Jewels & Illuminations: Sangorski & Sutcliffe

February 3, 2012.

The volume above, seen housed in its silk and velvet-lined case, represents the peak of twentieth-century book arts.  Sangorski & Sutcliffe was founded in an attic in Bloomsbury in 1901 by two apprentice binders, and in only a few years it had become one of the most important binderies in the world. Francis Sangorski and his partner George Sutcliffe produced exquisite luxury bindings incorporating delicate inlays and onlays, detailed silver and gilt work, and valuable gemstones. The firm is perhaps best remembered for the book known as “The Great Omar“, a copy of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám incorporating 150 individual jewels in its covers, which sank with the Titanic in 1912 only weeks before Sangorski himself died in a drowning accident.

This  copy of A Dream of Fair Women by Alfred Tennyson was hand-written and illuminated on vellum and finely bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe sometime between 1905 and 1911. The covers are blue-green morocco with brown and red onlays and exquisite gilt blocking, and feature five garnet and six turquoise cabochons inset into the upper cover. A very handsome example of the illuminations and jeweled bindings for which the firm was famous. As usual, click to enlarge the images.

Turquoise and garnet on the Sangorski & Sutcliffe binding.

Title page.

Jeweled binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.



Laura joined Peter Harrington in 2009 after completing a master's degree in book history at the University of London. Her special interests are science and medicine, modern literature, and the book culture of the medieval and early modern eras.

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