Hamlet Prince of Denmark; With decorations by John Austen

John Austen's Hamlet
Specially Bound by Susan Allix
A Remarkable and Innovative Design

AUSTEN, John, illustrator. ALLIX, Susan, binder. SHAKESPEARE, William. Hamlet, Prince of Demark. With Decorations by John Austen. London: Selwyn & Blount Ltd, [1922].

One of sixty copies signed by John Austen (this being no. 13) and with an additional title-page.

Large quarto (11 5/8 x 9 1/8 inches; 295 x 233 mm.). [i, half-title], [ii, limitation], [iii, additional title] [iv, blank], [1]-175, [1, imprint] pp. Illustrated throughout with striking black & white illustrations including 2 title-pages, half-title, 14 full page, 3 half page, 13 quarter page and 137 vignettes. Original front and rear decorated end-papers bound in.

Bound by Susan Allix (completed 2010) in a special designer binding of full black goatskin, front and back covers with several rectangular panels of various other leathers including suede and crocodile. Upper cover with an inset panel containing an abstract red and black painting on a silver background depicting' blood and chaos', set under glass, and a mounted branch-like 'chain of shapes' silver strip. Smooth spine decoratively lettered in blind, sculptured pink liners, hand-made 'abtract design' end-leaves, top edge gilt, others uncut. Original front and rear decorated end-papers bound in with "Binding by Susan Allix / for Denis Collins. / Completed October 2010" written in ink on front free end-paper. Housed in the original black cloth clamshell case, white lettering label on spine. A very fine copy in a unique and wonderful designer binding.

Considered by many to be John Austen's (1886-1948) finest piece of book illustration. The style is very much in the vein of Aubrey Beardsley with hints of Harry Clarke and Hans Henning Voight (aka Alastair).

"Hamlet is a tragedy; tragedies are dark so the ambience of the binding as it presents itself is dark. Yet it is a play shot through with flashes of light that reveal our situations, ourselves, the sharp arrows of fortune that lead to lines of consequences. This is suggested by the silver piece that I made by reworking silver left from other projects into a chain of shapes. The variations of black leather (the shiny ones with distinct scale patterns are crocodile) may be seen as the formal shifts from one act to another. When the play is read, not acted, the scene-changing can be less dramatic, more meditative. The glass panel represents the action and drama, excitements of reason, blood, and a contrast to the inaction of the black rectangles. The glass, with paint and background colour, has been scratched and sandpapered into some sort of chaos. The intention of the binding is to create an atmosphere, or introduction to the work inside, I did not want to quarrel with, or remake, the illustrations, nor give personal interpretations. And, as for the play, what could I do to that, being a thing (almost) immortal? Perhaps try to suggest that inside, the book is thrillingly serious." (Susan Allix).

Susan Allix - frequently cited as 'the greatest bookmaker of her generation' - often creates limited editions from her private press with original prints, letterpress printing and hand-binding. Since establishing her own press she has created a series of fifty works that have been exhibited internationally, featured in the collections of the National Art Library; the V&A; the British Library; The Hague; the Library of Congress; Harvard and the New York Public Library, among others. Item #03775

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