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RACKHAM, Arthur (illus.);

[Original Rackham-illustrated vellum binding:] The Open Road.

Compiled by E. V. Lucas.

London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1910 Stock Code: 117312
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A fine example of a test piece of Rackham's work

This fine example of Rackham's work is a test piece by the artist, practicing his technique for drawing directly onto vellum, possibly in preparation for a private commission. The illustration features two unconnected design elements - vignettes drawn in black and coloured inks, each signed by Rackham with his initials, and very much in the style he used for the headpieces in the Haddon Hall library (1899-1903). The top scene depicts a delicately-tinted castle backed by billowing clouds enclosing a partially opened scroll, with marbled colour lightly applied, a spray of brambles to the right-hand side of the image, and two swallows in flight in the foreground, with Rackham's initials next to the left-hand swallow. The scroll was evidently designed to contain lettering, though it has been left blank here. The bottom image, situated at a right-hand angle, as if to enclose a portion of text, depicts a wood nymph entwined in a thorny spray of roses and brambles, with Rackham's initials worked into the foliage below the nymph.

It is probable that Rackham purchased this plain vellum-bound book for this purpose while holidaying in the village of Walberswick, Suffolk, where he often stayed (this book was originally "acquired from a private source in Southwold", the nearby town). The binding itself, executed in an amateur, though not unappealing, style, was likely originally a gift from two pupils to a governess or tutor, bearing a gift inscription on the first blank in childish handwriting, "To Miss Daniel, with love from Agatha & Edith" (the book itself was first published in 1899, and this is a later printing).

The drawing has been authenticated by both Robin Greer, president of the Arthur Rackham Society, and Richard Riall, Rackham's bibliographer, and is accompanied by a letter of provenance. We have not traced any other vellum binding by Rackham illustrated with this unusual technique of applying colour directly to the surface of the vellum. The more commonly encountered method for illustrating vellum is the vellucent technique, developed by Cedric Chivers of Bath sometime around 1903. He invented a way to treat vellum so that it became translucent ("vellucent"): the cover design would be painted on a separate sheet and then a thin sheet of translucent vellum would be laid over it. This has the advantage of protecting the original artwork below, whereas applying the design directly leaves the artwork vulnerable. Several of Rackham's works have been presented in Chivers bindings, though, as far as we know, Rackham did not execute any vellucent bindings himself.

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Octavo (164 x 108 mm). Quarter brown sheep, vellum covered boards, spine lettered in blind, two original pen-and-ink drawings by Rackham applied directly to the front cover, top edge gilt, marbled endpapers, red silk bookmark.


Spine a little rubbed at extremities, a little spotting to rear cover. In excellent condition.


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