I have just acquired this beautiful little book. It is not particularly rare; a second edition, and the cover is showing a lot of wear around the edges and down the spine:

It is one of Tennyson’s more important works (so I am led to believe) and is a poem that tells the tale of a woman who establishes a university for women, whose suitor attempts to gain entry disguised as a woman.

As well as the fine tooling on the spine, the edges of the pages have also been marbled and are still very crisp with clean corners, which leads me to believe that this book has not been extensively handled over the years:

The endpapers are also hand marbled, and are incredibly vibrant:

The two close-up thumbnails below (click for enlargements) reveal some of the intensity of the colours and the surface texture:

And there are two very different bookplates on the inner cover:

This one measures 58 x 58mm and is visually very dramatic. Remember that each of those letters is just over 3mm high:

The upper plate is much more traditional, with its symbolic creatures, scrolls and panel:

This one appears to have been etched and is very of a fine quality:

The Online translators give me “valor praise to act” for the scroll above the elephant and “until blow I hope” for the squirrel, but I don’t think that is right somehow!

The words on the scrolls beneath the main bird read “god” and “raven” – but there is something obscured by the other bookplate. I think it may be “deus pascit corvos” – god feeds the ravens, which is used on other family crests, but on the subject I know nothing further… it is altogether an interesting combination of creatures and associations.

There is something about handwritten inscriptions in old books, especially when they are dated:

And the publishing date is only a year earlier, and is curiously missing the stem from the number five:

The typeface used throughout is a very fine Clarendon and used in sizes from 4pt on the printers credit to 12pt on the titles:

The body is set in 8pt on a generous 14pt leading and is very cleanly printed:

It is only when we really look at the physical quality of printed words that we can begin to wonder about just how far we have come with digital type and reproduction… The physical imprint of type on paper just cannot conjure the same feeling;

And what finer way can I finish this post?

Tennyson’s Princess
Henry Lushington