“THE MOST HANDSOME BOOK PRODUCED IN THE WHOLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY”: WITH 94 EXQUISITE COSTUME PLATES
SHAW, Henry. Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages from the Seventh to the Seventeenth Centuries. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1858. Two volumes. Quarto, contemporary three-quarter red morocco, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, olive morocco spine labels, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt. $2200.
Second edition of this beautifully illustrated study of costumes and decorations, with 94 full-page plates of finely tailored and crafted French and English Medieval dress and accoutrements, 84 of which are exquisitely hand-colored or partially hand-colored (including the two folding plates).
“Shaw’s career was devoted to rescuing the English past through a long series of imposing books on architecture and art, published chiefly by William Pickering at the Chiswick Press. He used a variety of processes to reproduce his drawings: copper engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, wood engravings, and woodblocks printed in color. Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages… is one of the finest of his works” (Ray 102). First published in monthly parts from 1840, and in book form in 1843, this was Shaw’s “most ambitious work… [with] plates highly finished and heightened in gold… It is a magnificent production. There are 94 plates, showing paintings, miniatures, stained glass, furnishings, glasses, chests, vestments, gold cups, [and] jewelry… mostly on copper, hand-colored in the most sumptuous way; in addition the text… is adorned with  elaborate initials and decorations printed in colors from wood blocks, the only Shaw-Whittingham book in which this occurs. It has a considerable claim to be called the most handsome book produced in the whole of the 19th century” (McLean, 66). See Colas 2720; Hiler, 796. Evidence of bookplate removal on rear pastedowns.
Occasional light patches of foxing (more to the first and last few leaves), minor wear to extremities of contemporary morocco. A near-fine copy.