London [&] New York: George Routledge and Sons, 1878. Item #04555
W.S. Gilbert's 'Fifty "Bab Ballads'
A Fine Inlaid Binding - Possibly by W.T. Morrell
GILBERT, W.S. Fifty "Bab" Ballads. Much Sound and Little Sense by W.S. Gilbert. With illustrations by the author. London [&] New York: George Routledge and Sons, 1878.
Third? edition (first published in 1876). Octavo (7 1/2 x 5 1/4 inches; 190 mm x 133 mm.). 255, [1, imprint] pp. Engraved frontispiece (included in pagination) with original tissue-guard and numerous illustrations in the text. Some marginal foxing, otherwise near fine.
Bound ca. 1920 in full red crushed levant morocco, covers ruled in gilt enclosing an elaborate oval floral design with eight inlaid flowers in cream morocco and leaves of olive, medium and dark green and red morocco surrounded by a decorative border of medium and dark green. The flowers and leaves are decoratively tooled in blind and highly decorated with gilt pointille. Spine with five raised bands, with decorative inlaid dark green morocco borders, lettered and ruled in gilt in compartments, gilt-ruled board-edges and turn-ins, gray paper liners and end-leaves, all edges gilt.
Although this fine little binding is unsigned it was most certainly done executed by one of the great English binderies, possibly by one of the finishers at the London bindery of W. T. Morrell. Prideaux in her "Modern Bookbindings" published in 1906, says that Morrell at that time had a very large business that supplied "all the booksellers with bindings designed by his men," bindings that were "remarkable for their variety and merit."
The "Bab" Ballads. [together with:] More "Bab" Ballads. Much Sound and Little Sense, were first published in London: by John Camden Hotten and George Routledge and Sons, 1869 [and] 1872. In 1876 Gilbert collected fifty of his favourite poems in Fifty “Bab” Ballads– Much Sound and Little Sense, with one poem being collected for the first time ("Etiquette") and twenty-five poems that had appeared in the earlier volumes being left out. As Gilbert explained: The period during which they were written extended over some three or four years; many, however, were composed hastily, and under the discomforting necessity of having to turn out a quantity of lively verse by a certain day in every week. As it seemed to me (and to others) that the volumes were disfigured by the presence of these hastily written impostors, I thought it better to withdraw from both volumes such Ballads as seemed to show evidence of carelessness or undue haste, and to publish the remainder in the compact form under which they are now presented to the reader. (Gilbert 1876, p. vii). Gilbert's readers were not happy with the loss, and in 1882 Gilbert published all of the poems that had appeared in either The “Bab” Ballads or More “Bab” Ballads, once again excluding "Etiquette." Some twentieth-century editions of More “Bab” Ballads include "Etiquette". In 1890 Gilbert produced Songs of a Savoyard, a volume of sixty-nine detached lyrics from the Savoy Operas, each with a new title, and some of them slightly reworded to fit the changed context. Many of them also received "Bab" illustrations in the familiar style. He also included two deleted lyrics from Iolanthe (footnoted as "omitted in representation"). The effect was that of a new volume of "Bab Ballads". Indeed, Gilbert considered calling the volume The Savoy Ballads (Ellis 1970, p. 27, n. 53).