The two volumes of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (1900-1901), the largest book to date printed for the Vale Press, were issued in a paper edition (300 copies) and an edition printed on vellum (10 copies). The vellum copies occasionally appear in the auction room, the most recent one being the Lawrence Hodson copy auctioned in 2013.
|Vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini: volume II, page xxxv (Vale Press, 1901) [Private collection]|
The story of the vellum copy as such can not be traced, but the fate of Paul May's library is well documented, see Ed van Rijswijk's contribution to the Community Jewish Monument.
Siegfried Paul Daniel May was born in 1868; in 1897 he married Rosine Mariane Fuld who was two years his junior. May was a banker for the family business of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co., and involved in many financial organizations, but also charities, and the KLM. An ardent bibliophile, he was co-founder of a private press, De Heuvelpers, in the 1920s, and he assembled a vast number of valuable books.
|Country House De Breul|
|Announcement of the second sale of paintings from the May-Fuld collection|
(De Telegraaf, 30 November 1941)
|Paul May in 1936|
The two vellum volumes of the Vale Press Cellini had been transported to Germany and Austria, and were since returned to the family, only to be auctioned in Switzerland as part of the Paul May collection. August Laube sold the collection in two parts, on 19 October 1949 and on 25 September 1956. The second sale included the Cellini edition in lot 358 (estimated price 1000 Swiss Francs). It was the only Vale Press edition on vellum in the Paul May collection, but it was not the only Vale Press book - there were 19 Vale Press lots, including the complete Shakespeare edition in 39 volumes.
Paul May possessed more bindings by Sybil Pye: Daphnis and Chloe (1893, bound in 1928), The Poems of Sir John Suckling (1896, bound in 1926), Michael Field's The World at Auction (1898, bound in 1913), Maurice de Guerin's The Centaur The Bacchante (1899, bound in 1925), and Poems from Wordsworth (1902, bound in 1923).
All in all, May possessed sixteen bindings by Sybil Pye (for twelve editions), only a few less than Major Abbey who is said to be Pye's main customer, and who ordered nineteen bindings (for fifteen editions). May had bindings that were dated 1913 and 1916, but it is highly probable that he purchased all these bindings between 1923 and 1938. There were bindings for editions of The Vale Press (five), The Eragny Press (three), The Kelmscott Press (one), one for a German Insel-Verlag edition, and two for Dutch private press editions.
The current location of the Vale Press Cellini printed on vellum from May's collection is not known to me.