William Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII. Limited Edition of twenty-five, signed & numbered. *This edition is now sold out.*
The tiny triangular book consists of a title page, a printed and coloured parchment hexagon and a colophon, and is contained in a rectangular book box covered in Japanese Chiyogami mulberry fibre paper screen printed in rich tones of red, green, blue and gold, and lined with black 'silk' paper. The book is bound in red goatskin and fastened with straps and a bronze rose-shaped clasp.It measures 21/8" x 21/4" x 21/4" and the box measures 2 9/16" square, 13/16" deep.
First published in 1609, Sonnet XVIII has a simplicity, beauty and a directness that make it one of the best-loved poems in the English Language. Shakespeare's imagery richly conjures up the 'darling buds of May', the fierce heat of the summer sun, and the fleetingly brief time that these delights are available to be enjoyed, contrasting them with the inevitable decline of all living things. Shakespeare has immortalised the subject of his sonnet, so that even though the physical body declines, the beauty lives on in the words of the poem.
The sonnet was letterpress printed onto real sheepskin parchment, on my old Craftsmen press.Parchment is the material used before paper was invented, and was still in use in the 16th century for important documents such as leases and court rolls. The parchment hexagon is designed to mimic the petals of a rose, which can be unfolded to reveal the sonnet. In the centre is another rose, like the Tudor 'rose within a rose', which symbolically united the houses of York and Lancaster. The rose design is hand-painted with waterproof inks, using tiny brush strokes to build up layers of colour, a lengthy process but necessary, as parchment cockles out of shape when subjected to water.
The hexagon folds into a triangular book, which is bound in red goatskin leather. The covers are fastened with tiny straps secured by a lacquered bronze clasp in the shape of a rose, designed especially for this book by John Hughes, a Canadian designer-jeweler.
The end-papers are decorated with Ebru, a form of marbled paper that was formerely imported into Europe from Turkey in the sixteenth century. The marbling inks are teased out with a needle to form pictures. Each one is made individually, a tiny work of art in itself. I commissioned Ann Muir to make Ebru flowers for the front endpapers of this edition. With the design of this book I wanted to capture the beauty of the poetry and the spirit of the Elizabethan age, perhaps perpetuating Shakespeare in his own words, ..."so long lives this, and this gives life to thee."