London: Lee Warner / The Medici Society, 1912. Limited edition. Large quarto (12 inches tall), original beveled vellum boards, gilt spine and front board, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, uncut, silk ribbon marker. Very mild soiling to vellum boards. A nearly-fine copy. Item #1090
"WE OWE A DEBT TO MRS MEYNELL AND HER ARTIST FOR SHOWING TO US THE VIRGIN AS OUR ANCESTORS OF THE KNIGHTLY YEARS SAW HER" Deluxe limited edition of Alice Meynell's popular collection of essays on the Blessed Mother—beautifully illustrated by R. Anning Bell with 20 luminous color plates. Received into the Catholic Church in 1868, Alice Thompson's first collection of poetry appeared two years before her 1877 marriage to publisher and editor Wilfrid Meynell. Together, Alice and Wilfrid and the Meynell family (their son Francis established the Nonesuch Press) were central figures in the Catholic Literary Revival. Alice Meynell sought nothing less than "the return to English literature of the essential Catholic spirit...in her vision the Catholic tradition stood not apart, but in the center of things, in intimate contact with the glories of the European past and the really valuable tendencies of the present, engaged in the work of carrying forward the mainstream of English letters (Calvert Alexander). Though perhaps best known for their discovery and patronage of the homeless and drug addicted poet, Francis Thompson ("The Hound of Heaven"), the Meynell's circle also included Coventry Patmore, George Meredith, Agnes Tobin and, eventually, Eric Gill. When Thompson died in 1907, the Meynell family helped Gill secure a commission to carve the altar tomb for Thompson at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green. This experience apparently affected Gill greatly during the final approach to his own conversion in 1913.
A contemporary review praised this as "a beautiful book...It sets before us once more the glories and sorrows of The Virgin as they are told in Holy Writ, recounted in legend, painted in art, and enshrined in poetry...We owe a debt to Mrs. Meynell and her artist for showing to us The Virgin as our ancestors of the knightly years saw her" (Saturday Review). The essays are divided into eleven sections: I. The Words of the Gospels, II. Mary in the Scriptures, III. The Virgin, IV. The Mother, V. Tradition, VI. Tradition (II), VII. Poetry, VIII. The Arts in Colour, IX. Modernism, X. In Churches, XI. The Effectual Influence. Meynell's essays were illustrated by Robert Anning Bell with a colored title vignette, a mounted frontispiece ("The Visitation") and 19 additional color-printed plates, all mounted on thick paper and complete with captions and tissue-guards. Bell is perhaps best known for his splendid mosaic in the neo-Byzantine tympanum on the front facade at Westminster Cathedral. This is one of only 250 large-paper copies, hand-numbered on the limitation page, and bound in a full vellum gift binding, published in same year as the more common trade edition. Mary, the Mother of Jesus remained in print—with fewer plates—into the 1920's (as part of the publisher's series, The Medici Picture Books). Alexander. The Catholic Literary Revival: Three Phases in its Development from 1845 to the Present.