John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies (1895)

In this week’s book history post, things get pocket sized. Well, to be more precise I’m working with a pocket-sized edition of John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies, published by Henry Altemus of Philadelphia in 1895.

This edition is cased in a greenish-gray cloth with silver- and color-stamping. The front cover bears a silver- and color-lattice border surrounding the title, a torch and laurels, and Ruskin’s last name (at the bottom).

The spine is much simpler, with top and bottom borders of  silver leaves, the title set off with a single centered leaf, Ruskin’s last name again, and, at the bottom, the publisher’s name. There is no decoration on the back cover.

All edges of the text block appear to have been varnished. There is a slight shine to them, and they are a bit darker than the rest of the paper. There is minimal foxing.

An inscription on the front recto flyleaf tells me that this was given as a Christmas gift in 1944. It doesn’t look like it was particularly beloved (or opened much at all.

The paper is all laid, with the exception of two glossy leaves which have been tipped in on either side of the half-title leaf. Both illustrations appear to be gravure, which is (explained simply) an intaglio process in which tone is developed via strategic placement of shallow and deep engraved dots. The deeper the dot, the more ink it holds, and the darker that spot is on the printed page.

The font throughout vacillates between an older Roman typeface and a Gothic typeface.

There are no illustrations other than the two mentioned above. However, there is a section of red print in the middle of the book. Alternating paragraphs of red text occur on pages 90-93, to be precise, which occur in an essay titled “Of Kings’ Treasures.”

That’s it for this pocket-sized tome (and post). I’ll be back next week with a discussion of dueling editions of Marie Corelli’s The Soul of Lilith.


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