London: Burns and Oates, 1963. First edition. Quarto (11 3/4 inches tall), original dark red beveled cloth boards with gilt vignette, pink endpapers, dark red top edge, uncut, original dust jacket. Small bookseller's ticket. Gentle bumping to rear corners, faint tape mark to blank flyleaves, touch of crimping to spine ends and corners, short crease to inner flap of price-clipped dust jacket. A near-fine copy. Item #760
"NEVER, PERHAPS, HAS IT FALLEN TO THE LOT OF A HUMAN BEING TO HAVE HIS FEATURES SO TORTURED AND PERVERTED AS MORE'S HAVE BEEN" First edition of this "investigation of the portraiture" of Thomas More, in the bold original dust jacket reproducing Hans Holbein's famous likeness. Sir Thomas More was noticeably absent at the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England in June 1533. This act of defiance by the recent Lord Chancellor of England (October 1529 to May 1532) set in motion a chain of events which resulted in More's beheading two years later.
Perhaps inspired by the contemporary success, on both the British and American stages, of Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, this catalogue of images of the great Saint was printed in the U.K. and published by Burns and Oates ("Publishers to the Holy See") in Great Britain and Fordham University Press in the United States. The text is divided into two main sections: I. "Holbein and After" and II. "The Later Image" with a color frontispiece portrait, a title-page printed in red and black, and 42 illustrations. The illustrations include three contemporary depictions of More's martyrdom produced on the continent. The dust jacket reproduces the famous Holbein portrait , painted in 1527, depicting More wearing the livery Collar of SS (Esses). The Appendices include: A. Catalogue, B. The Collar of SS, C. 'Suavius Olet.' Edited and supplemented by Nicolas Barker with Stanley Morison's short Preface, (dated, "July 10, 1963") and an errata leaf tipped in at page 36
The catalogue traces the developing nature of portraiture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The shifting images also reflect the changing religious and political attitudes about More: "Never, perhaps, has it fallen to the lot of a human being to have his features so tortured and perverted as More’s have been. At one time he is made to resemble a Turk; at another time, an Officer of the Inquisition. One artist decorates him with the robes of ‘Soliman the Great’; another takes care to put around him those of a mountebank or conjurer." By the eighteenth century, Thomas More had been transformed from a Papist villain to become an ideal of the English nation, leading Samuel Johnson to declare: "He was the person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced." Pope Pius XI canonized St. Thomas More in 1935. Dedicated "To the Memory of Richard O'Sullivan 1888-1963 A Founder of the Thomas More Society London 1928." A stellar copy of a beautiful book.