8vo, ff.  (title-page and preface, printed on one side only), and 116 wood-engraved plates, India paper proofs mounted on sheets of Papier de Hollande; uncut, occasional light spotting but a fine copy in contemporary red crushed half morocco gilt and red marbled boards, richly gilt spine, lettered at foot ‘Exemplaire Unique’, top edge gilt.
US $1679 €1361
A tongue-in-cheek nod to the fashion for Limited Edition books, and an illustrative oddity. The volume comprises India paper proof impressions mounted on heavy paper of Maufras’s illustrations (engraved by Belhatte) to the Panckoucke edition of Vitruvius, with a specially printed title-page and long preface, signed ‘J.C.’ (the author, bibliographer, and book collector J. Chenu). Chenu’s affectionate parody of the book, ‘Il n’existe que 25 exemplaires de cette pièce, de cette facétie, de ce lai, de ce roman!’ elevates the mundane to the desirable that is the Limited Edition.
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First edition. The Shepherd’s Calendar was a work of long gestation and many delays, partly because of the inchoate form in which Clare presented his original manuscript to Taylor and partly because of Taylor’s slash and burn editorial policy. Though the work was finally ready by November 1826, the first drawing for the frontispiece was deemed unsuitable and two months were lost as a second was made and engraved. The delays were not in Clare’s favour: tastes had moved on, the work was not a commercial success, and Clare was left with a stack of remainders. The Shepherd’s Calendar has since, however, acquired a critical reputation for its ‘extraordinary blend of observation and delicate fantasy’ (Jonathan Wordsworth, Visionary Gleam).