New York: 1904. 12 mo. (7 3/ 8 inches tall), original full beaded vellum, lettered in black and decorated in blue, green, pink, and gold, patterned endpapers, red silk ribbon marker, top edge red. Beading mostly worn away, light browning to text. About-Fine. Item #1125
"WAIT THEN FOR AN ENTIRELY BRIGHT MORNING, RISE WITH THE SUN, AND GO TO SANTA CROCE, WITH A GOOD OPERA-GLASS IN YOUR POCKET"
Lovely turn-of-the-century American printing of John Ruskin's popular guide to the Christian Art of Florence—a superb example in a fine Art Nouveau binding recalling the illuminated vellum manuscripts of the High Middle Ages. "Ruskin is remembered chiefly as the great champion of art; if he found the artist a tradesman, it was he who gave the word its new meaning" (Printing and the Mind of Man). First published in 1875, Ruskin seemed to regard these lectures as a bit of a diversion during his time as the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. The title page notes Ruskin as "Honorary Student of Christ Church, Oxford, and Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College." Written as a series of letters to a friend, the book is composed of five sections: I. Santa Croce, II. The Golden Gate, III. Before the Soldan, IV. The Vaulted Book, V. The Strait Gate, VI. The Shepherd's Tower.
A short Preface provides all manner of practical advice on Italian matters ("If you can afford it, pay your custode or sacristan well") before Ruskin commences his remarks on Santa Croce with a focus on Giotto: "If there is one artist, more than another, whose work it is desirable that you should examine in Florence, supposing that you care for old art at all, it is Giotto...At Florence, which is his birthplace, you can see pictures by him of every date, and every kind. But you had surely better see, first, what is of his best time and of the best kind. He painted very small pictures and very large—painted from the age of twelve to sixty—painted some subjects carelessly which he had little interest in—others, carefully with all his heart."
Ruskin transports his audience to a thirteenth century Florence animated by "the teaching power of the Spirit of God, and the saving power of the Christ of God." Florence attracted the new mendicant orders of the Church and their arrival made the city a vibrant center of medieval Christendom. Ruskin credits "St. Francis, who taught Christian men how they should behave, and St. Dominic, who taught Christian men what they should think. In brief, one the Apostle of Works; the other of Faith. Each sent his little company of disciples to teach and to preach in Florence: St. Francis in 1212; St. Dominic in 1220. The little companies were settled...preaching and teaching through most of the century; and had got Florence, as it were, heated through, she burst out into Christian poetry and architecture, of which you have heard much talk:—burst into bloom of Arnolfo, Giotto, Dante, Orcagna, and the like persons, whose works you profess to have come to Florence that you may see and understand." The front board was originally embellished with gilt beads which have mostly worn away but the binding remains clean and bright. Printing and the Mind of Man, PMM 315.