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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

358. The Book Collector John Morgan (2)

The Aberdeen book collector John Morgan wrote a memoir of his life that includes paragraphs on book hunting, reading, and his favourite authors.


'Death of Mr John Morgan, Builder'
(Aberdeen Daily Journal, 4 July 1907)
The obituary in the Aberdeen Daily Journal of 4 July 1907 remembers his passion for the works of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, and recalls that of all the interesting letters that Morgan received from Ruskin, three were published in a privately printed book: Letters from John Ruskin to Frederick Furnivall [...] and Other Correspondents (1897), published by the now notorious T.J. Wise, another correspondent of John Morgan.

Morgan wrote about his collection of Wise's publications:

He has issued a series of privately printed books under the name of the Ashley Library, the issue of each being restricted to about thirty copies, four or five of which are generally printed on vellum. At an early stage Mr. Wise invited me to become one of his subscribers, and as a result, I have an almost complete set of his dainty little books, which are rising in value year by year.
During the summer of 1897, Mr. Wise paid his first visit to Scotland, when he stayed several days in Aberdeen, and examined my collection, and expressed his admiration of the order and arrangement of my Library.
(Memoirs, p. 247)

The Ashley Library was called after the road where Wise lived in London. Morgan and Wise made a trip to Deeside, and visited Ballater, Balmoral, and Braemer. The visit was returned once, when Morgan went to Wise's house at Crouch End,

going over his treasures, literary and bibliographical, which were many and varied. He had an unique collection of first editions and manuscripts of the chief Victorian Poets, several of them being inscribed presentation copies. One item of pathetic interest, being the M.S.S. Volume of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poems, exhumed from his wife's coffin.
(Memoirs, p. 248)


The Ashley Library (c. 1909) [from: The Bibliophile (March 1909)
Wise (1859-1937), with Henry Buxton Forman, had been forging pamphlets that fraudulently bore earlier dates than the known editions. These were sold to collectors like John Morgan, who possessed several of these on vellum. Morgan didn't live to see Wise being exposed as a fraud.

Wise mentioned Morgan in relation to one of his fraudulent publications, Robert Burns, a poem by A.C. Swinburne that was said to be issued for the members of the Burns Centenary Club in 1896. Much later, Wise wrote in his Swinburne bibliography:

The Burns Centenary Club was initiated by John Morgan of Aberdeen in collaboration with Harry Buxton Forman C.B. for the purposes of recognising in a suitable manner the centenary of the Scottish National poet.
(From: A Sequel to An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets by John Carter and Graham Pollard. The Forgeries of H. Buxton Forman & T.J. Wise Re-Examined by Nicolas Barker & John Collins, 1983, p. 236)

Barker & Collins conclude that the Club 'is probably a fiction'. They must be right. If Morgan had initiated such a club, and it involved Wise who he revered as a bibliophile and connoisseur, he certainly would have mentioned the Club in his memoirs, which he didn't.

Rather than buying books from catalogues, dealers, or other collectors, Morgan's most pleasurable way of getting books, was finding them in shops or market places.

As to Book-Hunting, it is wonderful what prizes one may get, if always on the alert. In a search round the Aberdeen Market Gallery one winter evening in 1883, I came on a nice clean copy of William Allingham's Poems, with an autograph inscription from the author to Thomas Woolner the Poet & Sculptor. Surmising from the look of it, that the volume had been stolen, or carelessly led astray, I bought it from the stall-keeper, and returned it to the rightful owner. 

Woolner answered that he was very pleased to have it back, and that the book must have

slipped in accidentally with some others that were being cleared out [...]
(Memoirs, p. 249)

D.G. Rossetti, portrait of Thomas Woolner
Woolner also sent him an inscribed presentation copy of Pygmalion (1881). Morgan owned several other dedication copies related to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, such as dedication copies by Alfred and Emily Tennyson, gift inscriptions by Robert Browning, and autographs by the artist Holman Hunt. But he also collected older books, such as a 1567 quarto from the library of Richard Poole that he found of interest for its 'good deal of scribbling by former owners' (Memoirs, p. 252), and, when he went to live in his new house, Rubislaw, he not only incorporated several stones from the old house that had to be demolished, but also tried to acquire books from its former library:

I had not been many years in the new house of Rublislaw, before I could show at least three volumes, that had been at one time in the Library of the Old House, Viz.- an early copy of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, with the autograph of George Skene, a grand uncle of W.F. Skene, Historiographer Royal for Scotland, to whom I sent the book for verification, and his letter is now preserved in the volume, thus linking the past with the present.
(Memoirs, pp. 252-253)


George Skeene (1619-1707)
One of these volumes was acquired for him by a friend during a visit to Holland. 

Morgan bought books and periodicals on book collecting, and corresponded with the authors of books and articles on the subject, such as Alexander Ireland, whose The Book-Lover's Enchiridion (1883) he possessed. He visited personal libraries, such as that of Lord and Lady Aberdeen at Haddo, where the group he was part of 'signed our names in the Visitor's book in the library' (Memoirs, p. 256). At that visit, he met Mary Carlyle Aitken with whom he had corresponded before. Later, he was given 'a very much corrected proof of a page of the History of Friedrich the Great' by a mutual friend, this proof being from his hero Carlyle: 'another link of association with the greatest thinker, and writer, of his age' (Memoirs, p. 257).

Morgan possessed full runs of The Kelmscott and Vale Press books, including the Kelmscott Chaucer, and as we have seen, he commissioned special bindings designed by Ricketts for some of the Vale Press books. Apart from the two Keats volumes (see blog 356), Ricketts also designed a special binding for his VP edition of The Passionate Pilgrim, Songs in Shakespeare's Plays (1896), and The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches (1897), and the latter contains an inscription about the costs:

Book £ 1 . 5 . 0
Binding “3 . 13 . 6
£ 4 . 18 . 6
JM

So, the cost of binding was thrice the price of the book. From the auction catalogue we can conclude that, although he was interested in rare books printed on vellum, Morgan didn't acquire any of the vellum copies of Vale Press books, but was content with the paper copies.

[Thanks are due to David Oswald, Local Studies Librarian, Library and Information Services, Early Intervention and Community Empowerment, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Central Library].

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

357. The Book Collector John Morgan (1)

Last week I wrote about the book collector John Morgan from Aberdeen (356. Vale Press Keats Edition in a Deluxe Binding). Local articles about him, and a personal memoir kept in the Aberdeen Central Library provide more news on his collecting activities.

Local historians have written about John Morgan, who was active as a contractor and builder, and worked with outstanding architects to create most of Aberdeen's late nineteenth-century landmarks, well-known for their ample display of light grey granite. Notable are two articles by Deirdre Grant in the Leopard Magazine (in 1981 and 1982). These contain images of domestic and public buildings, and of John Morgan, his wife Matilda, and their daughters Elizabeth and Matilda.



Matilda Murray, Elizabeth, Matilda (daughter) and John Morgan (1896)
[copyright photo not ascertained]
His position as the region's largest contractor is marked by his membership of councils and boards of - among many others that are related to the world of building, finance and transport - the Art Gallery Committee, the Aberdeen University Press, and the Public Library Committee. He frequently donated books and archival materials to the city of Aberdeen.

His book collection counted in the thousands of volumes and must have taken up quite some bookcases, or even rooms. However, Deirdre Grant writes:


Wandering about the house one wonders where Morgan's vast library of books was kept as there is no evidence of a library.


His obituary, in the Aberdeen Daily Journal (4 July 1907) insists, however, that a library was part of the building:


Mr. Morgan was a man of highly cultured tastes, which found their chief expression in the house he built in Queen's Road some twenty years ago (on the site of old Rubislaw House, the family residence of the Skenes of Rubislaw) and in the library which was lodged there. 


There were so many books, some of local interest, and others of (inter)national interest, that before the 1908 Sotheby's auction of private press books, a first auction in December 1907 was organised in Aberdeen by John Milne (I haven't seen the catalogue of that auction yet). He advertised 1060 lots, and according to Deirdre Grant the auction contained:


a wide range of titles on history, art, poetry, sculpture, architecture, and a massive local collection, many of which would be difficult to find today.


And:

There were also 94 lots of etchings, photos, drawings in ink, pen and chalk and photogravures. Alongside watercolours by John Ruskin, James Giles and Walter Crane, are pen and ink sketches by Pirie.



Bookplate for John Morgan (1894)
Morgan had several bookplates, one of which depicts his gothic house that was built in 1887. Another one with a close-up of the turret is dated 1894. He not only pasted these in his books by Ruskin, Carlyle and in copies of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, he also traded them with fellow bookplate collectors. In 1889 a new bookplate, designed by Charles Ricketts, was on display at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition in London, and the Journal of the Ex Libris Society (October 1899) devoted a paragraph to it and published an image:

Mr. John Morgan, of Rubislaw House, Aberdeen, has kindly lent us the block of his new architectural book-plate, designed and executed by Mr. Charles Ricketts. The treatment is allegorical and mediaeval, and is in itself sufficiently explanatory. As Mr. Morgan is an architect and surveyor, the design is particularly appropriate, and the artist has well carried out the owner's ideas. We may add that previous book-plates of Mr. Morgan's have been architectural in their design, representing in artistic style the owner's residence. We have no doubt that Mr. Morgan will be pleased to send copies of this plate to any of our member's who may desire to possess it - of course for a fair exchange.

Charles Ricketts, bookplate for John Morgan (1899)
The drawing by Ricketts was transferred to the block by Bernard Sleigh, whose initials ' B.S. sc.' appear in the lower right corner. Ricketts's own initials can be seen on a role of paper on the scaffold (bottom left hand corner).

Morgan's memoirs - of which a typescript version is kept by the Aberdeen Central Library - contains no information about his contacts with Ricketts, or the other private press figures  such as William Morris. Instead, Morgan's focus is on the generation before them, and he may have collected the books of the Kelmscott and Vale Presses as artistic examples of the work of John Ruskin's followers. He was a great devotee of Ruskin and the American 'sage' (as he called him) Carlyle. 

The memoirs give inside stories of a book collector, who, for example misses buying the first Edinburgh edition of Burn's poems, 'which was in excellent order, uncut, and in the original binding, and contained many caustic criticisms of the poets sentiments, which were the direct antithesis of the Doctor's', and after he traced the buyer, a 'local dealer', he was shocked: 'horror of horrors the philistine had cleared out the doctor's notes and had cut down the book to the quick, and adorned it with an ugly vulgar modern binding' (Memoirs, p. 34).

The doctor, along with other book-lovers he met in his early career, set him on the bibliophile's trail, even though, as a young apprentice he couldn't afford a copy of Ruskin's The Stones of Venice, but in his memoirs he says:

I have now the finest collection of the works of the Master in Scotland, containing the privately printed "Poems by J.R. 1850", and almost every one of the rare privately printed pamphlets [...]'. 
(Memoirs, p. 151).

These issues - annotated or exclusive copies and completeness of the collection - were part of the book-game, as was:

I have been a Book-lover all my life, and one of my chief pleasures has been the collection, arrangement, and study of my books. This hobby has pleasures unknown to the uninitiated, the perusal of the dealers catalogues, is a constant source of amusement and instruction. The turning over of the varied contents of 2d, 4d and 6d boxes is an exciting occupation, as one never knowns what price may not turn up, although thanks to the spread of knowledge, in matters bibliographical, the chances of these finds are day by day less.
(Memoirs, p. 246).

A collector and his antiquarian book dealers perform financial and intellectual rituals:

A Collector soon gets known to those whose business it is to cater for him and it is simply wonderful how soon these jackals discover your peculiar tastes, and weaknesses. They not only send you their regular catalogues month by month, and year by year, but special reports of all that they imagine may be of interest to you, and sometimes they are comically wide of your mark.
(Memoirs, p. 246)

But it may have been a book dealer that led him astray, and turned him into one of the major collectors of private press books in the 1890s.

[My little series on Wilde's Poems will be continued soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

356. Vale Press Keats Edition in a Deluxe Binding

Catalogue 40, issued by Nudelman Rare Books from Seattle, lists some fine Ricketts related items, the most attractive one being the Vale Press edition of Keats in a unique binding designed by Ricketts. (Ed Nudelman kindly send me some images for this blog.)

The Poems of John Keats (London, Hacon & Ricketts [Vale Press], 1898):
binding designed by Charles Ricketts
 
This kind of binding was designed by Ricketts during the late 1890s and early 1900s especially for Vale Press books (and some Kelmscott books as well) at the request of contemporary collectors. One may remember the series of bindings he designed for Laurence Hodson (see blogs no. 96111, 112, and others).

This copy of The Poems of John Keats (1898) is bound in full crimson leather (probably sheepskin), and stamped in gilt with a design of panels, lines, dots, circles, hearts, and leaves. The bindings bear the signature 'HR' on the tail turn-in of the back board. 'HR' stands for Hacon & Ricketts, the official name of the publishing venture that we also know as The Vale Press.


The Poems of John Keats (London, Hacon & Ricketts [Vale Press], 1898):
binding designed by Charles Ricketts
The books are printed on paper (there was also a small number printed on vellum). These specially commissioned bindings for Vale Press books were manufactured by bookbinders in London, initially Riviere and Sons, and later Zaehnsdorf. These firms didn't sign the bindings. 


The Poems of John Keats (London, Hacon & Ricketts [Vale Press], 1898):
binding designed by Charles Ricketts
The spine of the Keats set on review has five raised bands, and six panels, of which the first contains the title. 

These two volumes have an interesting provenance. There are two bookplates. However, it is possible to trace three former owners.


Max Kirdorf


The older bookplate is from a German collector, Max Kirdorf.


Bookplate of Max Kirdorf
Max Kirdorf was born in Rothe Erde (near Aachen) on 4 June 1878; he died in Burtscheid on 7 June 1923. He was an iron and steel engineer who married into the Suermondt family that stood at the basis of the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen. His wife was Adele Caroline Luise Suermondt (1882-1958). Part of Kirdorf's collection ended up in the library of the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum. This concerned his illustrated books and, more importantly, his print collection that included series of etchings by Piranesi and Goya.

Kirdorf was co-founder - with Ernst Birkner - of one Germany's first private presses, the Eginhard-Presse located in Aachen. It published books without illustrations along the lines of 'pure typography'. Birkner,a book designer and professor at the applied art school, continued the private press after Kirdorf died in 1923. 

Max Kirdorf's international collection of private press books was sold in 1929 by the Munich firm of Emil Hirsch. The catalogue Bibliothek Max Kirdorf contained a description of the Keats edition (page 33, number 352): 'Org.-Maroquin mit reicher Linien- u. Blattvergoldg., Goldschn., entwurfen von Hacon u. Ricketts', and: 'Die prächtigen Einbände signiert "H R".'

(This catalogue is available full text on the website of the University of Heidelberg.)

Curt von Faber du Faur


The second bookplate is that of 
Curt and Emma von Faber du Faur (1890-1966). He was an author, collector, literary historian, curator of the Yale Collection of German Literature, and Yale faculty member.

Bookplate of Curt and Emma von Faber du Faur

Curt von Faber du Faur came from a distinguished military family in Germany, and was born in Stuttgart on 5 July 1890. He died on 10 January 1966. A lieutenant in the German army from 1909 to 1919, he was discharged because of illness. He studied History of Art and German Literature at Munich and Giessen, and his dissertation on a late fifteenth-century engraver (Der Hausbuchmeister) was published in 1921.

In the 1920s he met his future wife Emma Schabert in the circles of the German poet Stefan George. In 1923 he settled in Munich as an antiquarian bookseller with Georg Karl (1892-1975): Karl und Faber, now the firm of Hartung & Hartung. They also organised auctions for manuscripts, graphic art and paintings (from 1927 onwards). In 1931, Faber du Faur moved to Florence to live on a farm with olive trees, growing wheat, and grapes. He wrote some books of poetry, and articles for German newspapers.

In 1939, he emigrated to the United States, taking with him his vast collection of German baroque literature, which would form the basis of a groundbreaking bibliography. This collection, begun in 1912, became the property of Yale University in 1944.

The bookplate of Curt and Emma von Faber du Faur in the Keats edition testifies of his and his wife's international interests. Curt Faber (that's the name he used ordering a taxi) was an inspiring professor at Yale, versed in Italian, German, French, and English literature.



John Morgan


The binding was designed by Ricketts, but not for the owner whose name is on the first bookplate. The first owner of the book had several bookplates, but didn't paste one in these volumes (unless, of course, one of the later bookplates was pasted over his). 

But his monogram is given on the binding.


The Poems of John Keats (London, Hacon & Ricketts [Vale Press], 1898):
binding designed by Charles Ricketts

In some cases Ricketts had the initials of the collector placed on the front cover, and in other cases they appeared on the spine. One can see an 'M' below the title of the book on the spine.

Going back to the auction catalogue of Max Kirdorf's collection that contained an image of the binding, we can discern the same initial 'M' on the spine in the title panel.


Bibliothek MaxKirdorf (1929)

Ed Nudelman answered my query about the initial. I suggested that - while to the right the 'M' was visible - to the left a 'J.' would have been stamped, and Nudelman confirmed that the initials on the spine are 'J.M.'

JM is John Morgan, whose collection was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge on 25-26 March 1908: Catalogue of the Valuable Library of John Morgan. Lot 213 was the Vale Press Keats edition: 'red morocco extra, the sides tooled to a special design of panels and leaves, g.e.'. The book was acquired by antiquarian book dealer Edwards for
£2 19s.


John Morgan was the first owner. He was born in Kirkhill of Kennethmonth in Scotland on 2 July 1844, and he died in Aberdeen City on 3 July 1907, a year after his wife for 35 years Matilda Murray Morgan had been buried (1847-1906). Their daughter, Mathilda Morgan, outlived them (1880-1955). She died in 
Kincardine O'Neil, where Morgan had built a holiday home in 1890: Torphins, William Street, Woodcote. It was inspired by wooden Canadian bungalows near Toronto and Montreal that Morgan had visited on a trip to North America.


Morgan was a builder, who sat on the board of a granite manufacturing concern, and was a director of a brick company. He was responsible for some of the major buildings in his region, including the Guild Street Railway Building, the Central Library and the Northern Insurance Building. In 1887, he built Rubislaw House for himself, co-designed with architect John Pirie. See Canmore for an image of the building process. A plaque on his house commemorates him. (His typescript memoirs are in the Aberdeen Central Reference Library.)


Rubislaw House, Aberdeen
Morgan was a great bibliophile, collecting more than 4500 books, including a vast series of rare John Ruskin material. It was said of him that he not only possessed books, 'he also read them' (see Aberdeen, 1800-2000. A New History (2000), p. 386). He also collected bookplates, and asked artists to design one for him. Ricketts designed a bookplate for him in 1899. Apparently, the Keats volumes didn't carry his bookplate, but then, his initials were already given on the spine.

The two volumes of the Vale Press Keats edition were published in London, transported to Aberdeen, sold in London, acquired by a London book dealer, and subsequently included in a German collection, before they emigrated to the USA, where they can be purchased today.