12mo (5 ” x 7"). pp. 112. INSCRIBED AND SIGNED COPY FROM THE AUTHOR TO DR. ABRAHAM COLES WITH A LEAF OF GILDER'S ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT NOTES FOR THE NEW DAY TIPPED IN. Unsigned binding design by Helena deKay Gilder and engraved by Henry Marsh of the head of a single peacock feather shown emerging from the bottom right corner of the cover in exquisite detail on blue-green sand-grained (San1: Krupp) cloth. Spine titles in gold; beveled edges, maroon eps. Includes section head and footer illustrations of peacock feather or floral motifs by Helena deKay Gilder1 and engraved by Henry Marsh. The author's inscription to Dr. Coles is on recto of the front fly leaf, and Gilder's manuscript notes are tipped in at the gutter of the front fly.

This is the author's first book -- a series of of passionate and evocative sonnets written between 1872 and 1874 to his then fiancé, Helena deKay, an artist who studied privately with Winslow Homer and John La Farge, and also at the Cooper Union Institute and the National Academy of Design. She was a founder of The Art Student's League the year this book was published, and of The Society of American Artists in 1877. Following their marriage in June 1874, Gilder decided to publish the sonnets as a group, connected by a lyrical prelude and a series of lyrical interludes that evoke the sunrise at sea ("The New Day"). In October 1874, during a camping trip Richard and Helena took to Fire Island New York, Richard spent several mornings watching the sunrise at sea, and composing the lyrics for the prelude and interludes in The New Day. 2

The tipped in manuscript notes show his creative process as he defines to himself the purpose and intended audience for the book:
It is a book for lovers only, for none but they know what love is – how that it is the profoundest of human experiences, exhausting all the possibilities of the heart. Its natural speech is hyperbole, and if it deals in that which is large and mundane, borrowing and appropriating all that is grand and beautiful in the universe in your effort to express itself, what wonder! Love is more and greater than these. Its beginning in the soul is the dawning of a “New Day” following the darkness of a long, bleak night...
Later in the manuscript notes, Gilder writes the first draft of part of the Prelude:

Prelude –

The pale white

Turned slowly to pale rose. x x The grey sea grew
rose colored like the sky x x More bright the East became
From Rose to red the level heaven burned
Then sudden, as if a sword fell from on high
A blade of gold flashed on the horizon’s rim.

Gilder's use of "xx" at the end of a number of lines may have been his notation for the appropriate meter to be used in the line, since (x x /) represents anapestic meter, while (/ x x) represents dactylic meter. Although the publication information on the title page states 1876, the book was actually published on October, 16th 1875, and inscribed to Dr. Coles just two days later, indicating the importance of Dr. Cole to Gilder. Dr. Abraham Coles (1813 -1891) was as an American physician, translator, author and poet from New Jersey, that was especially kind to the young Gilder3, who, following his service in the Union Army, was a struggling young poet and copy editor at the Newark Advertiser and the Newark Morning Register. It is likely that Gilder gave Dr. Coles his first page of manuscript notes as a gift of frienship for Dr. Cole's many kindnesses.

The peacock feather binding design created by Helena de Kay Gilder is believed to be the first publisher's binding to be designed by a woman in the United States. She took her motif for the binding from British aesthetes, who made the peacock feather an icon of the Aesthetic style, and transformed it into a personal symbol -- the simple blue background with the eye of a gold peacock feather representing the rising sun and the youthful optimism of the Gilder's relationship. The flattened treatment of the feather, its asymmetrical placement in the lower right hand corner of the cover, and its use of gold lend a touch of Japonisme to the design, also indicative of the Aesthetic sensibility.4, 5

A near fine rebacked copy whose corners and front end paper have been professionally restored.

BAL 6536.

1. Gilder, Rosamond. The Letters of Richard Watson Gilder. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916, p.75
2. Ibid., p. 70
3. Coles, Abraham. Abraham Coles: Biographical Sketch, Memorial Tributes, Selections from His Works. New York: D.Appleton, p.54.
4. The Letters of Richard Watson Gilder, p.75
5. Burke, Doreen Bolger. In Pursuit of Beauty: Americans and the Aesthetic Movement. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986. p.31



Illustrator: Helena deKay Gilder (cover design); Henry Marsh (engraver)

Categories: American publisher's Bindings, 19th C., Publisher's Bindings, Poetry, Illustrated, Fine Binding, Decorative Cloth, Asthetic Movement,

Edition: First

Publisher: New York, Scribner, Armstrong and Company: 1876 (1875)

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Near Fine

Seller ID: 1925