Waltham Saint Lawrence: Golden Cockerel Press, 1925. Eric Gill. Quarto. Bound in original white buckram, with spine titled in gilt. Edges uncut. Lacking dust-jacket. 43pp. Printed in red and black in Caslon Old Face type on Batchelor handmade paper. Small spots, free endpapers browned, a little soiled and marked; loose sewing between the first and second signatures has exposed some mull, but else a Very Good copy. One of 720 numbered copies, from a total edition of 750, this being number 424. Containing twenty wood-engravings by Eric Gill. Item #12
Along with Gibbings’ 'Samson and Delilah' (1925), Noel Rooke’s 'The Birth of Christ' (1925), and David Jones’ 'Book of Jonah' (1926), 'Song of Songs' was part of the Golden Cockerel Bible story series, and was Gill’s first effort at illustrating scripture. Unsurprisingly, the result was condemned as obscene and immoral by many within the Catholic Church, with some of Gill’s friends among them. The text was adapted by Gill’s associate Fr. John O’Connor, and was based on the Douay-Rheims version. After the publication of 'Song of Songs', Gill set to work on another Cockerel Bible book, 'Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi', which was issued the following year. While containing only six engravings, the latter was praised from within the Church for the devotional quality of its illustrations, which bore an affinity with the Stations of the Cross at Westminster that Gill had completed in 1918. Taken together, these two early Gill books set the stage for his and Gibbings’ more ambitious efforts at the Golden Cockerel Press, among them their productions of Chaucer and 'The Four Gospels'. By exploring the ways in which text and image could not only complement, but incorporate one another in the presentation of a text, Gill and Gibbings sought to revive elements of Medieval marginal illumination, where illustration and text merged in decoration and ornament. Thus, the 'Passio' and 'Song of Songs' were both important steps towards the achievement of 'The Four Gospels', and beautiful books in their own right. [Chanticleer 31].
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