Wednesday, September 19, 2018

373. Johan Huizinga, Shaw, Ricketts, and Roland Holst

The great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) wrote a review about Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. He drew a comparison between a Dutch production by the Vereenigd Tooneel (first night: 20 December 1924) and the London production at the Regent Theatre which he saw in February 1925. The play had opened on 26 May 1924 at the New Theatre and ran for 244 performances, after which it moved to the Regent Theatre for another series of 321 performances, and later productions could be seen at the Lyceum Theatre at the Strand in 1926, and elsewhere.


Programme for a performance of Saint Joan,
Lyceum Theatre (May 1926)
Johan Huizinga mentioned the Regent Theatre production, that was - like the others - designed by Charles Ricketts. His costumes, set designs and drop-curtains were judged 'excellent' by Huizinga, who preferred this production and remembered Ricketts's work long after the performance, while those of the Dutch production, designed by the architect H.Th. Wijdeveld - less convincing - didn't impress him that much. Wijdeveld, who was married to one of the foremost Dutch actresses, designed several plays for the company of Eduard Verkade. Verkade was a director, actor, and translator. However, his translation of Saint Joan, according to Huizinga, who gave several examples, was sloppy, and faulty.

Huizinga's article was published in three subsequent issues of the Dutch magazine De Gids (April, May and June 1925) and occupies more than thirty pages in his collected works.

Huizinga, who thought of Shaw as a prosaic mind, was surprised by the serious heroism of the play, and the effort to recreate history in a tragedy. He argued that Shaw had understood Hegel's principle that tragedy doesn't result from the conflict between justice and injustice, but from the conflict between justice and justice. If Jeanne d'Arc had had to face cowards and bastards (Huizinga's words), she would have been a romantic character, not a dramatic one. Shaw took history serious, all too serious according to the historian, because he wanted to know what her ordeal could tell us today. Even Shaw's mistakes - wrong names, wrong quotes - don't matter to Huizinga, who subtly mentions them.

Huizinga's main questions in connection to the performance and Ricketts's designs are these: has Shaw given the play a medieval atmosphere, and if so, has it any bearing on the dramatic achievement of the play?

Charles Ricketts, Drop-curtain for Saint Joan (1924)
Huizinga is not convinced by the medieval atmosphere of the play, and feels that the bishop of Reims behaves as a Church of England man while the Dauphin acts like an Eton boy, and the comical effects are simply too Shavian to be medieval. The play is not archaic in any way,  it is unromantic, and still, Huizinga was captivated by Shaw's Saint Joan, the play fascinated him, partly because of Shaw's imagination that gave splendour to certain scenes, such as the dialogue at court before Jeanne enters, or the conversation of Warwick and Cauchon.

Given Shaw's version of this medieval story, the Dutch production would seem to be better suited for it, due to its austere design by Wijdeveld, the absence of historical props, and a subdued realism. But no, Huizinga argues, the play is better served with a colourful medieval setting, as the acting, the costumes and the scene decorations together produce a realistic unity. The lack of an austere style wouldn't go well with a severe performance. Ricketts's colourful and exalted costumes, on the other hand, created a vibrant, harmonious world. Huizinga asserted that the Dutch tradition displayed all variaties of grey, while the British theatre world traditionally excelled in a range of red colours, which he supposed to have come from the Pre-Raphaelites.

As to the actors, Huizinga disliked the acting of Sybil Thorndike, which he characterised as affected and pretentious; for the Dutch production a young actress had been cast for the role of Jeanne, and her performance was boyish, spontaneous, and natural.

Charles Ricketts, Set design for the Epilogue (1924)
After the first instalment had been published, his friend Richard Roland Holst received a copy from Huizinga, and he admired the analysis of the performance, and of Jeanne d'Arc as a historical character. He also wrote: 'I liked the appreciative comments about the work of my old friend Ricketts, of whom, I feel a little estranged these years. If you would like to meet him during your next visit to London, be assured that he would welcome you if I can send him a note in advance.'

A few years later, Ricketts - who remained in contact with his European friends - would send Roland Holst a copy of his new book Beyond the Threshold with a handwritten dedication that referred to 'forty years of friendship'.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

372. Catalogues Imitating Books (2)

Catalogue Number Four was the Spring 1984 catalogue of Pagoda Books in London and it was dressed in a thick white paper cover containing images of the front and back cover of a book designed by Charles Ricketts and described in the catalogue as number 242.


Catalogue Number Four, Pagoda Books (1984)
The example for the catalogue was Oscar Wilde. Recollections by Jean Paul Raymond & Charles Ricketts (1932), published posthumously. Of course, Charles Ricketts and Jean Paul Raymond are one and the same person. It is a weird use of a pseudonym, but it allowed Ricketts to pose as an interested listener, or, as the prospectus explained:

Ricketts invented Raymond so that he might create and control his auditory, command its sympathy, and suggest in the half-tones of familiar conversation certain elusive qualities of Wilde as a friend. The artifice succeeds. In a subtle sense he paints a new portrait of Wilde.
(Prospectus and Retrospectus of the Nonesuch Press 1932)

Oscar Wilde, Recollections (1932)
The cover seems to echo Ricketts's own design for Wilde's The Sphinx (1894). The front and back images of both designs together tell a story. 

The catalogue didn't use the spine design, and the gold was replaced with black.


Catalogue Number Four, Pagoda Books (1984)
Each cover is divided into four compartments with a man greeting a woman on the front panel, she is accompanied by a lady, and she herself reveals her young body while raising a glass to the young man. On the back cover the man welcomes her, holding a kylix. This seems the reverse order for the story, which we also see at the top of both covers. On the back the man is alone on a couch, again raising a kylix. On the front of the book the man and woman lie down embracing. Some critics suppose that the order of the images has been reversed by the printer. But Ricketts had intended this order. The original drawing, now in the British Museum, clearly shows this.


Charles Ricketts, design for cover
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The stories told by Ricketts are never straightforward, or one-dimensional.


Oscar Wilde, Recollections (1932)
Pagoda Books was the antiquarian book firm of Julie Speedie who wrote a book about Wilde's friend Ada Leverson.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

371. Catalogues Imitating Books (1)

Sorting out old antiquarian catalogues, I found a few examples of catalogues that imitate one of the books that is offered for sale inside. 

An example is a 2002 catalogue issued by Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books in London: Literature. The catalogue contained 464 descriptions, three of which were of first editions by Oscar Wilde, designed by Ricketts or Shannon: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Lady Windermere's Fan (1893), and The Sphinx (1894). 

All would have lent themselves for a catalogue cover, although the first one had been rebacked (not mentioned in the description) which ruined the original spine design. The second one would have given a salmon pink catalogue, but the bookseller opted for the third design, that of The Sphinx.



The Sphinx (1894) and Literature (2002)
The drawings on the front and back cover were slightly reduced in size, while the format of the catalogue was slightly larger than the book. The drawing on the spine was discarded, and replaced by the name of the firm and the subject of the catalogue.




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

370. An Early Computer-Based Antiquarian List, May 1985

From the hundreds of antiquarian catalogues that I recently handled - in an attempt to save space - I found one published by Blackwell's Rare Books in 1985. It has a surprising introduction. I remember seeing catalogues that contain a short preamble on the history of the firm, or an account written by a collector on the eve of the sale of his life's work, or an obituary of one of the owners of the firm, but the 1985 Blackwell catalogue has a rather technical foreword.

It is about the introduction of computer software to improve the firm's sales methods.


Blackwell's Rare Books (May 1985)

The computer-printed introduction is signed in pencil by the firm's dealer, Philip Brown:

You are probably aware that we have been considering for some time the use of computers to assist us with catalogue production, selective mailing to interested customers, and for support in many other vital tasks of our antiquarian bookselling, while retaining total flexibility with the personal touches which are so important. We have selected a range of micro-computers with unique software, which will (we believe) achieve the initial objectives we have set, and the first three of these systems are just coming into use.


Blackwell's Rare Books (May 1985)
Blackwell's modernisation made it possible to send specialised lists to customers such as my friend Ton Leenhouts who received this first list in May 1985. The list could be more topical, and didn't have to be expensively printed, as the introduction explained:

An important facility given to us now is that of producing frequent "proof lists". Each list will be subject-classified, and will comprise a selection of descriptions of recent purchases as they come into stock. They will be produced in-house, and will contain bibliographical information to our usual standards. Overseas copies will be despatched by air-mail, and all proof lists will have a very limited circulation. After a brief period, any unsold items will be forwarded to our more widely distributed catalogues.

And so, a new era began. The descriptions, and the books on offer didn't change, and contemporary collecting fashions were not discontinued. For that to happen, the internet had to be invented first.

Inside, we see the traditional division of modern books into two sections: 'Private Press Books', and 'Modern First and Limited Editions'.

In the first section we find a heading for Ricketts's Vale Press.


Blackwell's Rare Books (May 1985)
Comparing prices, we may perhaps deduct that the more desirable presses were Ashendene Press, Officina Bodoni, and Shakespeare Head Press, while other presses were relatively more affordable, such as Golden Cockerell Press, Nonesuch Press, and, indeed, Vale Press.


Blackwell's Rare Books (May 1985)
The descriptions offer other clues for collecting fashions. Entry No 40, for example, contains a description of the Vale Press edition of William Meinhold's Mary Schweidler, the Amber Witch (1903). The notice very carefully describes every imaginable wear and tear, but also points out that the book has never been used for reading:

very slight rubbing to the corners, endpapers lightly browned, untrimmed and almost entirely unopened[.]

The folded quires that formed the book had not been cut open by previous owners, and there must have been a few in the years between 1902 and 1985. As times goes by, such unopened copies get scarcer, while collecting fashions change. The unread book, the unopened book is not as desirable as it used to be. Is the private press book still some sort of trophy? Other features seem to overshadow that particular one: prices are now dictated by condition, the author's fame, and provenance. Nowadays, an 'ideal copy' is a famous book written by a famous writer and owned by a famous collector, while both collector and author have left their emotional traces - words, drawings, tears - between the pages. On the other hand, prices create fashions as well: the most expensive book must be desirable.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

369. Ricketts, Shannon, and The Double Crown Club

In 1924, the printer Oliver Simon (Curwen Press) formed a then nameless club that somewhat later would assume the name of The Double Crown Club. This society of printers, publishers, book designers, and illustrators still exists and regularly gathers for dinner and talks. 

Co-founder was Hubert Foss, Oxford University Press editor. Apart from these two men, the earliest members of the committee were G. Wren Howard (Jonathan Cape) and Gerard Meynell (Westminster Press), while Holbrook Jackson was invited to accept the office of president. They made lists of potential members of the new 'Typographical Dining Club', (this was shortly before the definitive name had been decided upon) and invitations were sent out to forty-seven ordinary members and twelve future honorary members. Some declined, some didn't reply. 


The Florence Restaurant, Rupert Street, London (Soho Museum)
Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon were among the honorary members, and they were present at the first official dinner on 31 October 1924 in the famous Florence Restaurant in Rupert Street - a restaurant that in the 1890s had been favoured by Oscar Wilde, and other decadent writers.

Initially, the members were all male. That changed in 1979 when Nicolete Gray became the first female member of the club.

There are several books about the history of the club. Some of the talks that members and guest have given, were published, but the main paper heritage of the Club consists of menus that were especially designed and printed for each occasion.


"Double Crown', designed by Noel Rooke (1925)

Ricketts and Shannon started as honorary members, but the honorary membership itself lead to many discussions, and when in April 1925, 'a ballot was taken for  honorary and foreign membership' (as James Moran wrote in 1974), some honorary members were not elected. That happened to John Drinkwater, Sydney Cockerell, Edward Johnston, A.W. Pollard, Robert Bridges, St John Hornby, Emery Walker, R.B. McKerrow, Lucien Pissarro, Ricketts and Shannon. This problem of the 'blackballed eminences' simmered for months.

Finally, in October 1925 the rejected honorary members were asked to become ordinary members.

Ricketts never gave a talk at the Club's meetings, nor did Shannon. Their friend Thomas Sturge Moore talked about the books of Ricketts on 21 March 1929, the text of which was never published, and I don't know whether the subject was present in the room.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

368. A Written Picture of Charles Ricketts (3)

Green Lizard Sonnet

O Love, the transformations thou hast given!
Love, through all transformations I believe.
The Jove that I have seen casting his levin
I wear as a green lizard on my sleeve...
Love, Love! Can'st thou take on such utter dearth,
Nor lovely as the moon in lapse of powers,
Nor burning frangipanni at the hearth,
Nor with soft incense incensing the hours?
Why move so alien, why art thou thus?
Wear any mask, so thine eyes pierce the shaft,
Or turn thee wailing to thy Genius:
Sighs are there that to me thou can'st not waft,
Imaginations, hopes that must divide --
Yet, as thou art a god, interpret wide!

                                                          Michael Field

This complete version, based on manuscripts, was published for the first time in Ivor C. Treby's anthology of Michael Field's poetry, A Shorter Shirazad (1999).

Michael Field, 'Green Lizard Sonnet'
in Wild Honey from Various Thyme (1908)
 When Michael Field published the poem in their book Wild Honey from Various Thyme in 1908, the printer mutilated the sonnet, which, lacking line 9, became a 'triskaidekain', as Treby pointed out. 

Charles Ricketts, detail of binding
for Michael Field's Wild Honey from Various Thyme (1908)
The subject was Ricketts: 'recently he had not been sufficiently attentive', and on 18 November 1904 the Michael Field journal noted: 'I tell Painter [Ricketts] I have written a furious sonnet against him called the Green Lizard Sonnet'.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

367. A Written Picture of Charles Ricketts (2)

An Enchanter


To all men of the earth a foreigner,
He lends his alien glance to every eye;
The other side the moon he passes by,
And we too, of his freedom, double her.

We tingle with his rhapsody of sight,
And shiver in the coldness it employs;
Yet warmth the lizard from its slab enjoys
We feel the moment that we curse our plight.

From cunning distance his caress we take -
So wild things of the woodland please & mock:
In hours of gravity his thoughts forsake

His troubling mortals of the magic flock.
Ah, but his laugh detains us! He has need
His malice should enliven ears that heed.

                                    Michael Field

Ivor C. Treby in 1986 (Bodleian Library)
This poem about Charles Ricketts was written by Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper). There are manuscript versions written by Katharine and Edith - a joint poem that was written in 1901 and published in Wild Honey from Various Thymes (1908).

A collection of their poems was published in 1999 by Ivor C. Treby (1933-2012). He was a biochemist, and worked as a teacher in London, but was also a poet and literary researcher. His research focused on Michael Field, and he published several books about these poets, in which he wrote about poems, books, manuscripts, correspondence, and more. 

For these he arranged the work in idiosyncratic ways, talking about this poem, for example, as T0988. It always takes me some time to decipher the codes he so cleverly fabricated for cross references. He unearthed a wealth of material. His archive is now in the collection of the Bodleian Library, not only as a testimony of him as a poet and researcher, but as a gay man whose archive now testifies of the 20th-struggle for equal rights. (See the announcement of the online publication of his archive.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

366. A Written Portrait of Thomas Sturge Moore

The Poet


Within his eyes are hung lamps of his sanctuary:
A wind, from whence none knows, can set in sway
And spill their light by fits; but yet their ray
Returns, deep-boiled, to its obscurity.

The world as from a dullard turns annoyed
To stir the days with show or deeds or voices;
But if one spies him justly one rejoices,
With silence that the careful lips avoid.

He is a plan, a work of some strange passion
Life has conceived apart from Time's harsh drill,
A thing it hides and cherishes to fashion

At odd and bright moments yo its secret will:
Holy and foolish, ever set apart,
He waits the leisure of his god's free heart.

                                                                 Michael Field

'Michael Field' (Katharine Bradley and Emma Cooper) first met the poet Thomas Sturge Moore in June 1901.


Katharine Bradley and dog Whym Chow

Katharine made a note in her diary:

Moore, the Poet, comes to dine with us

and about his eyes she said:

from illuminated eyes gives worship to his god

The poem dates from around this time, and was published in Wild Honey from Various Thymes (1908). 'Henry' (Edith Cooper) wrote to her sister Amy that Moore was a 'genuine new friend', and that he was 'intensely modern & in no wise decadent'. (See Ivor C. Treby's anthology A Shorter Shirazad. 101 Poems of Michael Field (1999).

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

365. A Written Picture of Charles Ricketts (1)

Pan Asleep


He half unearthed the Titans with his voice;
The stars are leaves before his windy riot;
The spheres a little shake: but, see, of choice
How closely he wraps up in hazel quiet!
And while he sleeps the bees are numbering
The fox-glove flowers from base to sealèd tip,
Till fond they doze upon his slumbering,
And smear with honey his wide, smiling lip.
He shall not be disturbed: it is the hour
That to his deepest solitude belongs;
The unfrighted reed opens to noontide flower,
And poets hear him sing their lyric songs,
While the Arcadian hunter, baffled, hot,
Scourges his statue in the ivy-grot.

                                                         Michael Field

Katharine Bradley

Written on 15 January 1901 by Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper). This poem was written by Katharine, also known as 'Michael'.

Ivor C. Treby, in his 1999 edition of A Shorter Shirazad. 101 Poems of Michael Field, said this poem 'possibly' was a 'picture' of Charles Ricketts, who, on its first publication in Wild Honey from Various Thyme (1908) 'certainly took it to be so'.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

364. Charles Ricketts's Design for Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (9)

Elkin Mathews and John Lane issued a prospectus for the new 'edition' of Oscar Wilde's Poems in 1892, probably around April, as it stated that the book would appear on 23 April. There was some delay, and the book was said to be 'just ready' on 7 May 1892.


Prospectus for Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892)
[Image: Vincent Barlow]
Advertisements, as we have seen in an earlier blog, were probably considered too expensive, and unnecessary. From the few advertisements and list of published books we have deducted that the book probably appeared in early May, and was sold out before the end of Summer 1892.

The prospectus may have done the job. Hundreds of copies must have been printed, but only a few have survived.

The order form (on the reverse side) mentions the details that the advertisements also dealt with: the hand-made paper, the 'decorated title and end-pages', the name of the binding design ('The Seven Trees') that was 'in gold on iris' with, between brackets, the word 'cloth', and the name of the designer.


Binding Designs with Titles 


Much has been made of this title for the design, and it must be said, that it was quite rare to see the name of the designer advertised at the time, let alone the title of the design. That was quite unusual. Designs for earthenware and pottery had names, such as 'Willow Tree'. Ricketts had attended classes at the City and Guilds art school that was 'set up to train students for the local industries like the manufacture of hand-painted china' (as Paul Delaney wrote). We have seen that Ricketts signed his early drawings when young artists like him didn't dare to do just that. And, moreover, most of the bookbindings and the borders for title pages that he designed after 1892 were to carry a title.

Bookbinding was considered to be a decorative art. Nicholas Franklin (in Oscar Wilde's Decorated Books, 2000) pointed out that the title suggested that the author held another view and considered the binding design to be an expressive, or representational art work, worthy of a title. However, we can't be sure whose idea it was to give the design its title. Not Wilde, I presume. The artist and the publisher held the same view on art.

Earlier binding designs by Ricketts, commissioned by Osgood McIlvaine & Co., didn't carry titles. In advertisements, the cover for Oscar Wilde's Intentions was described as 'Cloth Extra', meaning that it had been decorated. The same goes for Thomas Hardy's A Group of Noble Dames. Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories was said to have 'ornamental' boards. Other designs for Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., including A House of Pomegranates were only described as colourful: 'cover in moss-green and ivory white'.

But Elkin Mathews and John Lane took publicity very seriously, and named Ricketts's designs, starting with Wilde's Poems. J.A. Symonds's In the Key of Blue and Other Essays had a cover that was called 'Blue-bells and Laurel'. The cover for Silverpoints was called 'Water and Willow Leaves'. Lord De Tabley's Poems, Dramatic and Lyrical had a cover of 'Rose petals'. Even the cover design for Ricketts's and Shannon's pre-Vale edition Hero and Leander had a titled cover design: 'Pearl and Thread'. The book was sold exclusively by Mathews and Lane.

Remarkably, designs by other artists were not given special titles, not even the designs by Charles Shannon for Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan and A Woman of No Importance. This must imply that Ricketts and the publisher considered his designs as works of art, but not all book binding designs. For example, Selwyn Image designed the cover for Michael Field's Stephania, but it wasn't given a title. Perhaps, Image didn't want it, perhaps the publisher didn't even consider it.

The Academy, 10 December 1892
Ricketts certainly wanted his designs to be recognised as works of art. There seems to be a continuous line if we turn to the border designs for his Vale Press books that started to appear in 1896. In his bibliography of the press, Ricketts mentioned the titles of the border, such as 'Honeysuckle border', 'Laurel border', and 'Violet border'. However, he never used these titles in the prospectuses.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

363. Exported and Destroyed Paintings by Ricketts and Shannon

The Spring 2018 issue of The British Art Journal contains an article by Libby Horner about the art collection of Kojiro Matsukata (1865-1950), a dockyard company president from Japan who had studied law in the USA. He bought paintings at amazing prices and in huge quantities, not caring for style or subject, as long as the works could expand the understanding of Western society by Japanese artists. Years after his death in 1950 a National Museum of Western Art was opened in Tokyo. (In the list of artists represented in this museum, the names of Ricketts and Shannon are absent.)

Kojiro Matsukata (source: Wikimedia Commons)
In October 1939, a devastating fire in a London depository destroyed almost 1,000 art works from Matsukata's collection. The part of his collection that had been brought to Japan suffered heavily from the Allied bombing during World War II. Other parts of his collection were kept in France, and these survivors are now in Tokyo. 

Among the works he bought were paintings by Ricketts and Shannon. In her article Libby Horner mentions that one oil painting by Ricketts, 'Legend of the Wise and Foolish Virgins',  was brought to Japan on the S.S. Agusta Maru, in addition to two oil paintings by Shannon: 'Wood Nymph' and 'Three Sisters'. 

Among the works that were certainly burned in the depository fire in London in 1939 were Charles Shannon's painting 'The Summer Sea', that had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1919, and was acquired for £500. It was listed as No. 79 in an inventory of works that were stored at the premises. The list was found among the Arthur Tooth and Sons papers in the Tate Archive (the gallery had been in business from 1842 to the 1970s). 


Charles Shannon, 'Linen Bleachers' (lithograph, 1894)
The now lost collection also included, as Libby reports, 'The Convalescent' (No. 80, £200), 'Winter' (No. 81, £400), and 'Linen Bleachers' (No. 82, £20). The last one probably wasn't a painting, but a lithograph published in 1894.


Charles Shannon, 'The Three Sisters' (lithograph, 1894)
Shannon used to depict subjects multiple times in diverse media. The painting 'The Three Sisters' is lost, but a lithograph with a similar scene has survived. Also dated 1894.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

362. Charles Ricketts's Design for Oscar Wilde' Poems (1892) (8)

For the new issue of Oscar Wilde's Poems in 1892, a prospectus was issued by Elkin Mathews & John Lane.


Prospectus for Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892)
[Image: Vincent Barlow]
It is printed on a sheet of cream laid paper (without a watermark), c. 20x12,3 cm, which is slightly larger than the title page in the book (18,9 x 12,5 cm).

Collector Vincent Barlow was so kind as to send me an image of it. 


The printer of the book?


The front side reproduced the image of the title page that was drawn by Ricketts. After Ricketts forwarded the drawing to the publishers', a block was made of it. In some copies of the book a small circle to the left of the word 'London' outside the border indicates that the page had not been typeset, but reproduced after a zinc block that was mounted on wood to the height of type. The small nails that fastened it should not have caught on any ink, but that sometimes happened. (See blog no. 352).

The same goes for the prospectus: the word 'London.' is part of what Ricketts had drawn by hand. However, here two blocks of typeset texts have been added, both decorated with a printer's flower, the first one a leaf, the second one an acorn. 

These might indicate - as Nicholas Frankel suggests - that the bifolium for the new issue and the prospectus were printed at the Ballantyne Press that had used these decorations for Ricketts's and Shannon's magazine The Dial. However, this kind of flower was quite common. Anyway, the new pages or the prospectus were not printed by the Chiswick Press (the firm ended the contract with Mathews almost six months earlier), nor by T. and A. Constable in Edinburgh (as their records do not contain any information on this book; the records do contain information on other works that were printed for Mathews and Lane around the time).


Date of publication?


The first text block gives information about number of copies, format, price, and the exclusiveness of all copies that were to be numbered and signed by the author. The prospectus also mentions the intended date of publication: 'April, 23, 1892'.

The contract for the book had been signed in 1891 (and the new edition was announced in The Publishers' Circular of 10 October 1891). More details about the book were published in the Christmas issue of the same magazine. Then the book was announced for 'Early in 1892'. At that time, the number of copies was stated as '230' and the format as 'Post 8vo'. But there was some delay. 

The binder gave an estimate in February 1892. In The Publishers' Circular of 5 March 1892, the book was announced again. This may have been based on the prospectus.


The Publishers' Circular (5 March 1892)
The book was published in May 1892. The date in the prospectus suggests that there had been another delay that may have occurred after the binder wasted 10 copies. 

Wilde's bibliographer Stuart Mason (Christopher Millard) stated that Poems was published on 26 May 1892.


The Athenaeum, 18 June 1892
Elkin Mathews and John Lane published a 'Notice' (The Athenaeum, 18 June 1892) in which they announced the postponed publication of two books, while Michael Field's Sight and Song was said to be 'just ready'. Wilde's Poems wasn't even mentioned. 

And the book wasn't advertised in The Publisher's  Circular or in The Bookseller, or, for that matter, in newspapers such as The Times. But then, the limited editions of Mathews and Lane were not intended for a large audience, and the publishers didn't want to waste money over advertisements for booksellers, publishers, and others that worked for the trade. They would have preferred to reach their audience without intermediaries such as local bookshops, and so they published their announcements in journals of standing that were read by book collectors. The Athenaeum and The Academy were examples of those. Even here, we see that the publishers didn't waste their money on advertisements. First, we have to turn to The Athenaeum of 30 April 1892.

Just a week after the date that was mentioned in the prospectus, The Athenaeum, published an announcement.


The Athenaeum, 30 April 1892
The description of Wilde's Poems follows the text of the prospectus, stating that 200 copies are for sale, and that - probably because the prospectus had already reached the customers - 'Very few remain'. The phrase, of course, emphasizes the limited number of copies, and the exclusivity of owning one of those. However, the announcements also made clear that the book had not yet been published! It would be published 'Next week'.

After this, The Athenaeum, didn't mention Poems anymore.

So, we open the ledgers of The Academy. In the week of 30 April the journal remained silent about the intended publications of Mathews and Lane. However, a week later, on 7 May 1892, The Academy published a follow-up advertisement of the publishers.


The Academy, 7 May 1892
And here we find that Oscar Wilde's author's edition of Poems is 'Just ready'. In the case of Mathews and Lane, the phrase 'Just ready' might be intended to increase the book collector's eagerness to obtain a copy, and doesn't really have to mean that the book had been published. One remembers the case of Sight and Song by Michael Field. It is 'Just ready' in The Academy of 7 May and also 'Just ready' in The Athenaeum of 17 June. Let's assume the former statement is closer to the truth than the latter. The Academy also announced that the Field book would be published 'next week' (14 May), while J.M. Gray's  review of it appeared in the issue of 18 June. The word 'Ready' was used with the same kind of nonchalance: The Book of the Rhymers' Club was said to be 'Ready' in the 7 May advertisement, while a review had appeared in The Academy of 26 March 1892.

The prospectus for Oscar Wilde's Poems was not noticed by The Academy, nor by The Athenaeum.

However, we may now assume that the publication date of Poems by Oscar Wilde is not 26 May (as stated by Mason or other bibliographers and scholars), but around 7 May 1892.

Poems didn't appear in the November 1892 list of 'new and forthcoming books' of Elkin Mathews and John Lane that was inserted in Michael Field's Stephania (1892), nor in subsequent lists of their books; therefore, we may assume that the book had sold out before the end of the summer. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

361. A Portrait of Thomas Sturge Moore

Artist's friends are most likely to be portrayed by an artist, perhaps even more than relatives, certainly when the artist and the sitter are young. Self-portraits of younger artists do abound as well. Sometimes, unknown self-portraits come to the fore.

Here we have a newly discovered self-portrait of the poet Thomas Sturge Moore, a friend and collaborator of Ricketts and Shannon during the 1890s, and long after.


Thomas Sturge Moore, Self-Portrait
Not much is known about the portrait. It is in a private collection. It is executed in red chalk and drawn to the sheet edges of a piece of paper c. 35,5x25 cm.

We see a very young Sturge Moore, poet and artist, looking both insecure and thoughtful. As it is a self-portrait, one wonders what the artist wanted to express about himself, even if this was intended as a non-personal study of light and shadow, and a balance between white and red parts. The artist looks kind of worried and inspired at the same time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

360. Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (7)

The British Library blogpost 'Poems by Oscar Wilde' contains, among others, an image of the page facing the title page, and in the upper left hand corner one can see a watermark. This is copy no. 18 of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (BL shelfmark: Eccles 254). This is part of the bifolium that was pasted in at the front, while the rest of the book is the left-over stock of the 1882 reprint of Bogue's edition of Wilde's Poems. (See earlier blog posts).

Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892): detail of verso of half title of No. 18
The watermark reads 'MA'. It is part of a name. No other marks can be seen.

In another copy, numbered 22, a different (part of the) watermark is discernible.


Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892): detail of watermark of No. 22
Here we see part of a fleur-de-lys and the numbers '18'. The number represents the first two digits of the date of manufacture, probably 1891 or earlier.

Another copy, numbered 160 (Bodleian Library: Walpole e.782), shows yet another part of the watermark: 'IVES'. A fourth copy, numbered 141, again has 'MA' (Bodleian Library, Ross e.92).

The paper is not the same as that of the other pages of the book. These were printed on 'Van Gelder Zonen' paper, a Dutch handmade paper, as Stuart Mason states in his bibliography of the works of Oscar Wilde. He doesn't mention the type of paper of the added bifolium that was printed in 1892.

Nicholas Frankel, in his Oscar Wilde's Decorated Books (2000) asserts that these added pages at the front are watermarked 'Abbey Mill Greenfield'. I cannot corroborate this. The name doesn't seem to fit the watermarks that have been photographed, and are shown above. On the other hand, it might be judged improbable for a small edition of 220 copies to have the four new pages be printed on several different papers; but that have may been the case.

We need to see more images of the watermarks in the first four pages of the book. Please send me images and suggestions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

359. Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (6)

Summer. Sitting in the garden. Browsing the internet, looking for nothing in particular. Finding myself on the site of British Library, which is a wonderful treasure trove.

I read a post about Oscar Wilde's 1892 volume of Poems, which I have been discussing several weeks ago. I know I have promised to continue the series, and I will. However, today, I will limit myself to correct a small and sympathetic error.


Oscar Wilde,
Poems
(1892)
[British Library]
The blogpost 'Poems by Oscar Wilde' contains four images of the book, a copy that came from the collection of Donald and Mary Hyde and was given to the British Library as the Lady Eccles Oscar Wilde Collection (shelfmark: Eccles 254).

The short commentary accompanying the splendid images of copy No. 18 contain one rather regrettable error. The design of the book is not ascribed to Ricketts, but to his rival (in a sense) Aubrey Beardsley:

Although Oscar Wilde is best known for his plays and novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), he also published poetry. This gilded volume from 1892 is beautifully designed by Aubrey Beardsley, who would later produce the illustrations to Wilde's Salomé (1891). It is number 18 from a limited edition of 220 copies, and is signed by Wilde himself facing the title page.

Please, delete the sentence about Beardsley and Salomé and insert a phrase about the design of The Picture of Dorian Gray that was also by Ricketts. And yes, the design is quite beautiful even if Beardsley cannot be credited with it.

PS (19 June 2018): The text of blogpost 'Poems by Oscar Wilde' has been corrected.