London: Nonesuch Press, 1927. Limited edition. Octavo (10 inches tall), original brocade cloth woven in scarlet and silver thread, renewed endpapers, gilt edges, uncut. Fine. Item #913
"A HEART ALONE / IS SUCH A STONE / AS NOTHING BUT / THY POWER DOTH CUT" Superb Nonesuch Press edition of The Temple—an exceptional copy of George Herbert's devotional classic, in the original brocade binding woven in scarlet and silver thread. Ordained in the Church of England in 1630, Herbert was rector at Bemerton where he became close with Nicholas Ferrar from nearby Little Gidding. Herbert composed poetry throughout his life: "Writing verse was a form of prayer, a way of contemplating God, of offering praise and giving thanks, but also a way of questioning and even arguing with his Creator" (Robert Ellsberg). In his last days, Herbert entrusted a manuscript of poems in English to Ferrar, leaving it to him to decide whether to publish or destroy them. The Temple appeared posthumously in 1633 to great acclaim: two editions were printed in the same year, with six additional editions in print by 1641.
This edition was published by Francis Meynell's Nonesuch Press, one of only 1500 copies "printed by the Chiswick Press for sale in England and America," and bound in woven cloth adorned with the emblem of the Nonesuch Press. Meynell's Prefatory Note (dated, "22nd June 1927") tells us that this "Nonesuch edition prints for the first time the text of the Bodleian MS, on the ground that is without a doubt the text nearest to Herbert's own." The work is composed of three parts: The Church Porch, The Church, and The Church Militant. A Bibliographical Note and Textual Notes with variant readings supplement the text. The Church Militant concludes: "Blessed be God alone, / Thrice Blessed Three in One." The Temple has exerted a profound influence on Anglican spirituality for hundreds of years, from King Charles I, to John Keble, to T.S. Eliot. "As a priest, Herbert valued the rich language of the Book of Common Prayer, the loveliness of church hymns, and the beauty of stained glass" (Ellsberg). Some of the poems, such as The Altar and Easter Wings, are arranged in patterns, the lines forming the shape of the subject. The text is red-ruled throughout with a bordered title page and a new engraving of Robert White's frontispiece of a 17th century portrait of George Herbert, captioned, "Effigies of Mr George Herbert / Author of those Sacred Poems called The Temple." Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time. A beautiful copy.