Wednesday, April 30, 2014

144. Thomas Bird Mosher's Vale Press collection (2)

Thomas Bird Mosher owned at least 32 volumes of the Vale Press, which were auctioned in May 1948. A second catalogue - containing the 'final portion' of his library - was issued later that year. Three more Vale Press books were listed for this sale that took place on 11 and 12 October 1948.
Auction catalogue Parke-Bernet, 11-12 October 1948
Lot 574 described a copy of Thomas Browne's Religio Medici and Ricketts's own Catalogue of Mr. Shannon's Lithographs under the heading 'Vale Press'. The lot was sold for $9,00.
Auction catalogue Parke-Bernet, 11-12 October 1948( page 77)
Another Vale Press item, Rossetti's Hand and Soul, was mentioned with the Kelmscott Press edition (and several other books) in lot 261. The lot was not categorized as of interest as a Kelmscott Press or a Vale Press publication, but alphabetically arranged under its title, Hand and Soul. This prose piece of Rossetti was one of the more popular titles for private presses, and collected as such. This lot fetched $20,00.
Auction catalogue Parke-Bernet, 11-12 October 1948 (page 36)
This brings the number of Vale Press books collected by Mosher to 35, but as Phil Bishop - whose Mosher website I mentioned last week - informs me, Mosher owned more books than were listed in the auction catalogues, a total of 41 volumes is accounted for, of which six volumes cannot be identified.

It is difficult to say which volumes could be the unidentified ones, except for the Campion edition. Mosher imitated the woodcut border of page [v] for his edition of John Addington Symonds's Wine, Women and Song in 1899.

This might indicate that Mosher owned the earlier titles, including for example the editions of Landor, Browning, Chatterton, and Keats. Didn't he collect all the Michael Field titles? Had a copy of Ricketts's and Pissarro's De la typographie... escaped him? It seems unlikely.

Sixteen Vale Press volumes are not recorded, apart from the 39 volumes of the Shakespeare edition. For all we know now, Mosher owned almost half of the Vale Press production, this is 41 out of 96 volumes.

Concerning the Vale Press titles, a few collector's issues can be remarked upon. 

Firstly, it seems that the 39 volumes of the Shakespeare edition that appeared between 1900 and 1903 and for which a subscription was necessary, are not present. American subscribers had to deal with the New York office of John Lane.
Secondly, no copies printed on vellum are recorded in these two Mosher sales.
Thirdly, unique Ricketts bindings - such as those that were ordered by Laurence Hodson and others - are not recorded.
Mosher kept the regular copies in their original bindings, he did not give commissions for private bindings to (for example) contemporary American bookbinders.

Lastly, manuscript letters, proofs, or dedication copies are not among the Vale Press books that were sold in the Mosher sales.

However, it would be wrong to define the Mosher Vale Press collection merely as incomplete, or mediocre. The significance of the collection is to be found in its use. The collection inspired the design of his own books that helped spread the ideals of modern book design in America.