Le Morte Darthur

The Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur, of the Noble Knights of the Round Table, Their Marvellous Enquests and Adventures the Achieving of the San Greal and in the End Le Morte Darthur with the Dolourous Death and Departing Out of This World of Them All.

MALORY, Sir Thomas / BEARDSLEY, Aubrey

IN PUBLISHER'S VELLUM

BEARDSLEY, Aubrey Le Morte Darthur The Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur, of the Noble Knights of the Round Table, Their Marvellous Enquests and Adventures the Achieving of the San Greal and in the End Le Morte Darthur with the Dolourous Death and Departing Out of This World of Them All.

Dent, London, 1893.

First edition. Two volumes, both bound from the parts in the publisher's deluxe binding of full vellum blocked in gilt to spine and upper cover after a design by Beardsley. Top edge gilt, other's uncut. Two photogravure frontispieces and eighteen full page wood engravings (including five double-page), numerous text illustrations, and approximately 350 designs for chapter headings and borders, all by Aubrey Beardsley. A near fine set, with clean vellum and bright gilt, with just a little spotting to the edges. Internally fresh.

The classic combination of Aubrey Beardsley's distinctive drawings and the Arthurian legend. One of the most iconic books of the fin de si├Ęcle.
The young Beardsley was a regular at some of London's antiquarian book shops, where he forged a friendship with shop owner, Frederick Evans who introduced him to the publisher J.M.Dent. Dent was planning a beautifully illustrated version of Malory's Morte D'Arthur, along the lines of some of Morris's Kelmscott Press books, but using a less expensive printing process. Loath to pay the elevated fee William Morris would charge for this commission, and impressed by Beardsley's sample piece, "The Achieving of the Sangreal" (used as the frontispiece to the work), Dent was persuaded to employ Aubrey Beardsley with "everything to do for the book". The images drawn for this volume are among the artist's most striking work and have not been equalled by any of his many disciples.
The work was issued in parts and then bound in cloth for the standard edition of 1500 copies and in vellum for the 300 copies of the large paper edition on Van Gelder paper. However, it was possible to request to have the standard issue bound in vellum (as here), though evidence suggests that very few copies were bound thus, with only three copies being offered at auction in the last 45 years.

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