Connecticut: The Easton Press, 2013. Full leather. This is a strikingly handsome limited edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with illustrations by Edmund Dulac, published by The Easton Press, 2013. Condition is unequivocally as new; this copy is still hermetically sealed in the publisher’s shrinkwrap and housed in the publisher’s shipping box.
This limited, full leather edition features all 40 original full-color illustrations by the great Edmund Dulac originally appearing in the illustrated edition of 1908. Bound in full cream leather, this edition also features a cover design replicating the 1908 edition and contents bound with all edges gilt and marbled endpapers. The volume is housed in a matching cloth slipcase and each of the 400 copies is hand-numbered.
Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) made a name for himself as an impressive illustrator, earning a commission from Hodder and Stoughton to produce color plates for the 1907 edition of The Arabian Nights. He also illustrated a 1908 edition of The Tempest, and a 1909 edition of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. His striking style is mimetic of Japanese prints, with their asymmetries, but his distinct coloration was inspired by the Mediterranean Sea. Writing in his diary, Dulac says, “The shadows in it are blue. Blue—the only blue, a blue to make you drunk.” It’s deliciously complementary, then, that Dulac would do the color plates for The Tempest, which begins with a shipwreck during a storm at sea and takes place on an island off the coast of Italy. His style also made him an excellent choice to design William Butler Yeats’s Noh inspired play At the Hawks Well, first performed in 1916, which was cited when Yeats received the Nobel Prize in literature. Dulac met a fitting death for an artist, dying of a heart attack brought on by a bout of flamenco dancing.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) - whom the late literary critic and scholar Harold Bloom claimed invented the human by altering our collective consciousness - left a legacy that is difficult to overstate. His stature so dominates English letters as to verge on biblical proportions. It is symbolically informative that Shakespeare is often assumed to have been born on 23 April, St. George’s Day, so that England’s national poet and their patron saint would share the same day of celebration, akin to the assertion of Christ’s birthday onto the winter solstice.
Shakespeare read from the standard syllabus of Latin literature and history: the history of Livy, the speeches of Cicero, the tragedies of Seneca, the poetry of Virgil, and Shakespeare’s favorite, Ovid, all of which became the foundational texts of his dramatic canon. He transmogrified much of his literary inheritance, making it his own and demonstrating not only skill but enormous range including “the frenetic farce within a potentially tragic frame of The Comedy of Errors; the learned, witty, verbal games and inconclusive ending of Love's Labour's Lost; the lyrical virtuosity and sharply personal politics of Richard II; the outrageous sexy comedy, romantic love, and tragic conclusion of Romeo and Juliet; and the metrical pyrotechnics and supernatural mechanism of A Midsummer Night's Dream.” (ODNB). Item #006722