Beardsley’s “Morte Darthur” Limited to 1500 Copies, With the Limited Portfolio of Additional Illustrations
BEARDSLEY, Aubrey. MALORY, Sir Thomas. Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur... London: J.M. Dent & Co. , 1893.
First edition. One of 1,500 ordinary paper copies, out of a total edition of 1,800 copies. Two quarto volumes (9 3/8 x 7 1/2 inches; 238 x 191 mm.). xc, 455, [1, blank]; [8], [457]-990, [1, colophon], [1, blank] pp. With two photogravure frontispieces, eighteen wood-engraved plates (five double-page), numerous text illustrations, and approximately 350 chapter headings, borders, and initials, all after designs by Beardsley.

Volumes uniformly bound in pastiche vellum boards, Beardsley’s design stamped in gilt on front covers and spines. Back covers with gilt publisher's device. Top edges gilt, others uncut. Some minor rubbing to board edges and gilt. Overall very good.

[Together with:]

[BEARDSLEY, Aubrey, illustrator]. Reproductions of Eleven Designs Omitted from the First Edition of Le Morte Darthur...With a foreword by Aymer Vallance and a note on the omitted designs by Rainforth Armitage Walker...London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927.

First edition. Limited to 300 numbered copies on handmade paper, this being number 69. Quarto (10 1/8 x 8 1/8 inches; 257 x 205 mm). [1, blank], [1, limitation], 45, [1, blank], [1, printer’s imprint], [1, blank] pp. Fourteen drawings, including one mounted, comprising the eleven chapter headings omitted from the first edition, an enlarged reproduction of “Merlin,” a sketch for an unused front wrapper design, and the front wrapper design as published.

Original publisher's quarter tan calf over vellum beveled-edge boards, with Beardsley’s design stamped in gilt on front cove. Spine lettered in gilt. Plain white endpapers, top edges gilt, others uncut. Covers very lightly soiled and slightly bowed, as usual. Splits along front and back edges of spine, but holding firm. Overall very good.

In 1892, seeking to emulate the books of the Kelmscott Press, John M. Dent commissioned the twenty-year-old Beardsley to produce this edition of Le Morte D’Arthur. The 351 designs appearing in the first edition required eighteen months for the artist to complete. Bored with the project, Beardsley at last refused to complete Dent’s original projection of 500 drawings. Of this, Beardsley’s first major work, John Lewis states: “In Le Morte D’Arthur Beardsley learnt his job, but the result is no bungling student’s work...If he had never illustrated another book, this edition of Morte D’Arthur could stand as a monument of decorative book illustration” (in The Twentieth Century Book, pp. 148-149).

Lasner, Beardsley, 22 and 22D. Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, 314 (Le Morte Darthuronly).

HBS # 68069 $3,750