SPENSER, Edmund (1552/3 - 1599)
The Works of Edmund Spenser
Oxford : Printed at the Shakespeare Head Press … & Published for the Press by Basil Blackwell, 1930-1932. One of 375 numbered copies on Batchelor’s Shakespeare Head handmade paper (this copy being number 168), out of a total edition of 386 copies. Eight volumes, large octavo (290 x 200 mm), bound in the original quarter green calf over vellum-tipped marbled boards by Douglas Cockerell (boards rubbed and with some grazes but generally very good), spines lettered in gilt (a few volumes with light staining); all edges uncut; pp , 135, [1, blank], , 140*-144*, 137-306, , [1, blank]; , 252; , 220, , [3, blank]; , 240, , [7, blank]; , 260, , [2, blank]; , 415, ; , 240, , [3, blank]; , 278, ; printed in red, blue, and black, with 111 woodcut text illustrations (all hand-coloured except for 5 in red and black) by Hilda Quck, and decorations, initials and title vignettes by Joscelyne Gaskin; A Vewe of the Present State of Ireland with pictorial woodcut title-page border and woodcut frontispiece map of Ireland by Macdonald Gill, both hand-coloured. Contents of all volumes clean and bright; a fine set.
A beautiful fine press edition of the collected works of one of the greatest poets of the Elizabethan age.
The Shakespeare Head Press was founded by Elizabethan scholar A. H. Bullen in Stratford-up-Avon in 1904. Bullen’s original intention was simply to produce a handsome edition of Shakespeare’s works: the Stratford Town Shakespeare was duly completed by 1907. After Bullen’s death in 1927, the press was acquired by a partnership that included the Oxford bookseller Basil Blackwell. The press then began to work within the William Morris tradition with the appointment of Bernard Newdigate as its typographer and director.
‘The text of the present edition of Spenser’s Works has been prepared by Professor W.L. Renwick. It follows in every case the first editions…The decorations have been designed and engraved on wood by Hilda Quick, those in The Shepheardes Calender being based on the cuts in the original editions. The initial letters and the letterings for the title- page and headings have been engraved by her from designs by Joscelyne Gaskin…The eight volumes of Spenser, 1930, are equally good—different, as the character of the author, is, but in merita nothing to choose between them. Perhaps the small devices below Spenser’s sonnets, printed in black and in the vellum copies beautifully laid with gold, are the most discreet and opulent form of decoration, fitting and in flawless taste’ (Franklin).
Franklin 150, 236; Ransom 17:67