The Alphabet Illustrated. Rev. George Liddell Johnston.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.
The Alphabet Illustrated.

The Alphabet Illustrated.

[London?], circa 1875. Oblong 4to (9.5” x 13.25), full crushed red morocco by C. & C. McLeish, a.e.g., gilt innner dentelles, re-backed with original spine laid down. 2 calligraphic frontispieces infilled with color and liquid gold, 3 pen and ink title pages, 8 leaves of inset manuscript (one side only), 26 calligraphic leaves of alphabet limericks (14 in ink, 12 in pencil, enlarged initial letters for A through D only), 12 inset watercolors, 46 inset drawings (45 in ink, 1 in pencil).

A delightful volume of trial drawings, many of them satirical, for an illustrated alphabet featuring a variety of humorous and imaginative characters complimenting Johnston’s limericks.

The volume begins with two calligraphic frontispieces, one consisting of the phrase “The Envelope” graced by an angelic figure holding a brush and canvas (apparently once the front panel of an envelope in which the contents of this volume were stored prior to binding in the early twentieth century), and the other a design reading “Title Page,” incorporating a vase of flowers, a floral swag, and a fairy. Next are three designs for the title page proper, each featuring various comical figures, including a man reading a book on the left and an artist holding his palette on the right, which may be self-caricatures; then eight pages of inset manuscript consisting of 26 limericks, one for each letter of the alphabet; 26 calligraphic limericks; and, the main event, drawings and watercolors illustrating the alphabet, some directly reflecting the subjects of the limericks and others being alternative subjects.

Reverend Johnston seems to have been somewhat preoccupied with devils and demons, at least in his artistic life. This theme is articulated at the outset, in his limerick for the letter A:

A was a sage Alchemist
Whose brains had a bit of a twist
In his chemical revels
He conjured up devils
Creating a sulphurous mist.

Accordingly, devils of one kind or another serve as characters in many illustrations throughout the series. These include “The Blue” (a blue she-devil), “The Danseuse” (a dancing green she-devil wearing a dress featuring a series of dancing red devils embroidered into the border), a grog-guzzling devil, an ignus fatuus demon leading people astray, a devilish couple singing a duet by “X. Satani,” and so on.

Among the various subjects illustrated here are Cinderella for C, a Duenna for D, a Fortune Teller for F, a Hookah for H, a Monk for M, a Portrait for P, a Truant for T, and so on. Johnston’s limerick and illustration for the monk reflect his apparent anti-Catholic bias:

M was a monk in an abbey
With all the good things he could grab, he
Had glorious feeds
But of counting his beads
Never thought more than a babby.

An illustration of a devilish cardinal and Johnston’s satirical treatment of the Pope, whose bull is “of lengthy uncertainties full,” reinforce the theme. Also satirized are an older man smitten by a younger woman; an Empiric or Quack; a Statesman (another devil); a pot-throwing wife or Scold; a Yankee; and others. The figures in many illustrations feature the oversized heads often found in caricature and are particularly reminiscent of Henry Holliday’s illustrations for the first edition of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.

Rev. George Liddell Johnston (1817–1902) is a somewhat elusive figure. He attended the University of Durham, obtaining a degree in theology in 1849. According to Crockford’s Clerical Directory he was serving as chaplain to the British Embassy in 1856. Other examples of Johnston’s imaginative drawings have appeared in the market from time to time, but this is the only example of his work amounting to a book that we have been able to identify.

A lively and wonderfully entertaining series of alphabet drawings.

CONDITION: Very good, rubbed extremities re-touched, offsetting from dentelles to front and rear endpapers, contents generally clean and attractive.

Item #4913

Price: $12,500.00

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