Wednesday, January 25, 2012

27. Patterned papers (c: The ship)

For the cover of Fifty songs by Thomas Campion, published February 1897, Charles Ricketts designed a decorated paper that, in his bibliography of 1904, was labelled: 'the ship'. It was inspired by the last poem in the selection, 'A hymn in praise of Neptune', although it only made reference to 'the waves' (line 2). Ships are not mentioned in the poem, while 'Neptune's diadem' (line 10), 'Tritons' (line 11), 'Sea-nimphs' (line 15) and 'Syrens' (line 16) were ignored by Ricketts in his repetitive design of a sailing ship, wave-lines and wave-crests: 'a soft grey-blue ground which is decorated with rows of small sailboats riding gently swelling waves, indicated by a single undulated line'.(*)

'The ship', patterned paper for Thomas Campion, Fifty songs (1897)
This decorated paper stands out among the others, as it is one of only two that were signed by Ricketts; his initials 'CR' appear in a sail - once on the front cover and once on the back cover.
'The ship', patterned paper for Thomas Campion, Fifty songs (1897): detail with initials CR.
The designs were engraved on wood, 'from which they were printed in repeating patterns and then cast as electrotypes'.(**) Some proofs for the cover paper exist, and were described in a catalogue of Clare Warrack and Geoffrey Perkins in 1977: Short List Fifteen. The Vale Press. Trial settings, cover papers, labels, notices, prospectuses, book lists, occasional publications set in Vale type and Vale Press editions. One of the proofs showed two versions, with manuscript notes beneath each proof: 'old one' and 'new one', referring to the blocks. The block sizes were 249x160 mm and 244x159 mm. The dimensions of the paper on the front cover of the finished book are 234x120 mm.

Lucien Pissarro finished printing the paper in December 1896, and when stock of bound copies of the book (issued in 210 copies) had run out in 1899, he printed an additional hundred on a slightly different paper.(**) Perhaps these two binding editions can be distinguished from each other by the placement of the spine label, which for the first batch of copies was closer to the top (c. 9 mm) than for the later batch (24 mm).

This book and other Vale Press books were on show in 1899 at an international exhibition of book design in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Museum in Krefeld, and Rudolf Kautzsch wrote about the decorated papers of the Vale Press in the Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde (1899), that some of them had 'recht hübschen Papierbände', and: 'Die in der Farbe sehr anspruchlosen Papiere zeigen reizvolle Musters diagonal zum Format verläuft'. The design for the Campion was not  placed diagonally as most of the others were.

The paper was reprinted in grey for Gordon Bottomley's A stage for poetry (1948), but this paper does not show Ricketts's initials on the sail.
Back cover of Gordon Bottomley, A stage for poetry (1948)

(*) Susan Ashbrook, The private press movement in Britain 1890-1914. Boston, Boston University Graduate School, 1991, p. 150-151.
(**) Maureen Watry, The Vale Press. Charles Ricketts, a publisher in earnest. New Castle, DE, Oak Knoll Press; London, The British Library, 2004, p. 58, 125.