Ancient Spanish Ballads: Historical and Romantic

The book I chose was Ancient Spanish Ballads: Historical and Romantic by John Gibson Lockhart (1842). My first visual impression was that this book is pristine and it looks like a luxury item. It is a breathtaking masterpiece of a book and it gave me chills just to look at it. Every inch of the book from front cover to back cover was considered by the creators and produced carefully and precisely. The hard, outside cover is black with gold, vine-like details and it reads “Lockhart’s Spanish Ballads”. This use of the color gold and the imagery of the vines really helps the book appear to be more luxurious and fancy. Using black for the cover contrasts and helps the gold details to stand out more. The details in the images inside the book are remarkably intricate as well. The line hatch marks on the drawn images are extremely thin and it is hard to imagine a marker being small enough to make this size of marks. This shows how accurate the printing must have had to be. The images are beautifully drawn, clearly done so by a very talented artist or artists. There are many images throughout the book, showing how long it must have taken the artists to finish the book. The artist signed each image with “S.Williams” in very tiny writing. There are borders around many of the pages as well that are in color. The borders that are on some of the pages are extremely intricate as well with beautiful floral like patterns. Color in print was definitely uncommon at the time this book was produced, showing the extra effort that went into its production and the aspects that make it an expensive, luxury item. There is a variety of color used throughout the images and borders however there is not really any mixing of color because of the lack of technology there still was. It is obviously a book only the rich could afford though. It even has a medieval, religious feel to it because of the title typefaces. These typefaces have a very fancy aesthetic. The book is slightly big but not overwhelming with hard, smooth covers. The bigger size allows for the details to be seen easier. It is a little heavy for a book but still easily transportable. The paper is very soft and smooth and when you run your hands along the page you cannot really feel the ink. The pages are still in great condition unlike some of the other books. When you flip the page, it still sounds very crisp. The book has a leather binding that has withstanded a lot of time. The production clearly made it to be a book that can withstand a lot of time. The book even smells like nice paper. The outside cover is very smooth as well, so smooth it almost feels ticklish to your hand and I enjoyed running my hand over it. The overall beautiful visual aspects are what caused me to choose this book. I also have been into drawing my whole life and the drawings are remarkable and accurate. The book drew me in through it’s stunning details and aesthetics that showed the quality of production that was put into it. The pictures also drew me in because although I cannot read all of the book and it has many references I am not familiar with, the images are a universal mode of communication that I was able to appreciate.

This book was the one that proved Lockhart to be a very strong poet and showed that he had much originality in his expression. The book has been very popular ever since it was released and continues to be valued all of these years later. A huge reason this book has been collected and preserved over time is because of the quality in which it was made. It clearly had a lot put into it and is valued because of this. It was said that all the copies of this book were curated for quality and that they attempted to remove any imperfections in all of the books. However, this edition was said to not be the finest edition to be released. Between 1823 and the end of the century, Ancient Spanish Ballads went through several editions, the best of which has been said to be issued by John  Murray in 1841. The illustration of this edition was done by William Allan, David Roberts, William Simson, Henry Warren, and William Harvey. It contained borders drawn by the architect Owen Jones, one of the architects for the Alhambra in Spain. Many extremely talented artists were commissioned for this book which has made it an even more iconic piece of history. Additionally, less expensive versions of the book were also created and continued to appear until the end of the century. In 1870, Murray issued a cheaper illustrated edition more in line with the current style of illustrations we see today. It was said that this book was “the work which probably made Lockhart’s name best and most widely known to the world of readers at that day”. Being more affordable, the book was able to reach a wider audience and become much more well known. Over two thousand copies of the first edition were sold in 1841, while the following year a second edition was sold just as quickly. During this time period, various art movements influenced the Spanish artists, largely through them traveling to and training in foreign capitals, often in Paris and Rome. Because of this expanded learning, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism became dominant in the arts in Spain at this time. However, the arts were often delayed or transformed in Spain by local conditions, including repressive governments, and by the negative effects of the Carlist Wars. Lockhart later died in 1854 after sadly seeing much of his family die before him and going through a lot of health problems. After Lockhart’s death, the composer Hubert Parry put one of Lockhart’s poems to music, “There is an old belief“, which continued Lockhart’s legacy he left behind through all of his books.

This is the front cover of Lockhart’s Spanish Ballads.

This image shows a page in the book that includes a title, text, and image. An interesting aspect of the page is the multicolored ink they used when printing.

This image shows one of the intricate borders used throughout the book.