London: William Heinemann, 1908. Item #03604
"An Almost Perfect Setting for Rackham's Impish Imagination"
In the Original Printed Dust Jacket
[RACKHAM, Arthur. illustrator]. SHAKESPEARE, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. With Illustrations by Arthur Rackham. London: William Heinemann, 1908.
First trade edition.
Quarto (9 3/4 x 7 1/4 inches; 248 x 183 mm). , 134 pp. Forty tipped-in color plates with descriptive tissue-guards, thirty black and white drawings.
Publisher's tan cloth, front cover pictorially stamped and lettered in gilt, spine lettered in gilt. Slight discoloration on paste-downs, bookplate on front paste-down. Neat ink name on front free end-paper. A very good copy in the scarce original tan printed dust jacket (split at folds and slightly chipped at head and tail of spine, otherwise complete).
The Dream was, of course, an almost perfect setting for Rackham's devic imagination -- perhaps only bettered by the opportunity of The Tempest -- with the result that some of the fairies, elves and goblins he created for this play are among his finest colour images, and almost all the plates echo perfectly the mysterious interweaving of lightness and depth in this great work. Many of the formal plates are exquisite, whether they depict the principal events of the main theme of the story, such as the translated Bottom with his ass-head mocked by tree sprites, or the night-rule of Titania's haunted grove, those incidents within the subsidiary action, with details hardly dreamed of by Shakespeare, such as the gnomish knife-grinder in a motley group of fairies. Some of the floriated headings for the Dream are the finest of Rackham's line at the time, as for example the heading vignette for Act One, Scene One, which with typical Rackham irrelevance spreads its tendrils over the page, and into the text, ignoring the fact that the setting is supposed, according to Shakespeare, to be the Palace of Theseus, and throwing us immediately into a tangle-wood Rackhamerie, with mice, pixies and a sleeping maiden." (Fred Gettings. Arthur Rackham, pp. 117-123).
Riall, p. 87. Latimore and Haskell, p. 32.