Boston: Printed by The Riverside Press for Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1906. Limited edition. Large folio (17 1/2 inches tall), original patterned tan paper boards, vellum tips and spine lettered in brown, remnants of original glassine wrapper. Gentle bump to upper corner, small stain on vellum spine, small spot on last leaf of text. A nearly-fine copy of a superb book. Item #975
Limited edition of the Bruce Rogers printing of the Song of Roland—one of the loveliest and most celebrated American illustrated books of the era. The medieval Chanson de Roland, said to be the earliest surviving work of the French literary canon and regarded as the first of the truly national poems of the modern world, tells the tale of Charlemagne's campaign against an invading Moslem army. "The Song of Roland...one of the most popular of the Rogers books, was notable for drawings made by Rogers...printed from line blocks and hand colored" (Joseph Blumenthal). Inspired by Chartres Cathedral, the design includes six exquisite illustrations—each painstakingly colored by hand in blue, red, green and yellow tones—a homage to the cathedral's majestic stained-glass Charlemagne Window. Rogers also had a hand (literally) in the binding: to achieve a mellow, antique effect, he rubbed a red paste wash over the fleur-de-lis paper boards, taken from a patterned wall decoration in the cathedral's crypts. The text is set in two columns, recalling the layout and look of a Gothic manuscript, and printed in imported French lettre bâtarde and civilité types on hand-made paper. Printed in Boston at the Riverside Press (in the Department of Special Bookmaking) in edition of 220 copies, of which this was no. 9. The Song of Roland is one of the "BR 30," one of the 30 books (of the over 400 books he designed) which Rogers selected when asked in an interview which of his books he considered most successful. A copy of this edition was sent to President Theodore Roosevelt, who compared the Song of Roland to the great books of the fifteenth-century. Roosevelt subsequently made a pilgrimage to the Riverside Press to pay his respects to Rogers. An early triumph at the beginning of Rogers' stellar career as a master American designer in the Book Arts. Blumenthal, Bruce Rogers, p. 17; Warde 71; Blumenthal, Printed Book in America, p. 65.