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The Earth - An Intimate History
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Folio Society Published Works Number 2611

Chaucer - Troilus and Criseyde Eric Gill engravings Limited Edition

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Chaucer - Troilus and Criseyde Eric Gill engravings Limited Edition (Published in by The Folio Society in 2012. Limited to 1,250 copies of which this is number 253. Bound in full goatskin leather. Blocked in 22-carat gold with a design by Neil Gower from Gill's original engraving. Printed on Rigoletto Panna. 5 full page illustrations. Elaborate title page and decorative borders throughout. Felt-marked paper. Gilding on all three page edges. Ribbon marker. Book Size: 12½" x 7¾". 328 pages. Accompanied by a 48-page commentary volume. Quarter-bound in buckram with Merida paper sides. Presented in a buckram-bound solander box. In the 1920s the Golden Cockerel Press produced three works which are considered amongst the finest achievements of the private press movement, uniting the talents of the typographer Robert Gibbings and artist-engraver Eric Gill. They represented a union between text and illustration that has remained a gold standard for designers ever since. This is the earliest of these masterpieces: Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. This was the work that marked the start of a fertile creative collaboration between Gill and Gibbings. Although Gill had worked on books for Gibbings before, this was the first project to fire his enthusiasm and inspire his finest work. Gill greatly admired medieval manuscripts (he had begun his working life as a calligrapher) and he wanted to create a modern response to the books of hours and psalters which so delighted him. He developed borders to frame each page with marginal illustrations, and initial letters often printed in red and blue – a very pared-down, but conscious allusion to illuminated manuscripts. For Troilus and Criseyde Gill also created full-page illustrations with which to begin each of the five books of the poem. It reveals the moment at which Gill's ideas were developing from more traditional illustration to a very different kind of page design, and unites the beauty of both forms. Eric Gill is a controversial but brilliant figure. One of the finest artists of the 20th century, he developed an elegant, spare style which is instantly recognisable throughout his work – from the sculpted figures of Prospero and Ariel on Broadcasting House in London, to his lettering and typefaces, or his superb engraved illustrations. In his work for the Golden Cockerel Press, Gill was able to display his artistic versatility, marrying the medieval illuminated manuscript tradition with the modernist aesthetic. Just like Chaucer's poem, the illustrations are by turns playful and tender, erotic and tragic. Gill depicts the two lovers at the crucial moments of their relationship: when Troilus first sees Criseyde; Pandarus bringing her to see Troilus; the night Criseyde finally accepts his love; their parting at the gates of the city when Criseyde is forced to leave; and the death of Troilus, killed by Achilles. The borders and marginal illustrations show Chaucer himself writing the book, the God of Love, and birds, trees and flowers – appropriate images for a poem that both promotes and provides a critique of courtly love. A tragic love story set during the Trojan War, Troilus and Criseyde is considered by many to be Chaucer’s masterpiece. It is his longest complete poem, a virtuoso display of poetic brilliance and emotional depth. Chaucer’s treatment of the themes of fate, free will, fidelity and betrayal is masterly, as is his portrayal of his characters and their inner lives. As Professor Barry Windeatt of Cambridge University puts it in his commentary essay, the poem is 'a sustained exploration of private life and inward feeling that challenges comparison with the novel'. )

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