"GREAT SPENSER'S NOBLE RHYME HAVE I ESSAYED TO PICTURE": THE MAGNIFICENT CHISWICK PRESS FAERIE QUEENE, LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED BY WALTER CRANE
(CRANE, Walter, illustrator) SPENSER, Edmund. Spenser's Faerie Queene. London: George Allen (Chiswick Press), 1897. Six volumes. Quarto, original blue pictorial cloth, uncut. $4200.
Limited first book-form edition of Walter Crane's "most ambitious project of book illustration" (Lacy, 103), one of 1000 large-paper copies, with 88 splendid full-page pen-and-ink line-cuts (two double-page), 135 illustrative head- and tailpieces by Crane, and six facsimile title pages from earlier editions.
"The noblest allegorical poem in our language—indeed the noblest allegorical poem in the world" (James Montgomery). Originally published in the late 16th century (the first three books in 1590 and the next three in 1596, with the "Mutabilitie Cantos" added in 1609), Spenser's ambitious Arthurian allegory was the first epic that "both incorporated countless mythological and folkloric traditions and exemplified the careful design and poetic quality of written literature" (Clute & Grant, 890). Finely printed on handmade paper, the Chiswick Press edition, with notes and commentary by Thomas Wise, was originally issued in 19 parts (1894-96) and stands at the pinnacle of famous illustrator Walter Crane's career. All front wrappers and six rear wrappers bound in, as issued. Massé, 47. Bookseller's label of renowned New York antiquarian bookseller Philip C. Duschnes.
Interiors clean and fine; a few corners bumped, some very minor rubbing. A lovely set in near-fine condition.