New York: M. Walter Dunne, 1904. First American edition. Folio (14 1/2 inches tall), original purple silk-covered boards decorated in gilt, silver, pink, white, incorporating cross, crowns, fleurs-de-lys, roses, and dove descending, dark navy silk endpapers with repeating rampant lions, top edge gilt, uncut. Tiny bookseller’s blind-stamp to lower corner of blank front flyleaf, very minor toning to spine, gentle wear to spine ends and corners but boards largely clean, gilt bright, corners sharp. An exceptional copy. Item #864
THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER AND THE CORONATION OF KING EDWARD VII First authorized North American edition of the lavishly illustrated Prayer Book of King Edward VII—an extraordinary lectern-sized printing of the Book of Common Prayer, published to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria's son in 1902. After establishing the Guild and School of Handicraft in 1888, Charles R. Ashbee founded the Essex House Press, incorporating the staff and presses of the recently closed Kelmscott Press. Colin Franklin points out that Ashbee's books do not reflect the dedicated study of medievalism typical of William Morris: "Ashbee was not being medieval or doing homage." Instead, the Essex House books are distinctly contemporary and the types are a mixture of "Ashbee's Art Nouveau and Kelmscott's Caslon." The magnum opus of the Essex House Press was illustrated throughout with about 150 splendid woodcuts designed by Ashbee and printed from blocks cut in England by W.H. Hopper and Miss Clemence Houseman. The illustrations include a frontispiece depicting King Edward VII circled by his six predecessors of that name, a title page framed by images of London, eight contents pages topped with large illustrated headpieces depicting a historical procession of important figures in the English Church, and a stunning double-page illustration of St. Augustine of Canterbury meeting the seven British Bishops. Ashbee himself appears in the heading of the section on Calendars. Underneath a globe containing the signs of the Zodiac are two figures. The one in contemporary dress sits by a flat-bed hand press before the Church of St. Mary’s Bow and a building which is the Essex House. A large volume in the oak binding of the English edition is in the foreground. "Thus Ashbee literally as well as figuratively incorporates himself and the Guild in the 'Prayer Book'" (David W. Lowden). "Published in the United States and Canada by M. Walter Dunne of New York...under a joint arrangement with the Essex House Press...the Guild of Handicraft...and with Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode, Printers to His Majesty King Edward VII." Printed at the Plimpton Press, under the direct supervision of Angus Frederick Mackay, by Richard Whitaker and Henry J. Madden. The binding (which states "1903" on the spine) is from designs drawn and executed at the Dunne bindery. Franklin. The Private Presses, Lowden. C.R. Ashbee and the Guild of Handicraft (Exhibition catalogue).