KEATS, John (1795-1821). Endymion: A Poetic Romance. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1818.
First edition, first state, in a spectacular crushed morocco binding by Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson. A friend and associate of William Morris, founder of the Doves Bindery and Doves Press, Cobden-Sanderson rejuvenated English bookbinding with 169 hand-crafted designs between 1884-1893. This particular example was evidently favoured by the binder – it was one of three designs he entered for the Society of Arts bookbinding competition in 1887.
John Keats referred to the writing of Endymion as ‘a test, a trial of my Powers of Imagination and chiefly of my invention’. The second of only three lifetime publications, Endymion was a ‘feverish attempt’ at a long poem, showcasing moments of genius and poetic immaturity. Its opening lines, beginning ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’, are among the most famous and most beautiful in English poetry. MacGillivray 2; Tidcombe, The Bookbindings of T.J. Cobden-Sanderson 74 (where it is listed but not located).
Octavo (212 x 137mm). Half-title with ‘Printed by T. Miller, Noble street, Cheapside’ on verso, one-line erratum leaf (tear on section title of Book III expertly repaired, outer sheet of first two quires mounted on stub). Blue crushed morocco by Coben-Sanderson, profusely gilt with leafy sprays and tiny stars, crescent moon in centre within a laurel wreath, solid heart-tool repeated four times, flat spine in six compartments, intricately tooled and lettered ‘ENDYMION 1818’, edges gilt over blue and elaborately gauffered with hearts, stars, and leafy flowers, signed and dated 1887 in gilt on rear turn-in; 20th-century blue cloth solander box, morocco spine label. Provenance: F.S. Ellis (his sale at Sotheby’s, 4 November 1901, lot 18, £131) – one line altered in manuscript.