Rare Book Week: Victoria Reigns Supreme

PBS has been a savior these past few months, not only as an impeccable source of “real” news but also of escape. Its new historical drama series about Queen Victoria pulled me through the inauguration haze (and, yes, I do see some irony there). Still riding high from Sunday night’s Victoria finale, I have been preparing for Rare Book Week by perusing catalogs and lists of ABAA book fair highlights and taking note of books and manuscripts that I’d like to see on Friday.

Heald.jpgOne of those items is an incredible presentation album of eighty etchings by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to be offered at the fair by Manhattan’s own Donald A. Heald Rare Books. According to the catalog copy, Victoria “took up etching as a hobby, introducing the art to her husband shortly after their marriage in 1840.” (I wish PBS had given us a glimpse of that...) They etched separately and together, sometimes working on the same plate, which was then handed off for biting and printing. Their artistic subjects were courtiers, children, and dogs. “[V]ery few of each of the etchings were printed, the pastime being largely for the royal couple’s own amusement; an occasional print and a very few sets, like the present, were distributed as gifts.”

Only two complete sets are known--one in the Royal Collection and one at the British Museum. This set, lacking seven etchings and bound in contemporary purple morocco, was presented by the queen to Sir Theodore Martin, author of Queen Victoria as I Knew Her (1901).

At the princely sum of $125,000, it is clearly a volume fit for a royal collection.

Image via Donald A. Heald Rare Books.

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