London: Jeremiah Howe, 1842. First edition, a proof (or printer’s?) copy, printed on India paper on one side only. Wood-engraved illustrations throughout. Binding extremities lightly rubbed, corners bumped. Otherwise very good. Half red morocco over decorative cloth boards. Spine and covers ruled in gilt, gilt spine lettering. Quarto. vi, 234 pp. Item #13239
In his book, The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914, Gordon Ray states that “this is the most ambitious English book with wood engravings during the period under survey. Ray also included a proof or printer’s copy in his exhibit catalogue, remarking “This is a rarity of Victorian bookmaking, an India-paper copy printed on one side of the page only. Small editions of the outstanding French illustrated books of the period were issued on papier de Chine as a matter of course, and collectors now regard them as treasures. That an English published in this instance followed the French example is further testimony to the importance attached to The Book of British Ballads.” “A major book which followed this pattern [of stressing the separate nature of the designs] was S.C. Hall’s Book of British Ballads 1842 and 1844 [second series, not present here]…Hall’s book is otherwise important because it brought together a number of English artists who were to continue to work in a Germanic manner throughout the Sixties, notably Paton, Tenniel, Pickersgill and Gilbert…” (Goldman, Victorian Illustrated Books, p. 97).
“Its ambitious style is a link between the Georgian and early Victorian periods…the revered Tenniel contributed ten early drawings…” (Maré, Victorian Woodblock Illustrators, p. 54). Ray 61A.