London and New York: Macmillan and Co., 1891. Item #03245
One of the Great Pre-Feminist Novels
By One of the Great Female British Novelists
In a Beautiful 'Kelliegram' Binding
[KELLIEGRAM BINDING] GASKELL, Mrs. Cranford. With a Preface by Anne Thackeray Ritchie and Illustrations by Hugh Thomson. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891.
Hugh Thomson-illustrated edition. Octavo (6 15/16 x 4 1/2 in; 176 x 114 mm). xxx, 297,  pp. 111 black and white illustrations including frontispiece, head- and tailpieces, and historiated initials.
Contemporary binding by Kelly & Son (stamp-signed Kelliegram Binding London) to rear turn-in full green morocco with a portrait inlay of Mr. Jenkyns, partially reproducing the illustration on page 108, in black, blue, grey, dark and light brown, and ivory calf against a charming pictorially gilt village background to upper cover. Lower cover with pictorial inlay of a sedan chair in blue, light and dark brown, and grey calf. Raised bands with gilt dots, compartments with gilt panel within gilt borders. Turn-ins with gilt rules and gilt corner pieces. Red cloth liners and end-leaves. All edges gilt. Minimal sunning to spine. A beautiful and very fine example.
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.
The beautifully inlaid and colorful "Kelliegram bindings were one of many innovations of the English commercial binding firm of Kelly & Sons. The Kelly family had one of the longest connections in the history of the binding trade in London, having been founded in 1770 by John Kellie, as the name was then spelled. The binding firm was carried on by successive members of the family into the 1930s. William Henry Kelly significantly developed the company in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by William Henry, Jr., Henry, and Hubert Kelly, who took control in 1892, taking the firm into the twentieth century…The development [during the 1880s] that came to be known as Kelliegram was one of the bindery's most notable, and the popularity continues today as demonstrated by the prices Kelliegram bindings command at auction and in the rare book trade" (Dooley, Kelliegram Bindings).