London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1895. Item #04435
An Outstanding Cedric Chivers 'Vellucent' Binding
Designed and Executed by Alice Shepherd with Great Dexterity and Neatness
CHIVERS, Cedric, Binder. SHAKESPEARE, William. BELL, Robert Anning, illustrator. A Midsummer Night's Dream Illustrated by Robert Anning Bell. Edited with an introduction by Israel Gollancz. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1895.
First edition with the Robert Anning Bell illustrations.
Small quarto ( 7 15/16 x 6 3/8 inches; 202 x 162 mm.). li, , 128 pp. Title-page and Act Headings printed in red and black. Profusely illustrated throughout the text including seventeen full-page.
Designed and executed by Alice Shepherd ca. 1903. Full vellucent binding over beveled boards by Cedric Chivers (stamp-signed in gilt on rear turn-in). Front and back covers double ruled in gilt enclosing, a wonderfully intricate, yet very delicately hand-painted 'swirling' continuous design of pink roses with green leaves on stems, some with pink buds. The four large roses on each cover highlighted with delicate gilt pointille surrounding the green center of each flower. Smooth spine with the continuous design from the front and back covers and five blue flowers on olive green stems in the center, ruled and lettered in gilt. Gilt ruled turn-ins and pale pink and yellow vellum liners and matching paper end-leaves, top edge gilt, others untrimmed. A beautiful and very fine example housed in the original fleece-lined green cloth slipcase.
“In his large bindery at Portway, Bath, Chivers employed about forty women for folding, sewing, mending, and collating work, and in addition, five more women worked in a separate department, to design, illuminate, and colour vellum for book decoration, and to work on embossed leather. These five were Dorothy Carleton Smyth, Alice Shepherd, Miss J.D. Dunn, Muriel Taylor, and Agatha Gales. Most Vellucent bindings were designed by H. Granville Fell, but the woman most frequently employed for this kind of work was probably Dorothy Carleton Smyth” (Marianne Tidcombe, Women Bookbinders 1880-1920, p. 86).
This binding is No. LVI (b) on page 22 of the Cedric Chivers catalog "Books in Beautiful Bindings". Also in vellucent, pink roses and green leaves on a yellow ground. No. LVI (a) shows another copy of the same book, but "Bound in embossed leather, designed and executed by Alice Shepherd. The design, a free treatment of roses, occupies the back and two sides of the vol. and is modelled with great dexterity and neatness."
According to Bernard Middleton, the first vellucent binding dates to 1903. In these bindings the painting is on paper under the vellum, rather than on the underside of the vellum as in Edwards of Halifax bindings (History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique, pp. 146–147).
Robert Anning BELL, R.A., R.W.S. (1863-1933) was educated at University College School in London. At the age of fifteen he was articled for two years to an architect uncle before studying at the Royal Academy Schools, the Westminster School of Art (under Fred Brown), in Paris (under Aimé Morot) and, later, in Italy. On his return from Paris, he shared a studio with portrait sculptor George Frampton and together they developed a line in hand-colored plaster reliefs, in imitation of Della Robbia. His early architectural training and his close friendship with architects and sculptors made him the ideal artist for decorative schemes, and by the eighteen-nineties he had become an important figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
His early illustrative work, in pen and ink and watercolor, includes a number of Shakespeare-related volumes: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1895), Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare (1899), The Tempest (1901) and Shakespeare’s Heroines (1901). These display a concern for the page as a whole of flatness and lightness similar to those found in Walter Crane and Charles Ricketts.
From 1894, he was on the staff of the School of Architecture, University College, Liverpool, later becoming a Professor of both University College, Liverpool, later becoming a Professor of both Glasgow School of Art (1918-24). He was also an honorary associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1916), and Master of the Art Workers’ Guild (1921). He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1885 (ARA 1914, RA 1922) and at the New English Art Club in 1888 (NEAC 1892), while his solo shows included one at the Fine Art Society in 1907. He was also organized a number of international exhibitions of arts and crafts. His paintings were worked in both oil and tempera, but with an increasing preference for watercolor he became an active member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Color (ARWS 1901, RWS 1904) and, in 1925, wrote an essay in praise of the medium (Old Water-Color Society’s Club, Volume 11). His death on 27 November 1933 was followed in March 1934 by a memorial exhibition at the Fine Art Society.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy written by William Shakespeare in 1595/96. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the mechanicals) who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. The play was first performed on January 1st, 1605, and is one of Shakespeare's most popular and widely performed works for the stage that is constantly performed across the world.