London: J.M. Dent & Co, 1900. Item #04448
A Fine Cedric Chivers Vellucent Binding
CHIVERS, Cedric, binder. LAMB, Charles. BROCK, Charles E., illustrator. The Essays of Elia. [and] The Last Essays of Elia. With an Introduction by Augustine Birrell and Illustrations by Charles E. Brock. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1900.
Two volumes bound in one. Small octavo (6 15/16 x 4 1/16 inches; 177 x 103 mm.). xxii, 294, [1, imprint], [1, blank];, xii, 254, [1, imprint], [1, blank] pp. Two engraved frontispieces and one hundred and sixty-two black & white illustrations, including decorative head and tailpieces, all by Charles E. Brock.
Bound ca. 1906 in a fine pastel “vellucent” binding by Cedric Chivers (stamp-signed in gilt on rear lower turn-in), with a delicately hand-painted 'Art Nouveau' floral design. The front cover with three red flowers and a green vine design enclosing the title "The Essays And The Last Essays of Elia. Charles Lamb". Lower cover with a similar design but with just one red flower. Smooth spine similarly decorated and lettered in watercolor and gilt, gilt ruled turn-ins, mottled pale-green liners and end-papers, all edges gilt. Neat ink inscription dated "Xmas 1906" on front blank. A very fine example housed in the original fleece-lined, green cloth slipcase (missing the movable spine panel).
This binding is No. LXXXV on page 34 of the Cedric Chivers catalog "Books in Beautiful Bindings"
“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).
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).
Essays of Elia is a collection of essays written by Charles Lamb; it was first published in book form in 1823, with a second volume, Last Essays of Elia, issued in 1833 by the publisher Edward Moxon. The essays in the collection first began appearing in The London Magazine in 1820 and continued to 1825. Lamb's essays were very popular and were printed in many subsequent editions throughout the nineteenth century. The personal and conversational tone of the essays has charmed many readers; the essays "established Lamb in the title he now holds, that of the most delightful of English essayists." Lamb himself is the Elia of the collection, and his sister Mary is "Cousin Bridget." Charles first used the pseudonym Elia for an essay on the South Sea House, where he had worked decades earlier; Elia was the last name of an Italian man who worked there at the same time as Charles, and after that essay the name stuck. Critics have traced the influence of earlier writers in Lamb's style, notably Sir Thomas Browne and Robert Burton - writers who also influenced Lamb's contemporary and acquaintance, Thomas De Quincey. Some of Lamb's later pieces in the same style and spirit were collected into a body called Eliana.
Charles Lamb (1775-1834) was born in London in 1775. He studied at Christ's Hospital where he formed a lifelong friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. When Lamb was twenty years old he suffered a period of insanity and was confined to a psychiatric hospital. His sister, Mary Ann Lamb, had similar issues and in 1796 murdered her mother in a fit of madness. Mary was confined to an asylum but was eventually released into the care of her brother. Lamb became friends in London with a group of young writers who favored political reform including Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Hazlitt, Henry Brougham, Lord Byron, Thomas Barnes and Leigh Hunt. In 1796 Lamb contributed four sonnets to Coleridge's Poems on Various Subjects (1796). This was followed by Blank Verse (1798) and Pride's Cure (1802). Lamb worked for the East India Company in London but managed to contribute articles to several journals and newspapers including London Magazine, The Morning Chronicle, Morning Post and the The Quarterly Review. He is best known for his pseudonymous essays for London Magazine, collected and published as Essays of Elia (1823), and for the popular evergreen Tales From Shakespeare (1807), his collaboration with his sister.