London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1873. Item #05320
First Edition of the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges First Collection of Poems
In a Spectacular Zaehnsdorf 'Exhibition' Binding
[BINDING]. ZAEHNSDORF, binders. BRIDGES, Robert. Poems by Robert Bridges Batchelor of Arts in the University of Oxford. London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1873.
First edition. Octavo (7 3/8 x 5 inches; 187 x 127 mm.). 9, , 125,  pp. Printer's Aldine anchor device on final leaf, decorative woodcut headpieces and initials.
Bound ca. 1900 by Zaehnsdorf in full dark green morocco, stamp signed in gilt on front turn-in and with the 'blind' exhibition stamp on rear paste-down. Covers with gilt fillet border, inlaid violet morocco frame, central panel of upper cover with inlaid bouquet of five pink morocco flowers on curving gilt stems, this surrounded by an animated frame of gilt latice-work, pointille, and curling vines bearing a gilt blossom in each corner, lower cover with central panel outlined by gilt vines and flowers in similar style, smooth spine with inlaid bar of violet morocco at head and foot, with a volute emitting a spray of leafy branches above and below the central gilt title, double-ruled gilt board edges, gilt turn-ins with similar volutes at either side of drawer-handle corner-pieces, dark green silk endleaves, top edge gilt. Small rectangular bookplate of Joseph Manuel Andreini on front blank. Green cloth chemise housed in a green cloth slipcase. A very fine example of a Zaehnsdorf 'Exhibition' binding.
This is an extremely pretty example of the outstanding work done by the Zaehnsdorf workshop, which produced consistently fine bindings for more than 100 years. Born in Pest, Hungary, Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-86) served his apprenticeship in Stuttgart, worked at a number of European locations as a journeyman, and then settled in London, where he was hired first by Westley and then by Mackenzie before opening his own workshop in 1842. His son and namesake took over the business at the age of thirty-three, when the senior Joseph died, and the firm flourished under the son's leadership, becoming a leading West End bindery. Over the years, Zaehnsdorf employed a considerable number of distinguished binders, including the Frenchman Louis Genth (who was chief finisher from 1859-84), and trained a number of others, including Roger de Coverly and Sarah Prideaux. A family-run business until 1947, the Zaehnsdorf bindery continued to produce consistently attractive, tasteful, and innovative designs executed with unfailing skill. The present binding combines delicate inlay work with exuberant gilt, demonstrating the expertise of its finishes, led by Genth.
Robert Bridges (1844-1930). The first work published by Bridges, these Poems were withdrawn from circulation by the author after a only a small number of copies had been sold, and the book is, consequently, quite scarce. At the time of its publication, Bridges was still a practicing physician at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and the literary career that was to lead up to his appointment as poet laureate in 1913 did not begin until almost a decade after this volume's appearance. This 1873 volume contains perhaps his greatest short poem, the “Elegy on a Lady Whom Grief for the Death of Her Betrothed Killed,” a poem comparable only to Dryden’s “Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Ann Killigrew.” The later poetry deepens in significance, its moral implications are more profound, but in grace and technical perfection there is nothing to exceed a few poems in the 1873 volume. Bridges ranks with Chaucer, Herrick, and Milton as a metrist, and this command over the formal aspect of poetry was complete from the first.
Joseph Manuel Andreini (1850-1932). Writer and printmaker. He wrote J. Winifred Spenceley, His Etchings and Engravings in the Form of Book Plates. New York: Privately Printed, 1910. Limited to 135 copies. He also wrote on Cuban postage stamps and acted as an anonymous private publisher.