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FLORENCE KINGSFORD

The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s.
Chelsea: Ashendene Press, 1902.

Florence Kingsford (1871–1949) was one of the leading book illuminators of the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Born in Canterbury, she developed her artistic gifts by studying with Edward Johnston, the noted English master calligrapher. In 1901 Charles H. St. John Hornby noticed her talent as a painter and hired her to illuminate all forty-four copies of the Ashendene Press edition of the Song of Songs (1902), each with a different design. While working on this project, Kingsford became acquainted with Sidney Cockerell (1867–1962), a book collector who later became Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. She and Cockerell married in 1907 and they had three children. Kingsford’s career as an artist ended in 1916, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which diminished her hand coordination during the remainder of her life.

Bridwell Library’s copy of the Ashendene Song of Songs, illuminated by Florence Kingsford and bound by Katharine Adams, was the publisher Hornby’s personal copy. Kingsford’s painted border, encompassing the printed text and Graily Hewitt’s gilded lettering, depicts King Solomon at the left and his beloved companion at the right, both surrounded by the richly varied flora and fauna of the biblical text.