London: Chapman and Hall, 1870. First Edition. Bound by Cedric Chivers, circa 1911, in full red crushed morocco. With the coat of arms for the city of Rocherster on the front panel and intricate details on the spine. Silk moire end papers, all edges gilt, extra-illustrated with 17 anonymously executed watercolors, depicting localites in Rochester, the inspiration for the setting of the novel, and Dickens's childhood home. Four of the original watercolors are in full color. Additional hand drawn title page; portrait of Fildes and John Forster tipped in, as well as a few leaves from Forster's "Life of Dickens" relating to this work. Book and binding in exceptional, Fine condition. Two other extra-illustrated copies in Chivers bindings appeared in the auction record (1991 and 1995), but nothing since then. This binding likely executed at the same time, c. 1911.
Famed for his lush bindings involving leather, gilt, and vellum, Cedric Chivers often partnered with William Morris' Kelmscott Press. By the turn of the century, his work began to be sought out for presentation and exhibition copies of literature by authors including Charles Dickens, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Charles Lamb.
Dickens' final novel, left unfinished and published posthumously, breaks with some of the author's previously established literary tendencies. Present are Dickens' emphasis on the relationship among smaller family units that create a larger social ecosystem; also present are his interests in blood versus conjugal familial duties. Yet the novel takes on an even darker tone than previous works. Drood's uncle, John Jasper, sits at the book's center; and his roles as an opium addict and philanderer affect all characters in orbit around him. In love with Drood's fiancee Rosa, Jasper becomes the main suspect when Drood disappears under suspicious circumstances. Yet because the novel was left unfinished at the time of Dickens' death, no final conclusion exists. Thus, a part of the book's popularity was and continues to be derived from the ongoing mystery. "Since its publication in 1870 there have been hundreds of theories...trying to argue for how they think the story might end...the existing half of Drood spans just over 200 pages, but the non-existent half has been expanded into thousands of pages presented in letters, journal articles, monographs, novels. Dickens' book is open ended, albeit unintentionally, and that has meant a colossal opportunity for readers to engage with and explore the wide unknown of Drood's conclusion" (Orford). Fine (Item #2479)