The Forsaken Merman.London: J. M. Dent, 1900 Stock Code: 147588
First Jean Archer edition, this copy beautifully hand coloured, a stunning piece of arts and crafts design. Archer's illustrated edition is uncommon, with 15 copies held institutionally worldwide. In 1901 Dent released a further 50 copies of this work printed on Japon and 10 on vellum for binding by the Guild of Women Bookbinders.
This melancholy poem of a merman whose wife leaves the sea, called by the Easter bells, to live on the land, was first published in 1849 in The Strayed Reveller and other Poems "under the pseudonym A, for fear, it was said, of bringing Arnold's father's name into disrepute. In fact, his family was surprised at the evidence of seriousness, yearning, and grief the book displayed" (ODNB). The text in the present edition was collated to that of the second edition, issued in 1854.
The artist Jean C. Archer illustrated several works for Dent as well as writing and illustrating her own stories for Grant Richard's "Dumpy Books" series for children in a style strikingly different to that displayed here, which is reminiscent of the works of Edmund Burne-Jones and Evelyn de Morgan.
Small octavo, pp. 24. Original white cloth, titles within decorative frame to front cover in dark brown, central illustrated vignette hand coloured in reds, blues, and greens, decorative hand-coloured endpapers, top edge gilt.
Decorated half-title, illustrated border to title page, printed in red and black, decorative and illustrated borders to text, 4 full-page illustrations, all of which hand-coloured.
Contemporary inscription sometime removed from front free endpaper. Spine lightly browned, a little rubbing and soiling to cloth, occasional spots of faint foxing; a lovely copy in very good condition.
Marianne Tidcombe, Women Bookbinders, 1996.
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