Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1896. Limited edition. Octavo, original red parchment, gilt spine and front panel, original red ribbon ties, top edge gilt. Bookplate. About-Fine. Item #1288
"AH! DEAR LORD / MIGHT I SO BEAUTIFY THY WORD!"
Edition de Luxe of Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book—a limited edition illustrated with designs by W.S. Hadaway and bound in a delightful Arts-and-Crafts binding.
This tribute to St. Jerome, "one of the first great scholars of the Christian church" (Robert Ellsberg), is a vision of the fourth-century Doctor of the Church's agony and ecstasy as he sat down to write his Latin translation of the Bible. Encouraged by Pope Damasas to undertake the translation of the Greek Septuagint, Jerome exceeded the Holy Father's advice: "Rather than simply translate the Septuagint into Latin, Jerome went back to the original Hebrew. It was an overwhelming project for any single man, and it was to occupy him for the rest of his life" (Robert Ellsberg). Jerome's solitary labors resulted in the creation of the Latin Vulgate—the official text of the Church for over 1500 years.
The poem, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich of the Atlantic Monthly, is thought to be one of the first books printed under the supervision of Bruce Rogers at the Riverside Press. An early triumph for the Boston artist William Snelling Hadaway, who designed the illustrations and binding shortly before he departed American to live and work for decades in England and India, Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book was printed in red-and-black on handmade "French-fold" leaves with text to rectos only. One of only 250 "Large Paper" copies (there was also a "Small Paper" printing) with a special title page, hand-numbered in red ink ("CCXXVI") on the concluding limitation page. An exceptional copy of this high spot of American book arts in the 1890's. Nancy Finlay. Artists of the Book in Boston 1890-1910. BAL 376.