London: Macmillan and Co., 1893. Thomson, Hugh. First Edition. Leather. First trade edition with Hugh Thomson illustrations, duodecimo size, 316 pp., in a custom binding by Worsfold. Near Fine. Item #16080603
Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855) earned her living as a writer in the early half of the nineteenth century, somewhat unusual for the day. While most of her work is no longer widely read, "Our Village" was widely popular in its day, continuing so into the early twentieth century; it provides an intimate glimpse into "country scenery and country manners" and, according to Mitford herself, " if the author 'be accused of having given a brighter aspect to her villagers than is usually met with in books, she cannot help it, and would not if she could', for 'in every condition of life goodness and happiness may be found by those who seek them' ".
The author of the introduction, Anne Isabella, Lady Ritchie, née Thackeray (1837-1919), the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, was an author in her own right and was "a central figure in the late Victorian literary scene." One of her novels, "Mrs. Dymond" was the first to use the proverb "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life." Her introduction to this work runs to over 45 pages, and helps to put the stories, and the author, into the proper milieu.
Lastly but not at all least, we turn our attention to the illustrator, Hugh Thomson (1860-1920), Irish by birth but who lived most of his life in England; he "was an instinctive artist with little formal training". His style, which he founded, is referred to as "The Cranford School", distinctive for its "nostalgic, affectionate and slightly whimsical approach to historical themes." As such, he was the perfect artist to illustrate "Our Village", as well as the works by Jane Austen among many others.
___DESCRIPTION: Custom bound by Worsfold (with their stamp on the front turn-in) in full crimson leather over boards, both boards with a double-ruled gilt border inset with dots, that enclosing a gilt diamond shape also with double lines inset with gilt roses and stylized leaves (or feathers?), the spine with four of the six compartments richly decorated in gilt, two compartments with gilt lettering, the board edges ruled with gilt, top edge gilt, the fore-edge untrimmed, the leather turn-ins decorated with gilt rules and roses, marbled paper endpapers in tones of pink, green and ivory, tissue-guarded frontispiece one of the line drawings by Thomson, the volume replete with both full-page and in-text drawings ("one hundred illustrations" per the title page); duodecimo size (7 3/8" by 5 3/8"), pagination: [i-vii] viii-lx, [1-3] 4-256 (note that full-page illustrations are included in the page count).
___CONDITION: Near fine and could likely be deemed fine, the leather is smooth and supple, with clean boards, straight corners without rubbing, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, and entirely free of prior owner markings; some light scattered foxing, the leather spine slightly darkened, the rear bottom corner lightly bumped; note that we had a professional (name available upon request) reinforce the front joint, the binding is now strong and sturdy. Overall a lovely copy of an exquisitely charming book in every aspect.
___CITATIONS: Houfe, "The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators", pp. 327-328; online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Wiki.
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