New York: The Macmillan Company (Printed in Great Britain by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh), 1940. Leighton, Clare. First Edition. Hardcover. The first US edition with illustrations by Clare Leighton, quarto size, 248 pp., in the original dust jacket, signed by Clare Leighton, and with TLS also signed by Leighton. Near Fine / very good. Item #21102601
Clare Veronica Hope Leighton (1899-1989) was an English author and wood engraver. "Convinced that wood-engraving was an art for the masses rather than for an élite, Leighton worked independently of the private presses. Her popular success was founded on a disciplined technique, powerful compositions, and a gravity of content and sincerity of feeling that derives from artists such as Samuel Palmer. 'No one in our time', wrote Eric Gill in Gollancz's publicity leaflet for 'The Farmer's Year', 'has succeeded better in presenting the nobility of massiveness and breadth of life of the earth on a scale so grand.' The artist herself, who possessed a gift for friendship with people of all races and classes, was influential as a teacher, lecturer, and author" (n.b., from the ODNB).
Leighton illustrated books written by many authors, including Emily Brontë, Thornton Wilder and Thomas Hardy, an author for whom she felt a special affinity. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is one of Britain's most influential Victorian novelists and poets; he wrote of tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances; and was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature (n.b., above information from Wiki). "Under the Greenwood Tree" was Hardy's second novel, published anonymously in 1872. While some think of this as one of Hardy's "lesser novels" it is an important precursor to his major works, and provides an important prequel and establishing myth for the world of Wessex that Hardy depicted in subsequent tragic works.
Not only is this volume signed by Clare Leighton on the front free endpaper, but loosely laid in is a typescript signed by her in pencil. Titled "Winnowers, Majorca", it is "from a hurriedly typed copy of the explanation attached to her print published by the Woodcut Society of Kansas City". This specific engraving not in this book, clearly a prior owner acquired the typescript separately and laid it into the book. The typescript is on onion-skin paper, the writing covering the whole of side one with an additional seven lines on side two, with her pencilled signature beneath. The typescript opens "It is not easy for the artist to talk about his own work...I remember the moment of its conception...As always, this moment came unsought..." and proceeds to lay out her thoughts and actions which bring the concept to the finished wood engraving. Accompanying the typescript is a small yellow slip of cardstock, also typewritten, which opens "Perhaps you are not so foolish about autographs; but, if you are, here is Miss Leighton's as a memo of a treasured evening", which then goes on with the explanation set forth above.
___DESCRIPTION: Bound in full rust cloth over boards with gilt lettering on the spine, with sixty wood-engraved illustrations throughout the text, five full-page and almost every chapter with a head- and tail-piece; quarto size (9 15/16" by 7 3/8"), pagination: [i-iv] v-x, [1-2] 3-237, [1, printer's statement]. The dust jacket has been clipped, one of the wood engravings (taken from that on p. 231) on the front panel in sepia, green and sepia lettering on both front panel and spine, the back panel and back flap both blank, short bio of illustrator on the front flap. The typescript of onion-skin on an 11" by 8 1/2" piece of paper, folded thrice (one assumes the original mailing folds), signed in pencil on the second side. The yellow cardstock slip measures 5 3/8" wide by 3 1/4" wide.
___CONDITION: Volume near fine, the binding clean and without noticeable wear, straight corners with a bare minimum of rubbing, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, and it is entirely free of prior owner markings; light bumping to the head and tail of the spine, and offsetting to the endpapers. The dust jacket a solid very good, mostly clean with a few stray spots on both panels, the spine sunned with several spots of soil, some overall edgewear most significant at the head of the spine with some slight loss of paper (not affecting any text). The typescript and cardstock slip both fine, clean, without wear.
___CITATION: Horne, pp. 291-292.
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