Thursday, December 09, 2010

Beautiful Captain Marryat

My experience of Victorian children's books in decorative bindings is that they tend to be fairly ragged affairs, usually with bindings that are 'shaken' (bookdealer speak for 'about to fall apart') and decoration on the covers which is both unimaginative and faded. Every now and then, however, an otherwise unremarkable book is made special by its condition. Japhet in Search of a Father by Captain Marryat and illustrated by H. M. Brock (Macmillan, London, 1895) is certainly an unremarkable book, in nearly any condition it is £5-10 all day long, and whether anyone actually buys it, even at that price, is debatable. However, this copy has just come out of an auction box: immaculate with a gorgeous gilt decorated blue cloth and gilt edges pages, binding tight and the interior clean and full of Brock's wonderful illustrations. Whether the cover decoration and endpapers are also designed by Brock it doesn't say. This is the kind of secondhand book that you think of when you wistfully wonder what it would be like to give a beautiful book as a Christmas present only to discover that your local secondhand bookshop only stock the dull and shaken type!

I had to mention it here, however, for the amazing peacock endpapers which, I know, will thrill at least one regular reader of this blog!


John C said...

Yes, indeed! I like the dolphins on the cover as well. Oddly enough I ran across some of Brock's drawings just recently whilst searching for another artist. From what I've seen of his work I'd guess that he wasn't responsible for the cover or endpapers unless there's examples somewhere of him working in a bolder style. The Internet Archive has the same book with the Brock illos but plain boards so these fancy designs may have been added by another artist for a special edition.

Anonymous said...

A feast for the eyes. Thanks.
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