Heritage Press: The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953, Coronation Edition)

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953)
Sandglass Number Unknown
Artwork: Illustrations by Agnes Miller Parker, decorations by John Austen
Specifically published by the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, introduced by John Hayward
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #234/22nd Series, V. 2 in 1953

Click images for a larger view.

Front Binding – An artistic tour de force lies within these boards, as two of the greats in the history of the Limited Editions Club unite for this special Coronation edition of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen.  Agnes Miller Parker, whose work has been featured on the blog twice before (for the Poetry of Shakespeare and Hardy’s Return of the Native…but there’s plenty more to come!), combines her wood-carving talents with the fine drawing abilities of John Austen.  Austen’s other works will be spotlighted soon on the blog, as I have come into possession of his very first commission for the Limited Editions Club, Vanity Fair, and he also applied his touch to Aristophanes’ The Frogs, among plenty of others. I think the two work well together, but you can judge for yourself momentarily.

Alas, this library copy is not in the greatest shape, so it’s got a few issues.  I do like the color choice of a creme board with aqua green adornments on top, with the pink spine giving it a little class.  However, this is a library copy, and Sandglasses are notoriously difficult to uncover within these well-read books, so I’m in the dark as to who put this beauty together.  Any help would be great!

Title Page – Parker gets the left side to herself to showcase her excellence, while Austen embellishes the actual title page with his decorations.  The work is introduced by John Hayward.

Introduction Page 1 – Austen did smaller pieces meant to decorate the text, while Parker offers full page woodcut prints.  Here’s two examples of Austen’s contributions.

Illustrations Contents

Page 18 – And here’s Parker’s.  Another follows.  Just incredible.

Page 146

Personal Notes – The list of my desired books continues to grow.  *sigh*  This was another I checked out through the library system.

Any and all info on this book’s design process would be very useful!  If you have a Sandglass or LEC Newsletter, please drop me a line here or through the comments at my thread about this blog at the George Macy Devotees @ LibraryThing!  Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Heritage Press: The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1953, Coronation Edition)”

  1. Here are some details from The Sandglass:

    Talking with Charles Batey in the year 1949, we lamented the fact that John Austen’s grand project for a grand edition of The Faerie Queene had never ripened into a completed book; and we wondered if Charles Batey could take up where John Austen and the former Printer had left off.

    [After much consideration, Batey replied] that, even if he had the time, he wouldn’t know what to do about getting a new set of illustrations.
    Oh, we replied most airily, that can be taken care of. Agnes Miller Parker, said we, is one of the great wood-engravers of the world; and we know her to have been a friend of John Austen, because we brought them together.

    The result is that the Coronation Editon of The Faerie Queene, of which your copy lies heavy on your desk at this moment, is built around the typographic plans developed by John Austen before the war, and contains the decorations drawn by John Austen before the war–and includes a truly remarkable series of wood-engravings done by Agnes Miller Parker after the war.

    … There are one thousand and eighty-eight pages! [Hmm. In fact, there aren’t!]
    The type for the composition of the text is the monotype version of Garamond, in the bold and brave sixteen-point size. All of the pages were composed at Oxford, under the supervision of its Printer.
    The typographic design closely follows the plan laid down by John Austen in 1939. There are headings and ornamental borders and ornamental initials, as charming as charming can be, all drawn by Austen.
    The volume is bound from designs by Agnes Parker. They are highly ornamental designs, drawn by Agnes Parker and printed in lithography; each design is built up out of the shields which were carried into combat by the knights-errant of Spenser’s day, all of them drawn by Agnes Parker only after careful research.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for the details. Can you let me know what number your Sandglass is? That way I can properly signpost where I got the info from. Thanks!

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