London: John Camden Hotten [and] George Routledge and Sons, 1869 / 1872. Item #04192
A Masterful Pair of Inlaid Bindings
[BAYNTUN-RIVIÉRE, binders]. GILBERT, W.S. The "Bab" Ballads. [together with:] More "Bab" Ballads. Much Sound and Little Sense. London: John Camden Hotten [and] George Routledge and Sons, 1869 [and] 1872.
First editions. Two octavo volumes (6 15/16 x 5 1/4 inches; 177 x 133 mm.). ix, , 14-222, [4, adv.]; viii, , 14-224, [4. adv.] pp. Black and white frontispieces with tissue guards, black and white text illustrations by the author throughout. Neatly written in black ink on the recto of the frontispiece of More "Bab" Ballads is a twelve line poem "Once a Fairy…" dated "Feby. 18th. 1875."
Bound c. 1960 by Bayntun-Rivière & Son in full emerald green crushed levant morocco. Covers ruled in gilt, front covers with characters from the books inlaid in various colored morocco's within a scalloped gilt frame. Spines with five raised bands decoratively ruled and paneled and lettered in gilt in compartments, green cockerell end-papers, all edges gilt. Original gilt decorated green cloth front covers bound in at end of each volume. Wood engraved bookplate of Peter & Margery Morris on each paste-down. A fine set housed in a green cloth slipcase.
The bindings of Bayntun-Rivière, in the quality of the materials, the forwarding, and in the finish and delicacy of the tooling are deserving of almost unqualified commendation. Their bindings are wonderful specimens of artistic taste, skill, and perseverance.
Robert Rivière (1808-1882) bequeathed his business to this son-in-law in 1880, and the name of the firm was changed to Rivière & Son. Bayntun of Bath acquired Rivière c. 1930.
"Originally published in the columns of FUN, a monthly magazine, The Bab Ballads are light verse by W. S. Gilbert, illustrated with his own comic drawings. Gilbert wrote the Ballads before he became famous for his comic opera librettos with Arthur Sullivan. In writing The Bab Ballads Gilbert developed his unique 'topsy-turvy' style, where the humor was derived by setting up a ridiculous premise and working out its logical consequences, however absurd. The Ballads also reveal Gilbert's cynical and satirical approach to humor. They became famous on their own, as well as being a source for plot elements, characters and songs that Gilbert would recycle in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The Bab Ballads take their name from Gilbert's childhood nickname, and he later began to sign his illustrations 'Bab'" (Wikipedia).
By 1868, Gilbert's poems had won sufficient popularity to justify a collected edition. He selected forty-four of the poems (thirty-four of them illustrated) for an edition of The “Bab” Ballads – Much Sound and Little Sense. A second collected edition, More “Bab” Ballads, including thirty-five ballads (all illustrated), appeared in 1872.
"Nothing else quite like the Ballads has ever been produced in the English language. They contain both satire and nonsense, as well as a great deal of utter absurdity. The Ballads were read aloud at private dinner-parties, public banquets and even in the House of Lords. The ballads have been much published, and there are even recordings of readings of some of them" (Ibid.).