The Brocade Series, 1895 – 1905

Note: The following catalogue list, with minor alterations, is taken from Vilain and Bishop’s Thomas Bird Mosher and the Art of the Book (Philadelphia: F. A Davis, 1992), pp. 11-54, with the kind permission of the publisher. Cross references to the illustrations which appear in the book have been eliminated.

The whole series consists of 50 titles, most of which were reprinted more than once (there are 13 editions of Pater’s The Child in the House, for example), for a total of 160 volumes.

All volumes had a similar trim size of 134 mm x 89 mm. For each volume, 425 copies were printed by George Loring on Imperial Mills Japan vellum especially imported by Mosher and bound in flexible vellum. Each volume was wrapped in sealed parchment and enclosed in a slide case. A copy of Richard Jefferies’s 1900 The Pageant of Summer is bound in grey wrappers. The cover initial and the title page logo are illuminated in gold and green, as are the headband and tailpiece.

Mosher also offered for sale sets in cabinet boxes, at no additional cost for the boxes. Sets contained any three, six, or more volumes, each wrapped and in a slide case. Sometimes Mosher offered the works of a single author in that series for sale in a cabinet box.

Mosher explained that “last year it seemed desirable to issue Walter Pater’s early imaginary portrait, The Child in the House, in the shape and style that would be at once choice and moderate in price.” He produced a jewel. The success met by the book encouraged Mosher to create this series, whose name derives from the brocade paper used on the slide case in which each volume was enclosed. The public response to these brocade cases was apparently favorable, since the books in the Vest Pocket Series and some of those from the Miscellaneous Series (e.g., The Eclogues and The Georgics) were similarly encased.

A strong respect for and interest in the Middle Ages provides a thread uniting most of these volumes. Mosher admired William Morris, and this series can be seen as his homage to Morris and to Walter Pater, whose ideas influenced Morris so strongly. Eight of the books were written by Morris and seven by Pater, with another one, Some Great Churches in France, containing essays by both men.

    The Child in the Vatican, 66 pp., Brocade 24, Hatch 150, MDCCCC.
    Chapelmeister Kreisler, 45 pp., Brocade 26, Hatch 188, MDCCCCI.
    In Umbria, 70 pp., Brocade 29, Hatch 191, MDCCCCI

    The tip of the hat to Morris is evident on the covers: The spine is printed in black Jenson, and the cover decoration consists of a block of black Jenson capitals and a red Kelmscott initial. The cover of the cabinet boxes carries the Morrisian theme yet further, with a Kelmscott border surrounding the list of the contents.

    Vernon Lee’s argument in these three brief essays is that the “pleasure given by works of art cannot be taught and is given by the works themselves in harmonies” perceptible only by an artistic personality.