Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Inside the covers of Pilgrim's Progress

John Bunyan was born on this day in 1628. A tinker who turned to preaching and writing, Bunyan was arrested and imprisoned several times for preaching without a licence. During his time in prison it is believed Bunyan began the Christian allegory and his most famous work, The Pilgrim's Progress.

John Bunyan by Thomas Sadler, 1684 (NPG 1311Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London)

The Pilgrim's Progress was on its tenth print run by the time Bunyan died in 1688 (he's buried in Bunhill fields, London). It has been translated into over 200 languages and remains in print even today. Literary critic Martin Seymor-Smith and others after him, have ranked it amongst the most influential books ever written.


Today on Bunyan's birthday, we have pulled out of the collection store a copy of The Pilgrim's Progress from the JM Richards collection. It is a lovely, leather-bound edition with gold tooling on the spine and cover as well as beautiful marbled endpapers, with the same pattern extending over the text block.

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress,  Uxbridge: William Lake, 1822, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture
 (JMR 1374,)
Book design is relevant to MoDA because both the Silver Studio and Charles Hasler worked in this trade (you can see some of the Silver Studio's designs here), We thought rather than exploring the social and cultural significance of The Pilgrim's Progress, we would take a closer look at our copy in terms of book design, and more specifically end paper. It seems relevant considering many different designs for this book have been released over the last 340 years.


End paper from John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress,  Uxbridge: William Lake, 1822, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (JMR 1374)

MoDA's edition of The Pilgrim's Progress was published in 1822 by William Lake, Uxbridge at a time when book binding was only just entering an age of industrialisation and mechanisation. Marbled end paper like that in our copy was a common feature of book design in the period.

End papers function to hold text blocks to book covers and MoDA has a wonderful array of these in our collection. They can be highly illustrative and sometimes informative, including maps and supplementary text but mostly end papers are beautiful patterns that greet the reader upon opening a book.

End paper in Oscar Wilde, House of Pomegranates, London: James R. Osgood McIlvaine, 1891. Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA3128)

End paper in Stuart Chase and Marian Tyler, Mexico: A Study of Two Americas, illustrated by Diego Rivera, London: Bodley Head, 1932. Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (JMR614)

End paper in Sir Osbert Sitwell, Laughter in the Next Room: being the fourth volume of Left hand, right hand! : an autobiography, London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd, 1949. Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (JMR 1016)

A collection of end papers from the Charles Hasler collection, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH5/4/2)

The Pilgrim's Progress was an influential book in its day. The British Library note that by the late nineteenth century it was still widely published and featured in most homes as essential family reading. For a time, The Pilgrim's Progress was a staple of bookshelves and for this reason, many well-made and decorative editions exist. Do you have similar books on your bookshelf, perhaps passed on as family heirlooms? Take the time to open the covers and see if any interesting end papers are revealed.

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