Ashcombe. The Story of a Fifteen-Year Lease
London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1949. 1st Edition. Octavo, publisher's russet cloth, spine gilt, top edge stained red, original illustrated dust jacket.
"So utterly has the world changed since that summer day, nearly twenty years ago, when I stood for the first time under the brick archway at Ashcombe." Presentation first edition of Cecil Beaton’s elegiac memoir of his time at Ashcombe House, the English country home in Wiltshire that he leased from 1930 to 1945, and in which he entertained many illustrious friends and figures of his day, inscribed by Beaton to the "high priestess of fashion," Vogue editor-in-chief Edna Woolman Chase, who gave Beaton some of his most important commissions and helped establish his career: "To Edna / With love from / Cecil." Beaton was a British fashion and portrait photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, as well as an interior designer, painter, costume designer, and war photographer known for documenting the effects of the Blitz. He was first introduced to Ashcombe, a Georgian manor house first built in 1686, by his friend Edith Olivier, an English writer known for entertaining the "Bright Young Things" – the circle of Bohemian aristocrats and artists living in 1920s London, a group often documented in writing by the novelist Evelyn Waugh. Ashcombe was leased to Beaton on the condition that he would renovate and improve it, and in his interior decorating he was assisted by artists including Whistler and Salvador Dalí. A haunted eulogy for a way of life lost to the Second World War, Beaton's book is beautifully illustrated with black-and-white drawings and includes the author’s watercolors and photos of his time at Ashcombe. Edna Woolman Chase began working in the mailroom at American Vogue at the age of 18, and quickly caught the attention of the magazine's founder, Arthur Baldwin Turnure, for her diligence and sharp mind. When Turnure died, Chase was taken up by the magazine's new publisher, Condé Nast. Her abilities as a fashion forecaster and tastemaker won her the editorship of American Vogue, and later the role of editor-in-chief for all Vogue publications. In her 1954 memoir, Always In Vogue, Chase describes Beaton at their first meeting as "tall, slender, swaying like a reed, blond, and very young." She also says, "What I like best is his debunking attitude toward life and his ability for hard work." Some foxing and offsetting from binder's glue to endpapers, light foxing to edges of textblock; light rubbing and edgewear to unclipped dust jacket, with small gouge to spine panel. Very good, with an exceptional presentation-association. Item #4665