Humphreys' Papier-Mâché Bindings

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William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Sentiments and Similes of William Shakespeare [edited] by Henry Noel Humphreys. 2nd ed. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, 1857). Graphic Arts (GAX) 2007-0664N

In 1849, Henry Noel Humphreys (1810-1879) wrote a guide for illustrators on the art of illumination, which begins: “Considering the prevalent taste for the beautiful art of Illumination, it is somewhat extraordinary that the fine monuments of this branch of art … have either not been sought as models or, the very worst examples have been slavishly copied … The object of the present little volume is, therefore, to offer a few suggestions to modern students of the beautiful art of enriching books with painted ornaments.” (Marquand (SA) ND2920 .H92e)

Like many Victorians, Humphreys loved all things medieval and enriched even his simplest texts with bright chromolithography printed by Owen Jones (1809-1874) to recall hand-painted illuminated manuscripts. His bindings were elaborate reliefs molded in papier-mâché and painted black, imitating carved ebony. Here are a few examples from Princeton’s collections.

Henry Noel Humphreys (1810-1879), The Origin and Progress of the Art of Writing. 2nd ed. (London: Day and Son, 1855) Rare Books (ex) Z 105.H92 1855

The Good Shunammite [Parables of Our Lord] (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1847). Robert Metzdorf Collection (ExMe) 5221.177

Henry Noel Humphreys (1810-1879), A Record of the Black Prince (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849). Robert Metzdorf Collection (ExMe) ND 3410.H8. The cover is taken from one of the compartments of the Prince’s tomb at Canterbury with the coat of arms of the Black Prince in the center.

The Parables of Our Lord (New York: D. Appleton, 1847). Robert Metzdorf Collection (ExMe) ND 3355.G7 B5. This retelling of some New Testament stories had an edition was 2000 with half of them sent to New York City (including this one) where Appleton added a new title page. Each of the four corners has a wreath containing the head of an angel, a lion, an eagle, and an ox representing the four Gospel authors.

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This is a beautiful collection. Is it available for public viewing?