Cambridge, UK: George Sproul; The University Press, 1902. Small quarto. (51)ff. From an edition of thirty copies comprising this installment in Sproul's St. Dunstan series, this is one of eighteen for sale in the United States. Signed by the illuminator, Ross Turner, and Sproul below the edition statement, which additionally announces that this particular copy was printed for Mrs. Adelaide R. Kenny, and that no two copies are alike. Replete with Turner's skillful illuminations and ornamentations, accompanied by sumptuous and practiced printing on vellum.
Sproul's St. Dunstan illuminated volumes were an ambitious effort to imbue the modern printed book with the artistry, beauty, and individuality found in the traditions of illumination and calligraphy. Some of the most celebrated and fantastical works in the Western world were selected as exemplars. Among the likes of Shakespeare's Sonnets, Spenser's Epithalamion, and Tennyson's Guinevere, Joseph Rodman Drake's The Culprit Fay distinguishes itself as being the sole American installment, thus demonstrating the weight of American artistic consciousness on the Western creative history at the turn of the twentieth century. Turner's accompanying illumination is suitably, in Sproul's words, "essentially American, in that it allows the Artist full poetic and artistic license to combine the imaginative excellences of all the various schools" of illumination styles. Indeed, the initials and devices adopt colors and designs both recognizable and strange. There are elements both abstract and real, with geometric shading on one page giving way to a butterfly settled on a gothic letter on the next, and Asian-influenced clouds prefacing beasts common to medieval Europe. It is a deeply imaginative work, unhindered by conventions of color or form. Adding to the American flavor of Sproul's lavish vision was the humanistic type in which the texts were set by William Dana Orcutt, who printed the works at the University Press in Cambridge.
Bound at the Trautz-Bauzonnet bindery in turquoise morocco with both covers sporting an identical design of a central oval inlay of pink morocco and a tan morocco border. Within and without these are roses and butterflies of onlaid red and purple and green leathers, tooled in gilt and set against a background of gilt stars, rules, dots, and tendrils. Rules and stars also appear at the edges and down the spine, which is titled in gold across five raised bands. The doublures offer a similar motif to the covers, replacing the pink and tan main onlays with cream and green, and exchanging the green of the butterflies' wings for pink. Here, the central ovals are plain save for a centered gilt circle medallion; at the upper doublure this medallion is ornamented apparently by hand with an abstract geometric design, and at the rear with a butterfly. Spine a bit sunned, scant instances of gilt loss, lower cover has one butterfly lacking a section of green onlay. Otherwise a near fine example of magnificent artistic vision and execution. Item #30684