The Book of Job
Robert T. Rose
Limited edition in artist’s preferred binding;
also first (and only) Rose edition
* Inscribed and signed by the artist *
* with two original drawings plus manuscript letter *
Type arrangement and printing by
William H. White, of the Abbey Press, Edinburgh
George Bell & Sons, London/The Abbey Press, Edinburgh
Hardback, original vellum (variant) binding with gilt lettering plus artist’s original drawing to upper board, top edges gilt, fore and lower edges untrimmed (deckle), front pastedown with artist’s original hand-coloured ex-libris drawing, full-page frontispiece illustration plus illustrated title page, 80 smaller drawings (including 38 in-text plus 42 initials), printed on laid paper, 99 pages plus prelims. Approximate size 8.7 x 7 inches (22 x 18 cm). With manuscript letter laid inside.
Published in a limited edition of 750 numbered copies on hand-made paper,
plus an extra 31 copies printed on Japanese vellum, signed and with a hand-coloured ex-libris by the artist.
This copy number 429 of the 750 on paper:
being a special presentation copy with hand-coloured ex-libris,
plus hand-drawn cover illustration
(see notes below).
Robert Traill Rose (1863-1942) studied at Edinburgh School of Art, and was the grandson of Alexander Rose, ‘father’ of the Edinburgh Geological Society. Rose favoured subjects of a mystical nature, illustrating titles such as The Dream of Gerontius and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as well as the biblical Book of Job, all for Scottish publishers.
This striking private-press edition of The Book of Job, printed by the short-lived Abbey Press in Edinburgh, is profusely illustrated by Rose – probably his most important published work, somewhat in William Blake vein. Detailed pen-and-ink work seems to have been Rose’s forte. In a review of an exhibition of fine printing and illustration held by the Society of Scottish Artists in 1913, which included some of Rose’s drawings, the Connoisseur wrote of the artist:
“... one must not conclude without mentioning another literary treasure embraced in the display – an edition of The Book of Job, printed … by the defunct Abbey Press, and illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by Mr R.T. Rose. This artist is not a sound draughtsman in the ordinary academic sense of the term, and yet he stands in the front rank of contemporary illustrators. He has not the power of Mr Austin Spare, nor the delicate touch of Mr Lawrence Housman, but he always contrives to render the essential spirit of the literature with which he is dealing; and, in the drawings in question there is hardly one but exhales surely the weirdness and mystery which permeate The Book of Job.”
In his section on Scottish artists and designers in The Art Nouveau Book in Britain, John Russell Taylor notes:
“Robert Traill Rose was an uneven artist with mystical aspirations and an unreliable colour sense, both of which may be seen in his illustrations to Newman’s The Dream of Gerontius (Foulis, 1910). None of his published work in colour that I know of matches some of his tinted extra-illustrations … his black-and-white illustrations for The Book of Job unexpectedly show a far firmer sense of design, and make one regret that he did not deny himself colour more often.”
Drawings & inscription
This particular copy of The Book of Job is of especial interest, being a gift from the artist, to which he has added two original signed drawings: a cover illustration, depicting a skull; and a personalized, hand-coloured ex-libris. His signed inscription is dated May 1918, “with the kindest thoughts of the artist”. Laid inside is a letter to the recipient of the book. The letter and the inscription in the book are both to a Mr J.H. Murray – apparently the artist’s optician, possibly with the Glasgow firm George Prescott Ltd – for whom the artist has also personalized his ex-libris drawing, with the initials J.H.M. (A second ex-libris in the book, pasted in, is that of a Pat Murray – perhaps the recipient’s son.)
The binding usually associated with this edition is the publisher’s full vellum with blue ribbon ties (plus a gilt vignette to the cover). In the amusing last paragraph of his letter, the artist is scathing about the ‘bewildering bedizenment of blue ribbons’, and about the publisher’s intended clientele for the book (see below). This plainer binding, issued by Grant, is seemingly much more to his taste.
The artist’s interesting letter – transcribed below – references the book, his cover drawing and the binding; alludes charmingly to his wife polishing the vellum covers; and discusses matters such as the beauty of the Scottish countryside, the problems he is having with his new glasses (with bifocal lenses), his trouble working (perhaps after an illness?), and his difficulty in finding extra copies of the book. The letter was sent from Oliver, Tweedsmuir, on 28 May 1918 (underlining is artist’s own):
Dear Mr Murray, | Here is the book I promised you – and fortunately I found I had a spare copy. I wish I could get more, but they rarely seem to come on the market. Dowell’s man [the Edinburgh book auctioneers?] says it’s a mystery to him where they can be as he never, or rarely sees them. | I couldn’t resist putting a little “remarque” on the outside cover, as it looked so inviting [a reference to the artist’s original cover drawing]. If you can expound it – please do so at some leisure moment. Of course it has no bearing on any particular passage in the Book of Job (but it has a meaning) otherwise I’d put chapter & verse to it. | I give it to you with great pleasure, feeling that [it] is going to an appreciative & kindred spirit in such things. | My Glasses came all right. Thank you very much for your attention. They seem to do very well – though I find I’m better with an ordinary “distance” pair for walking or fishing – the junction of the 2 sorts of lenses being confusing. One thing I notice is that the “reading” & “distance” lenses are not on the same plane at the junction. But possibly there may be a reason for that. | It is lovely weather now, and this is a beautiful place and countryside. The Tweed runs past just at the foot of the avenue, & the view up the Talla Glen from the window, with its mountainous surroundings & the Talla winding down to Tweed, is exquisite. I haven’t done much work yet. It will be some time before I get into the swing of it again, and what I send you was by way of getting my hand in – but I do a little every day. I also managed to have 3 pictures for the R.S.A. [Royal Scottish Academy]. | [?] Stodart is busy as I write polishing the Vellum covers [Rose was married to a Mary Tweedie Stodart, so presumably a reference to his wife]. This is the cover as Grant put it out. I like it better than the original with its bewildering bedizenment of blue ribbons! The publisher’s idea was that it would make an excellent wedding present! | With our united kindest regards, | Yours faithfully | Robert T. Rose
A unique and special piece, with its original drawings plus letter, offering a wonderful glimpse into the artist’s life and thoughts.
Book complete and intact. Contents very clean. Usual offsetting and show-through from type and illustrations, two or three foxing spots, uncut (protruding) corners and edges with usual slight bumping, browning, foxing, nicks and wear. First (blank) page with artist’s inscription in ink. Endpapers as shown, a little dusty, with pale offsetting (particularly around edges, from a protective cover previously removed), slight foxing, plus faintest trace of pencil writing (erased; hardly noticeable); front pastedown with artist’s hand-coloured original ex-libris drawing; front free endpaper with pictorial bookplate of Pat Murray (hand-numbered 2780). Top edges with slight rubbing and scratching (gilt bright). Binding tight, with usual slight splaying. Boards and spine as shown including artist’s original drawing; vellum marked and soiled, upper joint with short split plus a little wear to foot, spine discoloured, with rubbing and wear. Letter folded, with a few foxing spots, creasing, short closed tear; one edge dusty, with nicks plus a little chipping and wear.
Please see the many images below for details.
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Below: the original cover drawing,
hand-signed R.T. Rose.
Below: front endpapers with original ex-libris (left),
hand-drawn and -coloured by the artist.
Below: ex-libris signed
R.T.R. in the lower corner.
Below: the inscription from the artist.
Below: the letter from Rose (single sheet,
with writing on both sides).
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