“SHAKESPEARE IS THE CANON”: ABUNDANTLY ILLUSTRATED LIMITED EDITION OF SHAKESPEARE, ONE OF 500 SETS, HANDSOMELY BOUND
SHAKESPEARE, William. The Works of William Shakespeare. Philadelphia: George Barrie & Son, circa 1900. Sixteen volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter red morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut and partly unopened. $4200.
Fine set of the "Interlinear Edition" of The Bard's works, number 45 of 500 sets printed on Japanese vellum, beautifully illustrated with 171 steel-engraved plates after the famous Boydell illustrations and 64 photogravures "chiefly from life," attractively bound.
"Shakespeare is the Canon. He sets the standard and the limits of literature" (Harold Bloom). "Boydell's gallery completely altered the course of English painting. Most painters earned their livings by painting portraits for the wealthy nobility, but when Boydell began to commission works from the best artists in England [in late 19th century], they were free to explore other topics and themes, drawn first from Shakespeare's plays, then from other writers, and finally from the classics and English history. Boydell had almost single-handedly created a market for what was called 'history painting,' and painters had a source of income that was not rooted primarily in portraiture" (Friedman, 2). Contributors include Reynolds, Fuseli, Smirke, Northcote, Porter, Stothard, Hamilton, Bunbury, Opie and Westall. These images were "used repeatedly to illustrate the works of Shakespeare, and they appear in all sorts of modified, adapted, and borrowed forms in engravings and drawings that accompany the plays" (Rusche). Includes the poems in Volume XIV, a "Life and Writings of Shakespeare" in Volume XV, and variorum readings, a dictionary of familiar quotations and an index to the characters in the plays in Volume XVI.
Fine condition, an attractive and desirable illustrated set.