George Ashdown Audsley and William James Audsley, illuminators
37 x 26.8 cm.
The Sermon on the Mount
Beckwith, Victorian Bibliomania catalogue no. 9
See commentary below.
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Courtesy of Ellen K. Morris
Commentary by Alice H. R. H. Beckwith
Chapters 5 to 7 in Matthew's Gospel contain the Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. This section of the New Testament was frequently honored with illumination in the Victorian period, including examples by Owen Jones and Samuel Stanesby.
George Audsley (1838-1925) studied architecture under A. and W. Reid in his birthplace, Elgin, Scotland, before moving to Liverpool in 1856 (Jervis, Dictionary, 38). By 1861 he was in partnership with his brother William (b. 1833) as an architect and book designer. The Sermon on the Mount was their first book. Together they published illuminated works of literature as well as studies for fellow architects (cats. 31, 50), until at least 1883. At the end of the century George Audsley moved to New York, bringing out books on stenciling and turning with his son Berthold as late as 1911. Apparently the Audsleys were proud of their architectural training, for they signed their works with Archt. after their names.
Ruari McLcan recorded the publisher, Day & Son, and the date 1861 for his example of the Audsleys' royal quarto version of The Sermon on the Mount (McLean 71). According to McLean's description the Sermon in Ellen Morris's collection is identical to his, except that hers is not gold-blocked on the back cover, being blind-stamped instead. It seems likely that McLean's book has an accurate date and publisher, since in the same year the Audsleys brought out a folio version of the Sermon and used one of the plates from it in their Guide to the Art of Illuminating of 1861 (cat. 56). Both of these books were first published by Day & Son.
The royal quarto version of the Audsleys' Sermon has one of the most colorful and complex covers created in the nineteenth century. There is a consistent pattern of references to Greek design and texts on the cover, done in brown pebble-grained cloth with thirteen colored-paper and chromolithographed cutout onlays, some of which may be lacquered. Blocking in gold and black reinforces the geometric regularity of the cover, while green stenciling adds yet another color.
The cover's main feature is a version of the Greek cross in a form reminiscent of a monstrance. Inside the circle at the center of the arms of the cross, a lamb, symbol of Christ, holds a banner with a cross on the flag and on the top of the staff. The Audsleys made additional reference to Greek culture by using Greek letters in their design. Two gold- and black-stamped rules with quatrefoils set into their comers containing the Greek letters IE and DC form the outer vertical borders of the central cross. Leighton Son & Hodge's binder's ticket is pasted inside the back cover of the Morris collection version as well as the one in the Appleton collection.
Plates in the royal quarto are smaller than those in the folio , and are tipped into red-ruled borders. On some pages the illustrator's name, Charles Rolt, is not visible, suggesting that his signature at the foot of the page was lost in the photoreduction process. Rolt's name and that of the chromolithographer, W. R. Tymms, do appear on the third page of the copy in the Appleton collection. The plates are pasted only on the recto pages, in contrast to the basic design unit of a double-page opening developed by Henry Noel Humphreys and Owen Jones (cats. 7, 26). However, Humphreys and Jones are recalled in the way the Audsleys wrote their text in a Gothicizing script directly on the lithographic stone, using red and blue penwork around significant words. The Audsleys' innovations as illuminators are discussed in cat. 56.
Beckwith, Alice H. R. H. Victorian Bibliomania: The Illuminated Book in Nineteenth-century Britain. Exhibition catalogue. Providence. Rhode Island: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1987.
The Sermon on the Mount. London: Day & Son, 1861(?). Chromolithographer: William Robert Tymms. Miniatures: Charles Rolt. Binder: Leighton Son & Hodge. Illuminators: George Ashdown Audsley and William James Audsley.
Last modified 19 December 2013