 197). "I do seem to get my imagination from words" wrote Hughes-Stanton. "Even when doing things on my own, it comes to me in words like a poem, and I put it into forms. All the time that I work, I seem to feel word rhythms, and that is why I like to work on books." Ransom, Gregynog 19.
A fine copy, with only some loss of bottom edge of original glassine wrapper.