Rare illuminated manuscript on vellum in American Arts and Crafts style by the designer credited with leading the American revival in hand-lettering.
Illuminated manuscript of Ecclesiastes
"Mr. Goudy did more to rescue typography from standardized ugliness than any other man since William Morris, whose spiritual descendant he was." – NEW YORK TIMES Obituary, May 12, 1947
One of the best known American type designers of the 20th century, Goudy made an in-depth study of letterforms and their history. Many of his typefaces and book designs are directly informed by his historical research, from examples of the Italian Renaissance, to German blackletter, to Roman monumental capitals. Goudy began his artistic career as a lettering artist; his student, the type designer Oswald Cooper, credited Goudy with beginning the American revival in hand-lettering.
Goudy was greatly influenced by William Morris, who studied medieval arts and early printing in an ambitious project to re-evaluate every aspect of book production; Morris's Kelmscott Press was the inspiration for Goudy's own Village Press. This manuscript is clearly a production in the same spirit, forming a detailed study in the making of an illuminated manuscript, and bound in a manner informed by manuscript-era techniques in the Middle East, such as the Timurid and Safavid styles (though with certain conscious departures, like the lack of the otherwise characteristic flap).
The source text is ECCLESIASTES, one of the Wisdom Books of the Hebrew Bible. The American Arts and Crafts aesthetic is reflected in the brilliant painted borders, with additional touches that indicate the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and a burgeoning Art Nouveau tone. While members of the fine press movement in England were known to create similar illuminated manuscripts – most famously, Sangorski & Sutcliffe – American examples, especially from a figure as significant as Goudy, are even more rare, and few offer as many original illustrations as the present example.
A sumptuous work of art by one of America's most important book designers.
Read more: Bruckner, Frederic Goudy; Design History: An Anthology.
n.p. n.p., [circa 1890s]. Full title: Ecclesiastes or the preacher. 8.25'' x 5.25''. Original full brown goatskin, elaborately gilt-embossed floral borders, central medallion gilt-embossed within interior, gilt-embossed corners within frame. Burgundy goatskin doublures with gilt-bordered blue-ground central and cornerpiece cutouts ornamented with leather filigree work. Top and bottom edges gilt. 56 folio vellum leaves, most of which are illuminated on one side with the blank side adhered to its facing blank (mimicking a construction that reaches back to pre-modern Chinese bookbinding). Borders illuminated in floral, geometric, and figural designs in various color palettes. 112 pages (including endpapers). Signed by Goudy on the title page. Joints and one part of border on rear board expertly repaired, filigree work partially rubbed away on rear pastedown only. A few blanks have come apart from their paired neighbors, a couple instances of cracking at gutter: overall crisp and bright.
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