Rackham, Arthur. Hard Cover. London: William Heinemann, 1908. Very Good.
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham with 40 tipped in color plates. First Rackham edition. Publisher's tan cloth, lettered in gilt to front board and spine, with a detailed gilt illustration of a tree with mountains in the background to the front board, top edge gray, illustrations tipped in to thick stock with tissue guards printed with captions. A very good copy, rebacked with modern gray cloth, large section of original backstrip laid down, significantly toned but with all the gilt lettering present, a few spots and tears to pages, none affecting text, some foxing to text block edges. Overall, a sturdy copy with a clean interior. One of Shakespeare's most popular and widely performed plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream tells the story of four young star-crossed lovers and six amateur actors as they attend a wedding between Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. Throughout the night, the characters are manipulated by fairies living in the forest where the wedding takes place, causing everyone some confusion as they attempt to figure out which events were real, and which were merely a dream. Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) was a prolific British artist and illustrator, best known for his deluxe editions of popular children's books. Artistically inclined since childhood, Rackham started out illustrating for newspapers, but it was not until he began drawing for children's literature that he received critical acclaim. In response to his burgeoning fame, Rackham's publisher, William Heinemann, began producing deluxe and trade editions of his illustrated works, the first being Rip Van Winkle in 1905. Deluxe editions were produced in a limited edition of numbered copies (ranging in quantity from 250 - 2,020), bound in vellum bindings, printed on handmade paper, and signed by the illustrator. The trade editions were published concurrently in simple bindings, on thinner paper, and with fewer color plates. This publication strategy benefited both publisher and artist; Rackham produced about one book per year and would have an annual gallery exhibition showing his original artwork for his latest book. The recipient of multiple awards for illustrations, Rackham was a diverse artist with a talent for both the fantastical and the intricacies of human nature, as demonstrated in his famous illustrations for A Midsummer Night's Dream.