BROWNE, Sir Thomas and Paul NASH (illustrator). Urne Buriall and the Garden of Cyrus ... Edited with an Introduction by John Carter. [Printed at the Curwen Press]; Published by Cassell & Co. 1932.
4to. Bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe to a design by Paul Nash in vellum, with a large inlay of brown morocco on the upper cover, this with a gilt lozenge design incorporating two vellum onlays, the same design repeated on the lower cover, this time with two brown morocco onlays, spine lettered in gilt, all edges gilt; pp. xx + 146; 32 illustrations by Paul Nash, 15 of which are full-page plates, coloured through stencils at the Curwen Press (printed by Charles Whittingham and Griggs); a fine copy in a cloth-covered slipcase.
No 195 of 215 copies. This is the book on which Nash's reputation as a book illustrator is based, and it also represents the crowning achievement of the Curwen Press's use of the pochoir technique. In his book on Paul Nash, Sir Herbert Read stated that Urne Buriall "will always be treasured for it is one of the loveliest achievements of contemporary art," and in his 1948 essay 'Paul Nash as Book Illustrator and Designer,' Philip James said, "This book, judged by all standards, is one of the greatest illustrated books of this or any age." Oliver Simon, who was responsible for the typography, wrote to Nash saying that he felt it would enter the small category of "magnificent books".
Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial or a Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk, is a work published in 1658 by Sir Thomas Browne. It was published as the first part of a two-part work that concludes with The Garden of Cyrus. Its nominal subject is the discovery of a Bronze Age urn burial in Norfolk. The discovery of these remains prompts Browne to deliver, first, a careful description of the antiquities found. Browne then gives a careful survey of most of the burial and funerary customs, ancient and current, of which his era was aware.
The most famous part of the work, though, is the fifth chapter, where Browne quite explicitly turns to discuss man's struggles with mortality, and the uncertainty of his fate and fame in this world and the next, to produce an extended funerary meditation tinged with melancholia. The changes wrought by time and eternity, the fleetingness of mortal fame, and our feeble attempts to cope with the certainty of death are Browne's subjects. Yet, at the same time, Browne can be tersely witty, mocking human vainglory: "Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian's horse, confounded that of himself."
A piece of exquisite baroque writing that George Saintsbury called "the longest piece, perhaps, of absolutely sublime rhetoric to be found in the prose literature of the world," Hydriotaphia displays an astonishing command of English rhythm and diction.