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Sangorski’s Songs and Sonnets

Alberto Sangorski’s manuscript book of Shakespeare’s songs and sonnets features beautiful calligraphy and gold-leaf illuminations, created in 1926.

Title page of Songs and Sonnets. Illuminated by Alberto Sangorski

Among the most beautifully designed and handcrafted books of the 20th century is this work by Alberto Sangorski, a master craftsman in the esteemed London bookbinding firm of Riviere & Son. On December 23, 1926, the Times Literary Supplement reported, “He has just completed . . . a richly illuminated manuscript of Shakespeare’s Songs and Sonnets, [which] has been in hand for five years, and every detail, designing, engrossing, illumination, painting and binding has been done by Mr. Sangorski.”

No expense was spared in the choice of materials. Passages from the works of Shakespeare are written in an exquisite calligraphic hand on the finest vellum, with 23-karat gold leaf in the illuminations. Each page is interleaved with moiré silk. The front cover of the binding has sapphires in the corners and incorporates Shakespeare’s coat of arms in 18-karat gold, embellished with a ruby and black and blue enamels. Henry Clay Folger bought the book soon after it was finished.

See the catalog entry