Moore's Irish Melodies; Illustrated by D. Maclise, R.A.

A "Landmark in the History of Style"
Bound by the Renowned Firm of F. Bedford of London

[BEDFORD, Francis, bindery]. MOORE, Thomas. Moore's Irish Melodies. Illustrated by D. Maclise. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1846.

First illustrated edition. Quarto (10 5/16 x 7 1/8 in; 263 x 180 mm). iv, 280 pp. Extra-engraved title-page and frontispiece. Engraved text and illustrations within engraved decorative borders designed by Maclise, by the omnigraphic process.

Designed and bound c. 1884-1894 by Joseph Shepherd of the F[rancis]. Bedford bindery (stamp-signed to front cover) in full forest green morocco with central medallion to both sides comprised of concentric shamrock rolls and dots in gilt and red morocco circle with gilt coils, and center element of onlaid tan morocco with gilt strapwork, the whole within black and green morocco frame of gilt shamrocks and trailing vines with tri-shamrock corner pieces. Spine compartments reiterate the cover design, gilt shamrock dentelles. All edges gilt. Very fine. Housed in cloth chemise within cloth slipcase.

"Moore's best-known production, the Irish Melodies, based on the airs recorded by Edward Bunting, was first issued in two volumes in 1808 and ran to an additional eight volumes up to 1834" (Oxford Companion to Irish Literature).

Daniel "Maclise laboured hard to make this book a worthy tribute to Tom Moore [1779-1852], whom he loved and revered, inventing decorative borders for every page in addition to his abundant illustrations, and even doing some of the preliminary etching himself...The gratified poet wrote of the volume's 'national character,' an 'Irish pencil' having 'lent its aid to an Irish pen.' Yet the book is totally unpolitical. It is a landmark, instead, in the history of style.

"By his treatment of illustration and text into a unit and by his infinite elaboration of detail, Maclise not only introduced to England the effects achieved by the German illustrators of the 1830s and early 1840s, but also anticipated the French Art Nouveau volumes that began with Grasset's Quatre Fils Aymon of 1883" (Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England 1790-1914.

Binder "Francis Bedford was born in 1799, died in 1883 and is one of the few English bookbinders included in the Dictionary of National Biography. After five years of running Charles Lewis's firm for that binder's widow and nine years in partnership with John Clarkes, he established himself on his own in 1851 and was soon the acknowledged leader of the West-end trade in London. After his death the firm was carried on under his name for a few months by his nieces and then for nearly ten years by Joseph Shepherd, who purchased it in 1884 when he was only twenty-six years old" (Nixon, Five Centuries of English Bookbinding).

During his lifetime, Bedford, according to Nixon, did no original design work, his bindings fabulous recreations of 16th and 17th century styles. "It would therefore seem likely that any signed Bedford bindings which show any originality of design date from the Shepherd period..." (ibid, Nixon). Shepherd "had learned his trade with the successors of the old bookbinding firm of Edmonds & Remnant. It was no slight undertaking for a workman of his age to attempt the production and finish of artistic bindings which had become celebrated in private libraries throughout Europe and the United States and British provinces. Like old wine, or superb Italian paintings of a former era, the Bedford bindings improve with age..." (American Printer & Lithographer, volume 15, 1892)

The firm's pride in its bindings is demonstrated by the most unusual position of the signature "Bound by F. Bedford" gilt-stamped to the front cover.

Ray 29. Item #02248

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