DRESSER, Christopher.

Studies in Design


London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin. [1876].

First edition. Folio. 411x295mm. pp. [4], 40 (text), 60 numbered plates of which 57 are chromolithographs by A. Goater of Nottingham. Plate 1 is the frontispiece. Half title tissue guard before the ornamental title page. Each plate has its own titled tissue guard. Original maroon cloth with bevelled edges. Upper cover lettered in gilt, with black and gilt Greek key design. Spine lettered in gilt. All edges gilt. Original black endpapers. Wear to corners and bottom edges. Some repair to head and foot of spine. Some foxing mostly in the margins, and the frontispiece plate has been repaired to the bottom right corner but overall an excellent copy of a book usually found in less than good condition and often incomplete. The stunning chromolithographs, the highlight of any work by Dresser, are strikingly well preserved.
Dresser states the aim of Studies in Design in the short preface: "I have prepared this Work with the hope of assisting to bring about a better style of decoration for our houses". Guided by the principles of "Truth, Beauty and Power" (the triangular device setting out these words is in the centre of the decorated title page), Dresser provides advice on ornamentation, newness of style, decoration, the use of the grotesque and, above all, colour. And Dresser's wild, beautiful colour combinations are at the heart of this book. He worked on the book for fifteen years, with printing starting in 1874 and finishing two years later. During those years, Dresser constantly experimented with colour. He looked at soap bubbles, light through a prism, gas tubes illuminated by electricity, all the time noting how unexpected colours were thrown up and how "the sweetest harmonies in colour are often closest to discord".

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