A Book of the Heavenly Birthdays
London: Elliot Stock, 1894. Second edition. Contemporary crushed red morocco (6 1/2 inches tall), gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Early owner inscription (August 1894) to blank flyleaf, very light wear to binding, else Fine. Item #1010
"DEATH IS THE CROWN OF LIFE"
Second edition of this popular literary anthology of Memento Mori—somberly illustrated throughout by Eleanor Vere Boyle (E.V.B.) and finely bound in contemporary red morocco by John Bumpus. A beautiful copy.
A culture of mourning emerged after the 1861 death of Prince Albert, as elaborate social rituals developed in response to Queen Victoria's public grief over the loss of her husband. Blending the eschatological wisdom of the ages—Ancient and Contemporary, Pagan and Christian—to foster a greater understanding of death, these "thoughts upon the End to which all things draw" include passages by Milton, Dante, Shakespeare, Blake, Shelley, Rossetti, and Morris.
Printed in red and black, and decorated with Boyle's black-and-white illustrations in the Pre-Raphaelite style, the text is bookended with miniature woodcuts depicting a Sunrise Rooster ("Arise Pray Work") and a Night Owl ("Rest Pray Sleep"). Boyle's short Preface, "To One About to Open the Book," (dated, "E.V.B. / October, 1893") anchors the idea of Christian death in the continuum of Christian life. "Thoughts on Death thread like silver the pages of God's Book, and the Prophets gaze is fixed on a Crown of Immortal Peace...so the light broadens into the full shining of Christianity. At the Coming of the Christ of God, first came our rejoicing hope of Eternal Life."
This anthology begins and ends with quotes from Jeremy Taylor on "holy dying." A passage from Golden Grove, framed in a black border, concludes the book: "God shall wipe all Tears from their eyes; there shall be no fear of Sorrow, no Mourning or Death." Dedicated by the artist to "to the bright memory of my mother" and those others, "dear and unforgotten, who, following her, set their face homeward, and long since anchored in the quiet havens. E.V.B." First published in 1893, this second edition was followed by third and fourth editions (1906).