London : , 1912. Item #04345
A Truly Beautiful Illuminated Manuscript on Vellum by Sidney Farnsworth
George Eliot's Most Famous Poem
Elegantly Bound by Rivière & Son
[RIVIÈRE & SON, binders]. FARNSWORTH, Sidney, scribe & illuminator. ELIOT, George.
O May I Join The Choir Invisible. A Poem by George Eliot. Longum illud tempus, quum non ero, magis me movet, quam hoc exiguum. Cicero, ad Att., XII. 18. (That long time when I shall not be moves me more than this short time of life does). [London], finished on the 30th. day of August, Anno Domini, 1912.
A SUPERB ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM.
Small quarto (6 1/4 x 4 13/16 inches; 159 x 123 mm.). [1, blank], , [3, blank] vellum leaves.
Title page with full blue border incorporating burnished gold "O" and radiating tendrils of ivy with many gold bezants. Red capitals and line fillers, two one-line initials in burnished gold on a blue ground with curling penwork extensions bearing green ivy leaves and burnished gold bezants. Beginning of poem with four-line burnished gold "O" incorporated into a blue panel border with curling vine accented with burnished gold, tendrils of ivy extending into the borders at head and foot. End of poem with a tailpiece in similar style, trailing tendrils of ivy and gold bezants.
Bound by [Rivière & Son] in 1912 and stamp-signed "J & E Bumpus Ltd, Oxford St. W". Elegant navy crushed morocco, inlaid, blind-tooled and gilt, upper cover with frame of inlaid burgundy and honey-brown morocco strips outlined and separated by plain and dotted gilt rules, central panel of tan morocco diapered in blind into compartments with a central blind-stamped daisy, inlaid navy central lozenge and corner-pieces with gilt lily. Rear cover with gilt-ruled frame with inlaid tan central lozenge blind-stamped with a lily. Spine with five raised bands, inlaid compartments of tan morocco outlined in gilt, gilt board edges, gilt-framed turn-ins, vellum liners and endleaves, all edges gilt. With the engraved armorial bookplate of Annie Cowdray (Viscountess Cowdray) on front paste-down. Housed in the original fleece-lined, quarter dark blue morocco over blue cloth clamshell case, lettered in gilt on spine. A spectacular binding on an equally spectacular illuminated manuscript done specially by Sidney Farnsworth for John & Edward Bumpus.
The colophon states that Farnsworth created the manuscript for John and Edward Bumpus, suggesting that their firm was making a bid to join Rivière and Sangorski & Sutcliffe in producing illuminated manuscripts in fine bindings. The present volume is a worthy competitor in that field.
This exquisite little book contains George Eliot's most famous poem, beautifully written out and illuminated by Sidney Farnsworth and handsomely bound by Rivière & Son.
BUMPUS of Oxford St., was a London department store that sold books, and was known for classically designed, well-executed, and generally undervalued bindings produced under the Bumpus name for a substantial period, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. Packer reports that Bumpus bindings came from the bookselling firm of John and Edward Bumpus, which was founded in 1780, and grew to offer a variety of goods. The Bumpus name was still spoken with honor amongst London binderies well into the 20th century - though Bumpus never bound a single book itself, farming out the work to top binderies, Rivière & Son, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, etc.
George ELIOT (Mary Ann Evans, (1819-80) expresses here her conception of an afterlife, which can only be achieved by becoming one of the "choir invisible" devoted to making the world a better place to live - a more concise statement of the spirituality that infuses her masterpiece, "Middlemarch."
Sidney FARNSWORTH was an early twentieth century British painter, sculptor and illuminator who wrote a book on the latter subject, "Illumination and its Development in the Present Day." The present manuscript exemplifies much of the advice he offers to aspiring illuminators in that work: take inspiration from Medieval manuscripts without slavishly copying them; calligraphy is as important as illumination and should be perfected; "nothing offers a better opportunity... as a subject for an illuminated volume, than poetry."
Annie PEARSON (née Cass), Viscountess Cowdray (died 1932). High Steward of Colchester; wife of 1st Viscount Cowdray; daughter of Sir John Cass.