Wednesday, February 21, 2018

343. Collections Online: William Andrews Clark Library

The other week, a new website on the history of the book was launched by Johanna Drucker: History of the Book. Coursebook.

The introduction explains its purpose: 

'This online course book uses materials in the UCLA Special Collections as the basis of a bibliographically based approach to the history of the book. Every chapter is structured around artifacts, sometimes of the period under discussion, and sometimes simply referencing those periods (as in section 1. Prehistory). The chapters are meant to provide a through-line narrative for the history of the book, an introduction for anyone interested in a basic overview of major developments, changes in technology, cultural attitudes, circumstances, or other aspects of this history.'

Apart from the 'Coursebook', there are sections for 'Exhibits' and 'Gallery'.

Included in the 'Exhibits' are several examples from the vast collection of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library that holds exceptional material on Wilde, and on Ricketts and Shannon.

There is an image of a Sybil Pye binding for the pre-Vale publication Daphnis and Chloe (1893). The binding is in black pigskin, inlaid with red niger and undyed goatskin, and gold-tooled (as described by Marianne Tidcombe). This binding was ordered by G.F. Simms and acquired by the library in 1959. The cover mentions 'The Loves of Daphins and Chloe', a title that doesn't occur in the book itself.
Daphnis and Chloe (wood engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon) (1893)
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
Another example is in the 'British Aestheticism' section. This is a deluxe copy of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx, with its extended design on the vellum covers (larger than the ordinary edition). There are only 25 copies, and this one still has the original fragile ties.

Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx. Binding design by Charles Ricketts.
Deluxe copy: front and back of binding.
(William Andrews Clark Memorial Library)
A long appraisal of the book can be found in the section on 'Modern Art of the Book'. This essay on The Sphinx with more images is written by Kristin Cornelius Way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

342. Similar Book Formats

One of the more famous book designs of the 1890s is undoubtedly John Gray's book of poems Silverpoints, published by John Lane, 'At the Sign of The Bodley Head in Vigo Street'. Its small and slim volume was regarded as innovative, especially in combination with the decoration of wavy lines and willow leaves stamped in gold on the green cloth covers and the page design with its vast areas of blank paper underneath a small block of text printed in italics.

Charles Ricketts's design was copied 'in various media'. The binding design was 'stolen' by other publishers such as Thomas Bird Mosher (see blogs nos 146 and 148), and in many prize competitions shameless imitations popped up.

London publisher Grant Richards also liked the format of Silverpoints. In 1917 he used a similar format for Thomas Burke's London Lamps. Its binding was of plain orange cloth. Earlier he adopted the format for a new translation of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, or rather a 'paraphrase from several  literal translations' as the subtitle duly noted, by Richard Le Gallienne. The book is only slighlty larger.

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1897) and Silverpoints (1893)
Rubáiyát measures 23,0 x 11,5 cm; Silverpoints is 21,5 x 11 cm. The proportions are quite similar. The Omar Khayyám paraphrases occupy only the upper half of the pages (as can be seen in the introduction); the page is 23,5 cm high, the texts don't go below the 9,5 cm line from the top, the page number can be found at two-thirds of the page in a sea of white.

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1897) and Silverpoints (1893)
The poems all start with a small and plain initial. There is no comparison between the subtle lay-out of Ricketts's Silverpoints and the design for Le Gallienne's version of Omar Khayyám. Ricketts decided to print all lines of verse in italic, adding large initials in roman.

The Grant Richards publication followed the trend of luxurious books, printing the Omar Khayyám book on Unbleached Arnold handmade paper. There was also a small number of copies on so-called Japanese vellum. The lay-out also followed a trend of large margins, and an elegant though affected placement of text at the top of the page.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

341. An Oscar Wilde Book Signed by Ricketts and Shannon

The 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair opens at the Pasadena Convention Center on Friday 9 February (open 9-11 February). More than 200 booksellers from around the world will exhibit their treasures, all for sale of course. 

Last week, John Windle Antiquarian Books (San Francisco) published a list of 32 Works of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, and most of these will be on view at the fair.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891)
(photo: John Windle Antiquarian Books)
One of the books that will interest Ricketts, Shannon and Wilde devotees is a copy of Oscar Wilde's A House of Pomegranates (1891). This is a signed copy of the first edition of Wilde's short stories, although, surprisingly it is not signed by the author himself, but by the two designers and illustrators, Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. That is quite exceptional; I have no knowledge of another copy with their signatures, and the artists rarely adorned a book with their joint signatures. An absolute rarity.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891):
signed by Ricketts and Shannon (photo: John Windle Antiquarian Books)

The provenance of this copy is only partially established by the presence of two bookplates and one inscription. The inscription is dated 1922. In March of that year, Marie J. Lauer (I have not been able to establish her biography), gave the book as a present to Nina, who, according to her bookplate was Nina Ranger Herzog, later Lilienthal (New York, 1898 - San Francisco, 1963). Apparently, this copy has been in the USA since the early 1920s, and perhaps even earlier.

There is another bookplate that probably identifies the first owner of the book.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891):
bookplates on endpapers (photo: John Windle Antiquarian Books)
This bookplate was owned by its designer, the artist Herbert Warrington Hogg (1862-1893). He was born in Folkestone, where he became an apprentice in a porcelain factory, and developed into a successful designer of forms. He moved to Bournemouth after a breakdown, married, and early 1893 a daughter was born. 

His illustrations appeared in magazines, such as The Strand Magazine, The Gentlewoman, and The Studio. He also started a career as a book designer for John Lane who asked him to make drawings for the cover and the title page of William Watson's The Eloping Angels in 1893. It must have been one of his last works, as he died at the age of 31 in October 1893.

The Wilde book was published in 1891. Hogg may have met Ricketts and Shannon at an exhibition in London, or at the publisher's. But it is a puzzle. Had Warrington Hogg asked Ricketts and Shannon to sign the book? Why is there no dedication? Why is the form of Shannon's signature - with its long reversing tail - unusual? And why on earth would Hogg paste his large bookplate on one of the beautiful endpapers. These endpapers were specially designed for this edition by Ricketts. Hogg's example was followed later by the collector Nina Ranger Herzog...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

340. Collections Online: The MET

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, The Met, in New York, one can find a portrait of the Dutch art dealer Elbert Jan van Wisselingh (1848-1912) by Charles Shannon. I don't think it has ever been on show in The MET. (See my earlier blog on Shannon's portraits of Van Wisselingh: 207 Charles Shannon's Portraits of E.J. van Wisselingh).

Charles Shannon, portrait of E.J. van Wisselingh (1899)
Van Wisselingh took over his father's business in 1881. Under his leadership modern French paintings were sold in the Netherlands, and the company expanded into an internationally regarded firm. A London shop was established in 1892 (The Dutch Gallery), and Ricketts and Shannon became friends of Van Wisselingh, who ensured some early sales of their work outside Britain.

The portrait is a drawing in black, white and red chalk on pink paper, signed 'C.H.S. 99'. It was bequeathed to The Met in 2005 by William Slattery Lieberman (1923-2005). Lieberman's collection of documents relating to the modernist ballet 'Parade' by Jean Cocteau and Eric Satie comprised the more important part of his donation. Lieberman was a long-time curator at MOMA before he moved to The Met where he became chairman of the Twentieth Century Art Department.

One wonders how he got hold of this particular Shannon drawing that has been digitized by the museum and published on its website alongside some other works by Ricketts and Shannon (mostly book illustrations).

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

339. Collections Online: Harvard Art Museums

More and more collections are being digitised and images of books, illustrations, and art works become freely available to a large audience. They are picked up and posted on Pinterest, Instagram, and what have you.

The Harvard Art Museums currently shows 14 works online: stage designs, costume drawings, and book illustrations, among them is the series of drawings for a projected but unpublished edition of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx.

Charles Ricketts, illustration for Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (Harvard Art Museums)
One of the drawings in brown ink over graphite on cream wove paper (30,1 x 21 cm) depicts the sphinx with images of a naked man and woman

The series of illustrations was sold by Scott & Fowles in New York (through Martin Birnbaum) in 1923 to Grenville L. Winthrop, who donated the works to Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University in 1942 as part of his art collection.

Grenville Lindall Winthrop (1864-1943), a lawyer, assembled his collection in an Upper East Side townhouse in New York. The Ricketts drawings found themselves in the company of some 4000 other works of art, including paintings and drawings by William Blake, Edward Burne-Jones, Ingres, Daumier, Van Gogh, Whistler, Moreau, Delacroix, and Beardsley. Not bad company at all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

338. The 2018 Alphabet: R

R is for Resolv'd.
Resolv'd to love, unworthy to obtaine,
I do no favour crave; but humble wise
To thee my sighes in verse I sacrifise,
Onely some pitty and no helpe to gaine.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'R' (1897)
An initial 'R' was designed by Charles Ricketts for his edition of The Poems & Sonnets of Henry Constable (1897). It was used for one of the sonnets in this book.

The same 'R' appeared in Robert Browning's Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1899), in the poem 'Parting at Morning', and, again, in Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1900), in the introductory poem 'To the Queen'. In each book the initial turns up only once.

In similar cases, Ricketts designed a new initial for each book, but the 'R' was rarely needed as an initial, and Ricketts did not design any other initial 'R' at all (see blog 313. The 2017 Alphabet: K).

Charles Ricketts, initial 'R' (1897)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

337. A Caricature Portrait of Ricketts

Several artists, such as Walter Crane, sketched caricatures of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. One of the lesser known caricatures was drawn by Francis Derwent Wood (1871-1926), an artist whose portraits were given to the Royal Academy of Arts by his widow. A number of these, including his drawing of Ricketts, are published on the society's website.

Francis Derwent Wood, Caricature of Charles Ricketts, A.R.A., c. 1920s
(Collection of The Royal Academy, London)
The Ricketts caricature is a drawing in pencil, wash and pen and ink on wove paper. Most of these sketches seem to have been made at Royal Academy banquets and Chelsea Arts Club dinners. Ricketts and Shannon knew Wood around the time that he did these caricatures.

Some critics have asserted that these drawings were 'made upon odd scraps of paper, upon envelopes and so forth', but the commentary written on behalf of the Academy states that they were not always 'as spontaneous' as it seems, and for the Ricketts portrait Wood used materials that he wouldn't have carried with him at all times.

Wood also made such portraits of other public figures, including 'politicians, clergymen, connoisseurs, and aristocrats'.

Several portraits have written comments on them, such as 'Gerald Kelly, the Festive ARA', others simply identify the artist. Ricketts is identified as 'C. Ricketts, A.R.A.' and above his name it says: 'AMICO DI SHANNONI'. The portrait is signed and dated 7 January 1922.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

336. Cherubs and a Centaur Drawn by Ricketts

Unrecorded early drawings and paintings by Ricketts and Shannon do turn up occasionally. The drawings may have been studies for paintings or illustrations. Such drawings by Ricketts are usually unused for illustrations that he may or may not have been assigned. There is still a lot to discover.

A few years ago, a drawing of a centaur chased by cherubs was auctioned at Dominic Winter's sale of 15 July 2015, Paintings & Watercolours, Old Master & Modern Prints, Antique Furniture, Silver & Collectables.

Charles Ricketts, 'Cherubs chasing a Centaur' (undated)
The undated drawing is an early one, as the (vaguely visible) signature testifies. Ricketts used this signature in the 1880s, when he was in his early twenties.

At an estimate of £400 — £600, the drawing was sold for £700 (hammer price).

The subject of centaurs haunted Ricketts (as it did Thomas Sturge Moore). See an article by Ricketts collector and scholar Carl Woodring: 'Centaurs Unnaturally Fabulous'. Centaurs were depicted by Ricketts in book illustrations (for example The Sphinx) and were a subject for sculpting after 1900.

Perhaps, Ricketts referred to an eighteenth-century image by the Venetian artist Tiepolo that is in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid. The drawing shows a similar scene from a different angle.

Tiepolo, 'Centaur with Cherubs' (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

335. The 2017 Alphabet: Q

Q is for Quite.

Quite spent with thoughts I left my Cell, and lay
Where a shrill spring tun'd to the early day.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'Q' in The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan Silurist (1897)

The initial 'Q' appears in the 1897 Vale Press edition of the sacred poems of Henry Vaughan (1621-1695). Edited by Charles Ricketts, this collection of poems by one of the metaphysical poets appeared in October 1897. There is no (modern) title page, and the titles on the label on the front cover, the spine, the opening page, and the colophon are all different: (1) The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan Silurist, (2) The Sacred Poems of H. Vaughan, (3) Vaughan's Sacred Poems Being a Selection, and (4) Sacred Poems Chosen From The Works of Henry Vaughan Silurist

The word 'silurist' refers to Vaughan's native Wales, and to a Celtic tribe.

The poem 'Vanity of Spirit' is about the child-like question: Who made the world? A thorough analysis of this poem can be found online in Thomas Healy's essay 'Performing the Self: Reformation History and the English Renaissance Lyric'. He argues that the apparent naiveté conceals a darker layer of a satanesque questioning of knowledge: 'Imagining himself on a heroic quest for the heavenly, the narrator is unsuspectingly confirming a hellish identity to the observant reader.'

The initial 'Q' only appears once in this publication of the Vale Press, and the design has not been used since. Ricketts had no use for a second 'Q'. However, he drew another initial 'Q' that probably was never cut in the wood. This second 'Q' was reproduced to illustrate an essay by Gleeson White: 'At the Sign of The Dial. Mr. Ricketts as a Book-Builder', published in The Magazine of Art of April 1897. 

Charles Ricketts, initial 'Q' (in The Magazine of Art, April 1897)
This initial seemed to be intended for an series of letters with laurel decorations - there is not a complete alphabet of these: A, E, I, O, T and W occur in several books. A drawing for three similar letters, 'Q', 'T' and 'R', is in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (reproduced in Maureen Watry, The Vale Press, 2004, p. 223). These initials are approximately 48x55 mm.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'Q' in The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan Silurist (1897)
The only initial 'Q' used by Ricketts appeared in the Vaughan edition (page xxx), and measures 25x30 mm.

This series will be continued as The 2018 Alphabet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

334. The 2017 Alphabet: P

P is for Poor.

Poor Psyches perceived the end of all fortune, thinking verely that she should never returne, and without cause, when as she was compelled to go to the gulfe and furies of hell.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'P' (The Dial, No. 4, 1896)
The initial 'P' was designed for a specimen of the Vale Type that was included in the fourth number of The Dial in March 1896. The image consists of three vertically arranged fields: (1) the halted and naked figure of Psyche, (2) a static brick wall, and (3) the moving, threatening dragon-like dog heads of Hades. The wall functions as a border between the two antagonists. They meet in the middle: the basket containing seductive barley cakes is close to one of the hound's heads that is attracted by its smell.

Type specimen included in The Dial, No. 4, 1896
The folded specimen, printed on a sheet of Unbleached Arnold (Ruskin) paper, was pasted in the fourth issue of the magazine of the Vale Press group. A proof for the specimen is dated 18 December 1895. The initial was used twice, on page iii (text in lower case Vale Type) and iv (text in upper case Vale Type).

An image of the original drawing for the block had illustrated an article about Ricketts by his friend, the art critic Gleeson White. This was published in a new annual The Pageant. The first volume was dated '1896' and published in November 1895. The Dial appeared a few months later.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'P' (The Pageant, 1896, published 1895)
The original image and the wood engraving are quite similar. 

Finally, when The Vale Press published the edition of Cupid and Psyches in 1897, the initial was discarded except for the image. The roundel illustrations (that part of the design was preserved) in the book are larger (81 mm diameter as opposed to 31 mm), and the image of Psyche descending into Hell was thoroughly worked over and changed, as can be seen very clearly in an anonymously coloured copy of the book (for this image thanks are due to Vincent Barlow; see more pictures of this copy in blog no. 203). A stairway to the left has been added; there is another stairway leading to a stone gate in the background, and although the main figures of Psyche and the three-headed dog remained the same, this wood engraving involved a newly drawn design and a new wood block to be cut. 

Charles Ricketts, illustration in The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches (1897)
The text in the book edition was different as well. For the Vale Press edition William Adlington's translation of 1566 was chosen, while the words in the specimen were taken from an 1893 reprint based on the 1639 edition.

The image was no longer used to illustrate an initial; it had evolved into an art work in its own right. 

The preparations for the descent into Hell are described on pages 51-52 - the roundel can be found on page 41. Between this particular paragraph in the text and the corresponding roundel illustration, one finds another roundel illustration depicting the final scene in the book ('Love's Pact with Jove'). All roundels are positioned on the first page of a gathering, which disturbs the relation between text and image. 

Ricketts didn't mind this at all. It helped to create an atmosphere of independence. The wood engravings became autonomous works of art, based on Apuleius's original story, but showing a distinctly original interpretation, as Colin Franklin argued (in Golden Asses at the Private Presses, 1969).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

333. Snow

Two days of snow in The Netherlands - hundreds of flights cancelled, public transport came to a halt, one can imagine the situation - some find it hard to remember the joy of snow. 

The Hague in the Snow (photo: Ton Leenhouts, 2017)
Here is how Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon depicted snow in the early 1890s.

In 1887, an illustration by Charles Ricketts was published by Cassell & Company: 'Flight of Matilda from Oxford Castle'. (See blog 224.)

Illustration by Charles Ricketts (1887)
Empress Matilda was said, in one of the more popular versions of this medieval story, to have escaped from the castle in December 1141, while the Castle Mill Stream was frozen over. According to myth, she was dressed in white as camouflage in the snow. Ricketts depicted her, wearing a white mantle over her dark dress, to stress the camouflage.

Two years later, Charles Shannon did a first attempt at lithography, and produced a limited edition of 'The Vale in Snow'. (See blog 85).

Charles Shannon, 'The Vale in Snow' (1889)
The lower half of the image is empty, that is, full of snow, while in the background, every object is only visible because of it being covered in snow: the garden wall, the roof, the trees.

In 1894, Ricketts and Shannon collaborated on Daphnis and Chloe. A scene, called 'Love in the Snow' was designed by Ricketts.

Charles Ricketts, 'Love in the Snow' (1894)
The Hague, situated near the coast, can never boast of a long snow season...

The Hague in the Snow (photo: Ton Leenhouts, 2017)