London: David Nutt, 1895. Emerson, P.H. First edition. 4to., vi, (ii) 165 pp., 16 plates with printed tissue guards. White linen, stamped with title and decorative motif, calf-backed with titling in gilt. The plates are printed on a handmade Japan vellum paper and are very fine, with all printed tissue guards present. The spine is rubbed and light soiling to the linen. A near fine copy, with consideration to the binding. Item #52485
Peter Henry Emerson is credited as the father of Pictorialism, and MARSH LEAVES is his most fully realized, sometimes to the point of abstraction, body of work. It is regarded as the monumental book of Pictorialism. The plates "are studies of softly rendered details from nature that are the culmination of Emerson's artistic development." THE TRUTHFUL LENS #54. Nancy Newhall called this Emerson's "last and most exquisite album." "Its sixteen photo-etchings are delicate, lambent, and elegiac. The landscape is lovely but unreachable, wrapped in mist or touched by frost, unpopulated and nearing abstraction in its most remarkable image, 'The Lone Lagoon.' Virtually a Chinese ink painting or a monochrome abstraction, this image presents two islands across a wide expanse of water as if they are a mirage or a dream... Although emphatically rural and regional, unlike the cosmopolitan and international decadence of much fin-de-siecle art, its elegiac tone was perhaps responsible for its continuing relevance. Historians today see it as predicting the direction of the next century's fine art photographic practice." IMAGINING PARADISE, p. 193. Parr and Bager, THE PHOTOBOOK, Volume 1, p. 72.
Although not stated, it is well established that the entire edition was limited to 300 copies; with a deluxe edition of 100 copies with the plates on Japan vellum, bound in white linen with a leather spine, and the regular edition of 200 copies bound in blue linen with the plates on a handmade laid paper. This copy is from the deluxe edition. Further, this is the only volume that Emerson both prepared and printed the gravure plates.