Tales of knights and virtues that pulled readers out of the soot and smog of the industrial age were the ideal material for Arts and Crafts designers. This 1898 edition of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queenewas published by J.M. Dent and illustrated with woodcuts designed by Louis Fairfax-Muckley, who had previously worked for William Morris’s Kelmscott Press. This edition is remarkable for its binding decorations, which were hand-painted by Fairfax-Muckley and bound by Cedric Chivers, using a technique called “Vellucent.” With this process, artists painted and gilted directly onto the boards, before covering their artwork with an ultra-thin and translucent piece of vellum to protect the images. DB
Penelope for her Ulisses sake,
Deviz’d a Web her wooers to deceave:
In which the worke that she all day did make
The same at night she did again unreave:
Such subtile craft my Damzell doth conceave,
Th’ importune suit of my desire to shnone:
For all that I in many dayes doo weave,
In one short houre I find by her undonne.
So when I thinke to end that I begonne,
I must begin and never bring to end:
For with one looke she spils that long I sponne,
And with one word my whole years work doth rend.
Such labour like the Spyders web I fynd,
Whose fruitless worke is broken with least wynd.
Edmund Spenser, “Amoretti XXIII: Penelope for her Ulisses sake”
It was on this day in British history, 13 January 1599, that English poet Edmund Spenser died in London. Spenser is best known for his epic poem ‘The Faerie Queene,’ an allegory that praises the Tudor dynasty and Queen Elizabeth I. Spenser is considered one of the greatest English poets and though 'The Faerie Queene’ was left incomplete at his death, it is still the longest epic poem in the English language.