London: Peter Davies, 1962. First edition. Octavo (8 1/4 inches tall), full crushed caramel morocco, red ribbon marker, gilt dentelles, top edge gilt. Bookplate. Housed in a custom patterned cardboard slipcase. Fine. Item #455
Splendid first edition of Hugh Ross Williamson's classic tale of the advent of Christianity in the British Isles, this copy specially-bound in a beautiful morocco leather binding with a hawthorn leaf pasted inside the rear board. The story centers on the legends surrounding the medieval Glastonbury Abbey (the famed "Second Rome") and the legend of the hawthorn tree that flowers at Easter and again at Christmas. The text is decorated by Clare Leighton with eight wood-engravings: I. Joseph of Arimathea planting the hawthorn staff on Weary-all Hill, II. Joseph of Arimathea landing on the coast of Cornwall, III. "And there he built with wattles from the marsh a little lonely church in days of yore." IV. Sir Bedevere committing King Arthur's sword Excalibur to the lake, V. St. Dunstan composing the music which he himself played on the harp, VI. The ruins of Glastonbury at night, with the Wordsworth poem in mind, VII. A local zealot blinded by a chip whilst attempting to cut down the hawthorn tree on Weary-all Hill, VIII. The flowering hawthorn blessed by a vision of the hand of the Virgin Mary.
Hugh Ross Williamson turned from his Noncomformist upbringing and became an Anglican clergyman in 1942. He was also a journalist and an historian (under the influence of G.K. Chesterton, R.H. Benson, and T.S. Eliot), known primarily for his biographies. His conclusions often conflicted with the accepted traditions of Anglicanism and the resulting controversies left Williamson feeling isolated. "Ross Williamson was a Church of England clergyman at the time he wrote many of his controversial historical studies, a fact which led him increasingly to question the nature of his own position." (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts). Williamson remained a committed Anglo-Catholic until another controversy (this time over the Church of England's validation of orders in the Church of South India) drove him, at last, into the arms of Rome. In October of 1955, Hugh Ross Williamson, together with his wife, was received into the Church at Farm Street by Father Basil Fitz-Gibbon, S.J. Printed on fine rag paper at the Hollen Street Press in London.