Coomaraswamy's arts-and-crafts masterpiece
Mediaeval Sinhalese Art.
Being a monograph on mediaeval Sinhalese arts and crafts, mainly as surviving in the eighteenth century, with an account of the structure of society and the status of the craftsmen. Broad Campden Essex House Press 1908
First edition. Folio (35.5 x 27.5 cm), pp.xvi, 340, , 53 plates, 8 in colour, 153 text illustrations, 1 printed in red. No.327 of 425 copies printed at the Essex House Press. A very good copy in the original cloth-backed boards, neatly recased, minor rubbing to cloth spine restored. Some very light spotting on preliminary pages and final leaf, but overall in fine condition.
A magnificent example of private press production on William Morris' press, an encyclopaedic study of the arts and crafts of Ceylon as they existed before British influence, and Ananda Coomaraswamy's first major achievement as an art historian. His English wife Ethel took the photographs. Ananda Coomaraswamy lived in Kandy from 1902 to 1907, a period he devoted to studying and collecting traditional arts and to talking with and observing local craftsmen, many of whom were working on his home. Coomaraswamy had been much influenced by William Morris during his education in England and was particularly concerned with the role of the artist-craftsman in Kandyan society. When he returned to England Coomaraswamy moved in to Norman Chapel, a Tudor house in Broad Campden, and took over the Essex House Press which had been founded by his friend C.R. Ashbee in 1898 with the purchase of the presses (though not the type) formerly owned by William Morris' Kelmscott Press. Ashbee had printed books for 9 years, with vellum, ink, and paper identical to that used by Kelmscott in an effort to carry on the tradition Morris had established. Coomaraswamy continued the tradition, printing this work by hand in his home on the press used by William Morris, a process which occupied some fifteen months.