London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1851. Item #05496
"I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition,
which o'erleaps itself and falls on the other." (Macbeth's Ambition)
A Remarkable Survival
HUMPHREYS, Henry Noel. SHAKESPEARE, William. Sentiments and Similes of William Shakespeare. A Classified Selection of Similes, Definitions, Descriptions, and Other Remarkable Passages in the Plays and Poems of Shakespeare. By Henry Noel Humphreys. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1851.
First edition. Small Quarto (7 9/16 x 5 3/4 inches; 192 x146 mm.). [vi], -100 pp. Chromolithograph pictorial title page in gold and colors, ruled in gold and with gold initials throughout. Some very light foxing to preliminary leaves.
Publisher's quarter black morocco over papier mache boards, covers with a highly elaborate design featuring on the front cover a terracotta medallion of William Shakespeare, and on the rear cover a terracotta medallion with Shakespeare's initials. Smooth spine, original pale green leaf-design endpapers, all edges gilt. Housed in a felt-lined black cloth clamshell case, spine with red morocco label lettered in gilt. There is some expert and almost invisible restoration to the leather on the corners and spine ends but the papier mache boards are fine and untouched.
A remarkable survivor of this inherently fragile binding style. A second edition was published in 1857, similarly bound.
One of eight or ten Victorian titles bound in papier mache (see Mclean, Victorian Book Design). Mclean says of this volume "The single colour plate is indeed very fine, and is superior in technical quality' to Humphreys' earlier books. Humphreys was well-known for his highly decorative, experimental book bindings - this binding is a further advance in his papier mache style. The intricately worked and decorated papier mache boards are surrounded in leather, with a gold (now somewhat tarnished) background showing through the strap-work. The front board has a terracotta medallion of Shakespeare in the centre; on the rear board, this is replaced with a similar terracotta medallion carrying Shakespeare's initials." (Mclean. Victorian Book Design, pp. 109-11).
"Then there were the black papier mâché bindings, supreme examples of Victorian Gothic and perhaps the most successful of all the ingenuities of Victorian commercial bookbinding. Cundall [Ornamental Art applied to Ancient and Modern Bookbinding, 1847] called it 'the monastic style' and said 'such covers can only be executed when great numbers are required, as they are cast in moulds, the first cost of which is very great'. The minimum, and probably the normal, quantity order of these bindings was one thousand. About eight different titles seem to have been bound in this style, of which three appeared in later editons: [Humphrey's] Parables of Our Lord, 1847; [Humphrey's] The Good Shumamite, 1847; [Humphrey's] Miracles of Our Lord, 1848; [Humphrey's] A Record of the Black Prince, 1849; Sentiments and Similes of Shakespeare, 1851; The Origin and Progress of the Art of Writing, 1853; The Coinage of the British Empire, 1855; and Quarles' Emblemes, 1861 (with an adapation of the Sentiments and Similes cover.) In addition to these, at least two small Bibles were issued in black papier mâché bindings during the 1840s, one of them (Edinburgh, 1843) with a floral pattern design, which reappeared on an edition of Quarles' Emblems; and another small Bible, printed by Eyre & Spottiswood in 1851, appeared in a papier mâché binding, with a design of lilies in a gothic arch, which bears a manufacturer's name 'D (?) O. Smith London'." (Mclean. Victorian Book Design, p. 210).
Henry Noel Humphreys (1810–1879), was a British illustrator, naturalist, entomologist, and numismatist. Humphreys was born on 4 January 1810 in Birmingham, the son of James Humphreys, and was educated at King Edward's School there. He studied medieval manuscripts in Italy as a young man, and became an accomplished scholar in numerous subjects. In addition to his entomological texts, Humphreys wrote works on ancient Greek and Roman coins, archaeology, and the art of illumination, writing and printing. He also designed the papier mache bindings for some of his books with high relief reminiscent of medieval carved bindings. While the covers of these bindings were made by machine, the books were bound by hand with leather spines.