London: Printed for T. Payne, 1810. Item #04556
A Fine Early Twentieth Century Fore-Edge Painting of the Acropolis by the "Dover Painter"
From the Celebrated Library of Estelle Doheny
FORE-EDGE PAINTING. [The "DOVER PAINTER"]. EURIPIDES. Cornelia and Alcestis; Two Operas; Founded on the Medea and Alcestis of Euripides. With prefatory remarks on that ancient author. By James Mason, Esq. London: Printed for T. Payne, 1810.
First edition. Presentation copy from the author, inscribed in black ink on verso of title-page "Elizth. Goulds Book/The Gift of/Jas. Mason Esqr./April 9th 1819"
Octavo (194 x 124 mm. (7 5/16 x 4 3/4 inches; 186 x 121 mm.). [iv], lxxxvii, [i, blank], 188 pp.
With a fine early twentieth century fore-edge painting by the "Dover Painter". The painting salutes the classical origins of the operas with a striking depiction of the Acropolis, rising majestically on its hill, surrounded by open countryside with blue mountains in the distance. The foreground is populated by two tourists, sitting on a rock admiring the view, and four brightly dressed Greek peasants. The view shows a remarkably sophisticated sense of design as well as a delicacy of painterly strokes, and the whole scene looks very convincing. The intricate gradations in the shading, seen especially in the fields and sky, are remarkable, and the highly skilled use of shadows establishes a strong sense of three-dimensionality. There is a great deal to see in terms of activity, landscape, and architecture, and all of it is painted in careful, convincing detail. It is easy to recognize the work of the so-called "Dover Painter," as it shows his distinctive style of applying small dabs of paint; this method is especially effective in producing convincing texture for skies, trees, shrubs, and grass.
Contemporary purple straight-grain morocco, covers ruled in gilt, spine with five raised bands ruled and lettered in gilt. Gilt decorated board-edges and turn-ins, gray paper liners and end-leaves, all edges gilt. With the engraved bookplates of Edward Laurence Doheny and Carrie Estelle Doheny on the front paste-down and front end-paper respectively. On the verso of the rear end-paper is the booksellers ticket of J.W. Robinson Co. Housed in a full brown morocco pull-off case ca. 1930 by Sangorski & Sutcliffe for J.W. Robinson Company.
The "Dover Painter" an unknown English artist - probably worked on commission exclusively ca. 1920-1930 for Marks & Co, the London booksellers. By 1928 Dawson's Book Shop in Los Angeles, headed by Ernest Dawson, began a relationship with Marks & Co. ["a reciprocal agency agreement"] that included sending crates of books to America via the Panama Canal. Several hundred fore-edges came to Dawson's. Sesslers' in Philadelphia bought and sold examples of the "Dover" painter's work, as fore-edges by this and other artists turned up in the B. George Ulizio collection at Kent State University. Other fore-edge paintings were imported via J.W. Robinson Company [department stores], Los Angeles. The Robinson Co. books came with added new Sangorski & Sutcliffe slipcases made especially for them and sometimes included a typed identifying slip mounted on the end-leaves…
Mrs. Doheny was a customer of Dawson's and when a new shipment of books arrived from London Ernest Dawson would would select a choice item to offer to Lucille Miller, Mrs. Doheny's personal librarian. Thus more than 200 of the 694 fore-edge paintings at the Doheny collection were painted by the :Dover" artist. The Doheny accession records tell us that most of her "Dover" artist fore-edges were purchased from 1929 to 1940. All came from Dawson's or J.W. Robinson Co. (Jeff Weber. An Annotated Dictionary of Fore-Edge Painting Artists & Binders. 2010).
The two librettos are based on Euripides' tragedies "Medea" and "Alcestis." "Cornelia" transports the story of Medea's revenge on her faithless husband to Roman Britain, while Alcestis' story of self-sacrifice and redemption retains its original setting and cast of characters.
James Mason (1779-1827) was a British writer of political pamphlets advocating parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation, as well as several plays, an epistolary novel, and translations from the classics. In 1810 he translated into English blank verse ‘The Georgicks of Publius Virgilius Maro"