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Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
WALTER CRANE. "The First of May." Four sheets from the first draft of Crane's book, dated 1880, published by Henry Sotheran, London 1881. Comprises a title-page in graphite and watercolor, one full-page graphite drawing for the first illustration in the book, and 2 sidebar illustrations, also graphite. 223x292 mm; 8 3/4x11 1/2 inches, sheets. Unsigned but title bearing Crane's name by nature of the design. Scattered moderate wear and toning.
A beautiful quartet of studies by Crane for The First of May: A Fairy Masque, completed a year before the publication of his famous work. The title-page indicates that he expected it to be printed in London and New York by George Routledge & Sons, but it was Henry Sotheran who published the first London edition in 1881 simultaneously with James Osgood of Boston for the first American edition. Crane crossed out "Spectacle" in the title "A Fairy Spectacle in Two Acts," changed it to "Masque," and deleted "in Two Acts," as it would be printed. All four drawings are nearly identical in size to their published format. The draft of the Maypole dance, the first illustration in the book, is similar in composition to the printed version, but lacks many of the decorative details. Crane also wrote but then crossed out the title and act of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the cherubs' banner. The sidebar illustrations appear to be Angelica, Lilian, and Laureo, but do not appear in the published work. Crane, who depicted them nude, may have decided that their flesh was not appropriate or perhaps would be confused with the fairies, who appeared mostly naked.