In December of 2007 I purchased Browning’s masterpiece Sonnets from the Portuguese from an antique bookstore in the tiny Northern California town where my parents live. I chose the book for its beauty, and because it included Sonnet 43, a personal favorite of mine. I bought the book for $45.00, which I considered a deal. I added the book to my collection when I got home and didn’t think about it again. When I enrolled in this course, I started going through my books to see which would meet the requirements of this assignment. Although this book was published in 1902, I was allowed to start an in depth study of its publication history.
There are a few things about this title that you can’t appreciate from a distance. The most overwhelming, for me, is its weight. Though the book is small (7.5 x 5) it is quite heavy. The weight in your hands is pleasant and the book is a joy to handle. Other features include the thickness of the paper. Each page is thick and the text and images do not bleed through the page. Finally, I must admit, especially after having studied this edition, that the production of the book is much more attractive than the actual text. It is a treat to look at each floral decoration and the intricacies of the many banners throughout.
It is no surprise to me that this edition is one that is especially sought after by collectors. After learning that Armstrong is widely considered the first female book designer in America, this edition gains more value. Yet, I didn’t purchase this edition for any of these reasons. I appreciated the book for its obvious beauty and in appreciation of the author. It amuses me to say, now, that I have found several copies of this edition for sale online and all for much more than I paid. I can only hope that those buying these other editions will cherish this book not for its monetary value, but for the artistry and historical value held within its pages.