NICHOLSON, William, [artist]. Characters of Romance. Miss Havisham. Mr. Weller. Don Quixote de la Mancha. John Silver. Rochester. Sophia Western. Porthos. Chicot. Baron Munchausen. Miss Fotheringay and Captain Costigan. Madge wildfire. Mulvaney. Jorrocks. Gargantua. Mr. Vanslyperken. And Commodore Trunnion. London: William Heinemann, 1900.
First edition. Folio (19 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches). Title page with dedication on the verso to William Ernest Henley and sixteen plates (seventeen subjects) in various colors with brown backgrounds. Characters include Sophia Western, Mr. Weller, Mr. Jorrocks, [Long] John Silver and others.
Publishers or contemporary full hard grain navy morocco with five gilt borders (two of them with gilt corner pieces), gilt cover and spine lettering, gilt spine band and compartments, wide gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers. Armorial bookplate of the Montefiore family on front pastedownA near fine copy.
Considered by many to be Nicholson's most important work. The London true first is considerably less common than the American of the same date (OCLC locates 12 of the American but only one of the London, and of the nine copies to come up at auction in the last twenty-five years only one had the London imprint). Both imprints were originally issued loose in portfolios.
"Nicholson's designs for Characters of Romance were probably finished by July 1900. A single edition of lithographic reproductions of the drawings was published in October 1900. These sixteen illustrations, each of which has its title inscribed within the border, are as follows: Miss Havisham (from Dickens' Great Expectations), Mr Weller (from Dickens' The Pickwick Papers), Don Quixote de la Mancha (Cervantes' Don Quixote), John Silver ((R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island), Rochester (Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre), Sophia Western (Fielding's Tom Jones), Porthos (Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers), Chicot (Dumas's Les Quarante Cinq), Baron Münchausen [sic] (Rudolph Erich Raspe's Baron Münchausen), Miss Fotheringay and Captain Costigan (Thakeray's Pendennis), Madge Wildfire (Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian), Mulvaney (Rudyard Kipling's Soldiers Three), Jorrocks (R.S. Surtees' Handley Cross), Gargantua (Rabelais' Gargantua), Mr Vanslyperken (Captain Marryat's The Dog Fiend) and Commodore Trunnion (Tobias Smollett's Peregrine Pickle). The titles given above are the titles given in the publication's list of contentsówhich occasionally differ slightly from the titles inscribed on the plates" (Campbell).
"Nicholson's woodcuts were reproduced by lithography except for a few portfolios printed directly from the original blocks and hand coloredÖEach has a heavy borderóNicholson was known as Ďthe man who puts a thick black line round everything'óand within this border is a striking design, usually a single figure, made up of contrasting masses of black and one or more colors. The decorative appeal of these woodcuts was immediate and lasting" (Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, p. 178).
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