The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer. Together with a Version in Modern English Verse, by William Van Wyck.
NY: Covici-Freide, 1930. Two large quarto volumes. 530pp. numbered consecutively. Limited to 924 copies signed by Kent. With twenty-five full-page illustrations by Rockwell Kent, printed in brown and black, and more than fifty smaller decorations. In a unique sculptural binding signed by the Dutch artist Pierre Thielen. Executed in 1992, this breathtaking modernist binding may well become the cornerstone of Thielen's widely acclaimed work. Thielen has created a cathedral motif for the central part of the two-sided slipcase by incorporating long pointed strips of leather-covered boards of varying lengths to signify the spires of Canterbury Cathedral. Between the spires is a gold-colored staff, symbolizing the pilgrimage. The cathedral motif is repeated in both the boards of the slipcases and the bindings. Bound in calf leather, the bindings have been "patinated" in red and black, the black being Chinese ink and the red a diluted solution of acrylic paint. The whole is finished with "glaco-cuir," a book-leather wax. This exquisite binding represents the perfect complement to Kent's striking illustrations and, in juxtaposition, provides a twentieth-century context for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Included are the original binder's pencil and ink sketches. Some show Thielen's early designs, which were later abandoned; others show the development of the present binding, complete with a proposed color scheme. Trained in Maastricht as a master gold, silver, and wrought iron smith, Pierre Thielen is also a poet, painter, sculptor, and prize-winning binder. In an interview ("Boek en Band," 1986) he said "Jewelry of half an inch square or a very large sculpture: both are architecture. It transcends the measurements; it's the conceptual idea that has the greatness. The binding of a book, too, has a close relationship to architecture." This binding is free-standing, and functions as a graceful, beautifully crafted piece of sculpture. Although the lines are clean and modern, it recalls the upward-reaching quality of Gothic cathedrals. Few small scuffs to spine, otherwise fine in a cleverly designed, fitted box. (Item ID: 6549)