Wednesday, August 17, 2011

5. CR and AE

Volume V of The Oxford History of the Irish Book, edited by Clare Hutton and Patrick Walsh, appeared earlier this year. For this volume, The Irish Book in English 1891-2000, Warwick Gould has written a chapter on Macmillan's Irish list (p. 481-516).

In 1904 George W. Russell (who wrote under the initials 'A.E.') transferred his publications from John Lane to Macmillan: 'Always the holy fool, Russell, without obsequiousness but with an undeniable indirection, got the very best for himself and numerous other Irish writers he recommended to the firm' (p. 492). 

Russell's Collected Poems sold rather well. Between 1913 and 1919 four editions of a thousand copies were printed, issued in dark-blue cloth: 'single gilt border around the front cover, lettering of title and author's name ("A.E.") in black capitals on spine and top board' (p. 493). Gould points out that Russell preferred these austere bindings to those of his fellow Irish writer W.B. Yeats. The Yeats bindings were designed by Thomas Sturge Moore, or by Charles Ricketts, who, for example, designed a decorative blind-stamped cover for the uniform edition of Yeats's collected works in the twenties. The spine design for these collected works was used by Macmillan for another series of books of poetry by John Freeman, Katherine Tynan, James Stephens, Lennox Robinson, and others.

Another design by Ricketts was done for a series of selected poems, the first one being The Golden Treasury of Modern Lyrics, selected and arranged by Laurence Binyon (Macmillan, 1924). This design - a blind-stamped upper board, the spine printed in gold - was later used for Russell's Selected Poems (1935), whether he liked it or not. The front cover had lines, dots, leaves, flowers, and butterflies blind-stamped on blue cloth. The dust-wrapper shows a quote from Russell and a portrait by the Polish painter count Casimir Dunin Markievicz, who lived in Dublin.