Bristol: Douglas Cleverdon for the Fanfare Press, 1929. 4to (315 x 248 mm; 12 1/4 x 10 inches). 10 copper-engraved plates by Jones. Original quarter gilt-lettered cream cloth, green boards. Spine slightly soiled, light wear at extremities. Item #403565
LIMITED EDITION, number 265 of 480 total copies. Coleridge’s poem had haunted Jones since his childhood. “Though but little known as an engraver in the 1920’s, he was to be an inspired choice, and undertook his commission with great seriousness and devotion. From the first, Jones saw his task as not one of simple illustration, but as the attempt to realise in visual terms the symbolic imagery arisen from the deeps of Coleridge’s imagination. Jones tells us that between 150 and 200 preliminary drawings were made in response to the commission” (Peter Larkin, “David Jones and the Ancient Mariner,” in: The Coleridge Bulletin Conference Issue, [unnumbered] July 1996, pp. 2-20).
In 1964, while working on the foreword to a new edition, Jones wrote to the art critic Kenneth Clark, “it was quite a business finding a copper-plate printer [in 1929]. However we found one. Even in 1929 it was becoming difficult because printing from copper-plates had of course ceased as a normal means of reproduction years before then. And as you know the process is totally different from wood-block printing. I wouldn’t be surprised if very soon it will be impossible to get copper-plate engravings printed” (quoted in Thomas Dilworth, “Letters from David Jones to Kenneth Clark,” in: The Burlington Magazine 142, no. 1165 (2000), p. 223).
One plate entitled “Life-in-Death" depicts the skeletal ship and the two macabre dice-players. The plate caused Jones a great deal of trouble: “the balancing of the hollow spars undergirding the two figures took some time to get right, and he accidentally omitted the numeral 4 on the dice-board (his solution of re-inserting it as part of one of the dividing lines on the board is ingenious, and averted the need for a fresh plate). We are shown the two protagonists, Death together with Life-in-Death, in a strange suspended state of exultation above the yawning spars” (Larkin). The Artist and the Book 136; Ransom, Cleverdon 7. .