London: Hodder and Stoughton, . Edition de Luxe. Quarto (14 1/8 inches tall), original cream vellum boards blocked in gilt, top edge gilt, uncut. Housed in a custom cloth slipcase. Ex-library, bookplates, small inkstamps to verso of each plate. Mild spotting to front board, gentle bumping to three corners. Nearly-fine. Item #396
Limited "Edition de Luxe" of this large Stations of the Cross, splendidly illustrated with fourteen plates by Frank Brangwyn and prefaced with a lengthy commentary by G. K. Chesterton. This deluxe edition, number 141 of only 250 copies, features mounted lithographed plates, a vellum leather binding, and a limitation page signed by both Brangwyn and Chesterton. Frank Brangwyn was the son of a 19th-century convert to Catholicism. He evidently had little interest in the church as a young man but his work grew increasingly religious in his later years. Indeed, in The Way of the Cross Brangwyn imagines himself as an eyewitness to the Passion. In several instances the artist's self-portrait appears in the crowd, including in the direct center of the composition of the Thirteenth Station ("Jesus is take down from the Cross"). Brangwyn's plates for this edition are a sort of portable incarnation of the Stations of the Cross, evoking his expansive lithographed panels (mounted on sycamore) which grace the interiors of the Jesuit Chapel of Campion Hall at Oxford University.
Chesterton's essay places Brangwyn's work firmly in the Flemish tradition, "full of that particular fullness, something that might be called a Christian exuberance, which piled itself up to overflowing in the free cities of the Catholic Netherlands." The Way of the Cross has its devotional roots in the Middle Ages, fusing the mystical contemplation of saints such as Bernard, Francis, and Bonaventure with a desire to physically recreate the historical path of Christ to Calvary, brought back to the West by pilgrims and Crusaders returning from Jerusalem. Pope Paul VI revived the moribund practice in 1964 in the midst of the Second Vatican Council to commemorate the martyrdom of Christians in Imperial Rome. The tradition continues today as the Holy Father, joined by pilgrims from all over the globe, presides over the Way of the Cross inside the Colosseum on Good Friday. The plates were printed for Hodder and Stoughton by the Sun Engraving Company and the book was published on December 5, 1935 followed by an "ordinary" edition of 2500 copies on March 12, 1936. Without original cardboard slipcase. This copy comes from the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury which closed in 2017. Sullivan. G.K. Chesterton: A Bibliography, 98. A splendid copy with interesting provenance. Rare.