London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1935. Item #03147
In a Fine Inlaid Binding by Bayntun (Rivière)
[BAYNTUN (RIVIÈRE), binders]. THOMSON, Hugh, illustrator. GASKELL, Mrs. [Elizabeth]. Cranford. With a preface by Anne Thackeray Ritchie and illustrations by Hugh Thomson. London: Macmillan and Co., 1935. Later Hugh Thomson illustrated edition. Octavo (7 1/16 x 4 3/4 inches; 180 x 120 mm.). Frontispiece, xxx, 298 pp. With 110 black and white illustrations in the text.
Bound by Bayntun (Rivière), Bath ca. 1935 in full dark blue crushed levant morocco, covers decoratively bordered in gilt, front cover with a beautifull inlaid design in red, tan, green and brown morocco reproduced from the illustration on page 240, spine with five raised bands, decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt, gilt board edges and turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. A very fine example.
The front cover illustration is taken from the text illustration on page 240 and depicts Mary Smith (the narrator) posting a letter to Miss Matty "I dropped it in the post on my way home, and then for a minute I stood looking at the wooden pane with a gaping slit which divided me from the letter…"
Cranford, which originally appeared as a serial in Charles Dickens' magazine, Household Words, 1851-53, and saw its first publication in book form in 1853, is "a series of linked sketches of life among the ladies of a quiet country village in the 1830s...The greatest charm of Cranford, which has kept it unfailingly popular, is its amused but loving portrait of the old-fashioned customs and 'elegant economy' of a delicately observed group of middle-aged figures in a landscape" (Oxford Companion to English Literature).
Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), a "strong and independent-minded woman" (The Feminist Companion to Literature), was an important proto-Feminist writer who often tackled unorthodox subjects in her novels. Cranford, for example, concerns a community of spinsters who glory in their freedom from male interference. Mrs. Gaskell was "'the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished female novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists'" (Enclyclopedia of British Women Writers, p. 264, citing Mrs. Gaskell's obituary in The Athenaeum).
"Critical awareness of Gaskell as a social historian is now more balanced by awareness of her innovativeness and artistic development as a novelist. While scholars continue to debate the precise nature of her talent, they also reaffirm the singular attractiveness of her best works" (ibid) of which Cranford is one.