Kalidasa; Williams, Monier [Translator]. Sakoontala: or, the Lost Ring, An Indian Drama. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1885. Limited to 110 copies printed on Japan paper, of which this is #104. Printed at the De Vinne Press and signed by Theodore Low De Vinne. A beautifully-designed translation of the ancient Sanskrit drama, with all pages sporting ornate, colorful borders.
An absolutely stunning and unique embroidered binding, utilizing materials and techniques rarely seen in embroidered bindings of the period. On a backing of light blue velvet, the front cover features a seven headed horse (Uchchaihshravas), carrying Indra, king of the devas in Hindu mythology. (Their story is told in the Mahābhārata, which includes the story of Shakuntala.) Uchchaihshravas and Indra are both produced with satin stitched stumpwork (raised embroidery), and accented with a striking array of silver metallic threads, cords, wire, and sequins. The wide border of the front cover is filled in with dazzling flowers, birds, and leaves, produced in an array of bright colors, and given the intricacy of the work, it remains in remarkable condition due to the purl (metal wire border) outlining all of the work. The spine of the volume features a vine design in silver and gold, extending from bottom to top, and created with a wide variety of different metal threads, wires, and sequins. The primary subject of the rear cover is a stumpwork Hindu puja mandir temple, executed entirely in shimmering silver wire threads and sequins. A similar floral border--and no less stunning--is employed on the rear cover, as well. The covers are edged in a thick purple velvet. Top edge gilt. Plain white endpapers. Housed in a full morocco velvet-lined & padded solander case, with gilt title to spine and metal clasp.
Small split in the fabric near the bottom of the front joint and some light wear to blue velvet at spine. Silk page markers loosely inserted. Minimal buckling to the front pastedown, along with some light fingerprints to front free endpaper. Solander case is worn, with rubbing and scratching to covers, corners, and edges, and some scrapes to the bottom of the box.
No references to this volume have been uncovered, utilizing a wide variety of reference works. No names, bookplates, or references are noted within the volume or on the case. Given the edition, it seems likely that it would have been a collector in the United States to commission the work, but from what source, it's impossible to say. For the moment, its origins are a mystery, but it is one of the most incredible bindings I've had the pleasure of handling.