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Jeweled Binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Sakoontalá, 1855 First Edition



Sakoontalá; or, The Lost Ring; An Indian Drama

First Edition - Published by Stephen Austin, Hertford in 1855

Translated into English by William Monier from the Sanskrit of Kálidása

Printed on Japanese Vellum

Illustrations by George Measom from Manuscripts in the British Library

Rare Jeweled Binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe

Custom Clamshell Box by Jamie Kamph, Stonehouse Bindery

Exceptional Condition

Binding Details:  Spectacular jeweled binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe of full red morocco leather that features a peacock with 21 pearls inlaid into its outspread tail which is surrounded by a stunning array of leather inlays and extensive gilt tooled decorations with each corner of the cover having a heart shaped mother of pearl inlay. The theme extends to the spine and back cover which also has mother of pearl inlays on the corners and a larger mother of pearl inlay in the center. There are a total of 51 jewels in the binding (21 pearls and 30 pieces of mother of pearl. The binding also features hand-painted gauffered page edges and a remarkable leather doublure design that elevate this binding to a true work of art.  The beauty and complexity of the design cannot be overstated. This is truly one of those bindings where a picture is worth a thousand words. Included in the photo section of the listing are photographs of the binding as well as the leather doublures and hand-painted gauffered page edges that hopefully will provide you with some insights into this magnificent binding. The Sangorski & Sutcliffe binders stamp appears in gold gilt on the bottom of the front leather doublure. The book is housed in a custom made cloth slipcase by Jamie Kamph of the Stonehouse Bindery that features a large leather insert to the front cover with titling in gold gilt.

Note on Sangorski & Sutcliffe Jeweled Bindings

It is generally agreed that jeweled bindings by Sangorski & Sutcliffe represent the peak of twentieth-century book arts. Sangorski & Sutcliffe was founded in an attic in Bloomsbury in 1901 by two apprentice binders, and in only a few years it had become one of the most important binderies in the world. Francis Sangorski and his partner George Sutcliffe produced exquisite luxury bindings incorporating delicate inlays and onlays, detailed silver and gilt work, and valuable gemstones. The firm is perhaps best remembered for the book known as “The Great Omar“, a copy of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám incorporating 150 individual jewels in its covers, which sank with the Titanic in 1912 only weeks before Sangorski himself died in a drowning accident.

Book Details:  This is the first edition of Sakoontalá; or, The Lost Ring; An Indian Drama published and printed on Japanese vellum by Stephen Austin, Hertford, England in 1855. Austin was awarded Gold Medals by both Queen Victoria and the Empress of France following the 1856 Paris Exposition Universelle where his Sakoontaláwas exhibited.

Sakoontalá is one of the most popular Hindu myths. The daughter of an ascetic sage and a heavenly spirit, Sakoontalá is left in the forest as a baby. The Rishi Kanva eventually finds her surrounded by birds and names her “Sakoontalá” or “one who is brought up by birds.” Sakoontalá grows up in the Rishi Kanva’s ashram where she meets a king and becomes involved in a love story involving a royal ring. That story is the subject of this play. The text is enhanced by the wood-engravings of George Measom after drawings made by architectural draftsman Thomas Sulman from manuscripts in the British Library and is lavishly illustrated with beautiful color wood blocks, including frontispiece, additional illustrated title page, geometric fly title, 14 intricate in-text wood-engravings with ornate color-block borders, and decorative page borders throughout the volume.

Commenting on the remarkable quality of the illustrations and printing of the book, Rauri McLean in Victorian Book Design & Colour Printing wrote, "The most lavish of the Oriental illuminated books was Sakoontala, printed and published by Austin in 1855. The borders of the ordinary pages are printed in four colours: there is a title-page, at the end of the Introduction of extraordinary richness, and numerous other decorations and borders printed in colours. The decoration was drawn, from manuscripts in the British Museum, by T. Sulman, Jun., and engraved by George Measom. Mr. Stephen Austin was able to achieve, by letterpress, result indistinguishable from chromolithography.”

The book measures approximately 8.5” x 6.75” with 228 pages as well as a 25 page introduction by William Monier, Professor of Sanscrit at Oxford University, a 2 page list of illustrations, 25 pages of notes by Stephen Austin that appear at the end of the book.

Condition Report:  The binding and internals of the book are in exceptional condition with no flaws. There is a small gift inscription that appears on the top of the second free endpaper. The clamshell box is also in FINE condition. Overall, this is a spectacular jeweled binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe that houses one of the most beautifully illustrated books produced in the nineteenth century.

Photographs of the binding, doublures, clamshell box and the title page and frontispiece from the book appear in the photo section of the listing.