Wednesday, April 17, 2019

403. Vellum Copies of the Vale Press Cellini Edition (3)

Earlier, I have written about the vellum copies of the Vale Press edition of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (see particularly the second blog: 199. Vellum Copies of the Vale Press Cellini Edition).

We can now add another vellum copy to the list, located at Houghton Library, Harvard. In an essay about bookbindings for Country Life (March 1928), E.H.M. Cox wrote:

Finally, we come to the particularly bold decoration designed by Mr. Philpot on the Life of Benvenuto Cellini: translated by John Addington Symonds, two volumes, imperial 8vo, one of ten copies printed on vellum by the Vale Press in 1900. In this the symbolism is especially cleverly worked out with the lightning of his fiery career and the dagger. This binding is carried out in blue niger morocco, and is extremely successful.

For the life of Cellini, see Wikipedia. The binding was ordered by collector Harold Wilmerding Bell (1885-1947), whose books are now at Houghton Library. 

Vale Press edition of Cellini (1900), volume 1:
binding designed by Glyn Philpot
The binding's designer was Glyn Philpot (1884-1937), a painter, who sometimes digressed and designed costumes and interiors, painted murals, and worked at sculptures. At the start of his career he imitated book designs by Charles Ricketts. Bookbinding came much later, during the 1920s, and it seems that all of his binding designs were done for books owned by Bell, who himself designed some bindings for books in his collection.

In his biography of Philpot, Paul Delaney mentioned these bindings in passing; other publications about Philpot do not. There is only this fugitive article by E.H.M. Cox, published with the vague title 'Some Fine Modern Bookbindings', accompanied by eight illustrations of bindings, five of which were designed by Philpot, while all were executed by the London firm of Robert Riviere and Sons. 

Philpot's designs were for books printed by the Doves Press, the Ashendene Press, the Eragny Press, and the Vale Press.

The Bell copy went to the Houghton Library in 1948 as part of his bequest (accession number is *47-712 F). Philpot signed both volumes of this copy that was printed on vellum.

[Thanks are due to Susan Halpert, Reference Librarian, Houghton Library].