LEAR, Edward (1812-1888). Autograph manuscript for a pictorial nonsense alphabet, ca 1857. 26 separate leaves for each letter of the alphabet, each with large letter in ink at head, a pen-and-ink drawing at center and a quatrain with envoi at foot. Folio, written on blue paper with watermarks "Joynson" or crowned oval with Poseidon at center, each sheet with contemporary linen backing. With added sheets at end to form an album, containing three ink-wash sketches on two leaves of a duck and her young, a rabbit, and a goat and her young; and six hand-colored oval portrait etchings of children, these last sheets watermarked "Smith & Meynier Fiume." Contemporary half roan, marbled boards (spine mostly perished); modern red quarter morocco folding case. Provenance: Ida Nea Shakespear (signature on flyleaf); sold Sotheby's London, 20 April 1971, lot 543.
Lear wrote the manuscript during his stay in Corfu and presented it to Ida Nea Shakespear. The drawings and verses are similar to others which have appeared at auction and which Lear published. The most recent appearance at auction for a similar alphabet was at Sotheby's London, 22 July 1980; this example was prepared for the Tennyson family circa 1855. Two printed examples can be found in Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets.
The well-traveled Lear is known to have visited Corfu on numerous occasions, first in 1848, having left Italy when the political situation there became unstable. He next went there in 1855 with Franklin Lushington, whom he'd met in Malta in 1848, though he spent most of this trip there alone and became depressed. His third trip to Corfu was over the winter of 1857. Other trips there were made in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1877. According to Vivien Noakes, Lear made a number of these delightful alphabets for children up to 1870 (see Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, London, 1985, p. 173).