JBW's illustrations for John Keats's Endymion are regarded as his best. Indeed, this is JBW's magnum opus. The text was perfect for his illustrations: the love story of the shepherd Endymion and Diana/Cynthia, goddess of the moon, told in over 4,000 lines of poetry and divided into four books set in sylvan glades, the underworld, the depths of the sea, and the starry firmament. JBW produced fifty-eight wood engravings, each evoking a strong classical and romantic style. Five hundred numbered copies were printed: 100 in white vellum at 20 guineas; 400 in quarter white vellum at 7 guineas. This is no. 217 of the edition of 400.
John Keats, Endymion. London: Golden Cockerel Press, 1947. Private Collection.
Work first began on Endymion in 1944, when JBW interleaved an octavo edition of the poem with blank pages, on which he executed a series of roughs and finished drawings. He also bought a magnifying glass, taking extra care to make the blocks print only what they should, and thus leaving nothing to chance on a grained paper. Cross-hatching was reduced to a minimum. When he saw the final sheets in November 1947, he exclaimed: 'Really this printer [Solly - who mastered art of damping papers] is SUPERB – all my favourite blocks come out like gems.' Sandford also played his part. He chose the hand-made paper and Caslon type for the text, and paid all the bills.
Roderick Cave, 'A Friendship in War and Peace. Further Letters from John Buckland Wright to Christopher Sandford, 1939-48', in Matrix 10 (Winter 1990), pp.73-88. Special Z 119 MD79.