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The Poems of John Ruskin


John Ruskin.

Collected Poems and drawings by the leading English art critic of the Victorian era.


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John Ruskin, The Poems of John Ruskin: Now First Collected from Original Manuscript and Printed Sources; and Edited, in Chronological Order, with Notes, Biographical and Critical, by W.G. Collingwood with Facsimiles of MSS. and Illustrations by the Author (Sunnyside, Orpington & Bell Yard, Temple Bar, London: George Allen, 1891) in two volumes. First Collected edition in two Quarto volumes, each 28.5 x 23.5 cm, hard cover, original quarter binding in vellum with vellum corners, gilt titles on vellum spines, dark green cloth over boards, uncut pages, large paper (i.e. with very wide margins), prelim pages watermarked “Unbleached Arnold” (Eynsford Paper Mills, Kent, makers of the best unbleached drawing papers), printed by Ballantyne Press on heavy stock, 25 facsimile Plates with tissue guards of drawings and manuscripts, with incised etching-style borders. Weight of two volumes: 3.55 kg.

Volume I: Poems Written in Boyhood; 1826-1835. With 13 illustrations by Ruskin, some colour tinted, xxviii + 289 pages.   

Volume II: Poems Written in Youth; 1836-1845: and Later Poems. With 12 illustrations by Ruskin, some colour tinted, 360 pages.   

Condition: Overall, excellent to very good, well and tightly bound. Vellum with just a little light soiling, offsetting on endpapers, a few prelim pages with light toning, some offsetting from Plate tissue guards and occasional age-toning, a small incidence of scattered light foxing marks, but most pages bright, clean and unmarked.

The pervasive fame of John Ruskin (1819-1900) extended beyond his huge influence as a Victorian-era art critic to his roles as poet, artist, watercolourist, art patron, social thinker and commentator, educator, and philanthropist. In the present two-volume set, The Poems of John Ruskin, many of his poems were published for the first time. The care taken in the editing and production of these volumes clearly indicates Ruskin’s professional reputation among the literati and cultural cognoscenti of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.

In the later 20th and 21st centuries, Ruskin’s ideas and works, with their anticipatory concerns with environmentalism, craft and sustainability, regained their earlier prominence. In the process, this continued the general public’s fascination with the perceived scandal of Ruskin’s marriage to the 19-year-old Euphemia (Effie) Gray, which has generated several books and plays, an opera and a silent film. After six unhappy years with Ruskin and the annulment of her marriage for “non-consummation”, Effie married the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais (whose early work was supported by Ruskin) and had eight children with him. Annulment of the marriage to Ruskin, and his vague explanations, have fuelled public notions of a sex scandal and increasingly salacious speculation for more than 150 years. (Ruskin’s current biography on Wikipedia of more than 40 pages, with 254 references, reflects his impact on popular culture.)

John Ruskin’s essays, lectures, manuals, travel guides, and letters were concerned with nature, art and society. He wrote with a developing plainness of style and language on a broad range of subjects, including art, architecture, myth, geology, botany, and political economy; and produced detailed drawings, sketches and paintings of the natural world and architecture. In 1869 John Ruskin was appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing.

Ruskin’s principal works include Modern Painters (five volumes, 1843-1860); The Seven Lamps of  Architecture (1849); The Stones of Venice (3 volumes, 1851-1853); A Joy Forever (1857); The Elements of Drawing (1857); Unto This Last (1860-1862); Sesame and Lillies (1864-1869); Fors Clavigera (1871-1884); and Praeterita (1886-1888).