CHARLES READE’S PEG WOFFINGTON, 1899, ILLUSTRATED BY HUGH THOMSON, IN FINE KELLIEGRAM BINDING
READE, Charles. Peg Woffington. London: George Allen, 1899. Small thick octavo, early 20th-century full crushed red morocco, gilt Art Nouveau cornerpieces and spine decorations, centerpiece image of Peg inlaid with colored leathers, watered-silk doublures, all edges gilt. Housed in custom clamshell box. $1800.
First edition with the Thomson illustrations, in wonderful inlaid “Kelliegram” binding.
The extremely popular Victorian novelist, Charles Reade, was considered “the natural successor of Dickens” (Drabble, 467). His Peg Woffington, first published in 1853, evolved from his stage adaptation (Masks and Faces) of Smollet’s Peregrine Pickle. Illustrator Thomson’s “smiling awareness of the unheroic aspect of everyday life; his relish for the counterbalancing bravery of period costumes, coaches and horses, and elegant furniture; and his brisk style give his work irresistible charm” (Hodnett, 218). “Kelliegram” bindings were one of many innovations of the English commercial binding firm of Kelly & Sons. The Kelly family boasted one of the longest traditions in the history of the London binding trade. Drawing upon Thomson’s designs for inspiration, this Kelly binder has inlaid blind-tooled colored leathers to form the figure of Peg.