London: Nonesuch Press, 1935. Hardcover. This exquisite edition of Herodotus’ The Histories, translated by G. Rawlinson, with revisions and annotations by A. W. Lawrence, engravings by V. Le Campion, and maps by T. Poulton, was published by Nonesuch Press in 1935. This is copy 549 of 675, a massive tome, bound in quarter azure blue vellum with gilt lettering and repeating wave design over darker azure cloth boards. The vellum, cloth, and gilt design artfully evoke the Aegean Sea, which separated ancient Persia and Greece. The book’s proportions are magnificent. The boards have a pleasingly stout feel befitting the whopping nearly 2.75 inch (7 cm) thickness of the book. At 12 inches tall x 8 inches wide (30.5 x 20.3 cm), the book feels pleasingly tall. The contents, with untrimmed fore and bottom edges, are printed with generous margins. The translated text is surrounded on the fore and bottom edges by A. W. Lawrence’s extensive annotations in a smaller, italicized text and interspersed with Le Campion’s striking engravings. Following the text are Appendix, Index, and maps. At nearly 5.75 pounds (2.61 kg) the book is as weighty as it is compellingly lovely.
Condition is very good. The binding is square and tight with a pleasingly stiff, unread feel when opened. The vellum spine is inevitably toned, but the natural, varied tones pleasingly evoke a stormy sea, and the vellum does not show any splits or tears. We note modest overall scuffing of the boards. Appreciable shelf wear is confined to the corners, which remain sharp despite a little fraying to the cloth. The contents are beautifully clean with no soiling or spotting. Even the text block edges remain quite clean, showing only nominal, uniform age-toning. The sole previous ownership mark is an illustrated bookplate affixed to the upper front pastedown.
This copy is accompanied by the original publisher’s prospectus. Compellingly handsome in its own right, this string-bound, 8-page prospectus measures 11.25 x 7 inches (28.6 x 17.8 cm) and reproduces the edition’s half title and title pages, as well as pages 1, 24, 25, and the limitation page. Condition of the prospectus is very good, complete and intact with mild wear and wrinkling to extremities and a short closed tear to the front wrap fore edge.
Both the translator and editor were accomplished scholars with famous brothers. George Rawlinson (1812-1902), younger brother of Assyriologist Sir Henry Rawlinson, was an Oxford-trained British historian and theologian. His translation of Herodotus remains highly regarded. Arnold Walker Lawrence (1900-1991) was an accomplished archaeologist, classics scholar, and classical archaeology professor, as well as the literary executor of his elder brother, T. E. Lawrence "of Arabia". The illustrator, Russian-born French emigree Valentin Le Campion (1903-1952) was an engraver and illustrator known for his classic Art Deco style.
The publisher, Nonesuch Press, was founded in 1922 in London by Francis Meynell, Vera Mendel, and David Garnett. The 20s and 30s were the Nonesuch heyday, marked by their efforts “to produce book designs with the quality of a fine-press but availability to a wider audience at lower prices”. This 1935 limited edition of Herodotus is a beautiful example of Nonesuch’s limited, illustrated editions.
A contemporary of Thucydides, Socrates, and Euripides, Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus in Asia Minor circa 484 BCE, between the two invasions of ancient Greece by Persia. Fittingly, Herodotus would gain enduring fame for his narrative history of the Greco-Persian wars of the early fifth century BCE. Herodotus was astonishingly well-traveled. This cultural and geographically cosmopolitan experience ostensibly facilitated a characteristic of his History - the systematic accumulation of information regarded without bias and presented from a perspective “neither naïve nor easily credulous”. Cicero would be the first to confer on Herodotus the title of “The Father of History”. Item #006765