(London and New York: J. M. Dent and Sons, Aldine House and E.P Dutton and Co., 1927).
AN IMPORTANT PRINTING OF THIS VERY BEAUTIFUL BOOK, and this a very desirable and strong copy. The third edition contains an extra 10 illustrations added in the text, the first edition to do so, as well as the original binding design (which was never used) and a full size facsimile of the Merlin drawing, previously used on a smaller scale. The text is that of Caxton’s printed for the first time in 1485 at Westminster in London.
This book represents Aubrey Beardsley's first commissioned work, undertaken when he was not yet twenty. While working at an insurance office in London, Beardsley frequently visited the Jones and Evans bookshop in Cheapside, where he got to know Frederick Evans. Mr. Evans allowed the artist to trade drawings for books on occasion, and it was Evans who suggested to J. M. Dent that Beardsley should be the artist for Mr. Dent's new edition of the Arthurian tales. A suggestion well made and one to which 20th century printing owes much.
The commission, which came in 1892 was to “design and illustrate an ambitious edition of Malory’s ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ which was intended to rival the Kelmscott Press books on their own ground...(E)lements beside the pale remnants of Pre-Raphaelitism were at work fertilizing (Beardsley’s) developing talent, and what was seen by its devisers as an emulation of Morris and Burne-Jones turned out in the execution more like a parody of them--a parody which annoyed Morris to the point at which he contemplated legal action. It may well not have been a deliberate parody: it is simply that already, willy-nilly, the ‘strong medieval decorative feeling’ of Morris was mixed, as Walter Crane noted, ‘with a curious weird Japanese-like spirit of diablerie and grotesque, as of an opium dream’.”
Beardsley’s life was short, he died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. In those few years he managed however to leave a great and lasting artistic legacy and a fascinating personal history as well. Item #26530
Third and most complete edition, limited to 1600 copies, with 10 extra illustrations not included in the two first printings. 22 full page and double-page illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley including the fine frontispiece, the Merlin drawing and the design for the original cover, also with numerous designs and illustrations throughout the text, as well as a profusion of decorated initials and chapter headings. Thick, large 4to, publisher’s original dark green polished cloth with spine and covers beautifully and fully decorated in gilt after designs by Beardsley. lv, 538 pp. A very handsome, superior copy, beautifully preserved, the cloth bright with strong gilt and no fading. The textblock very clean and crisp, the hinges tight and strong, corners sharp, only the most minute bit of age evidence along the tips or extremities.