Wednesday, June 10, 2015

202. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew

Charles Ricketts's wood-engravings and decorations for the Vale Press books were printed in black, and Ricketts did not intend to add colour. A unique and experimental hand-painted illustration has survived. It was done on a proof page for Hero and Leander, a book that predates the foundation of the Vale Press. Ricketts did not make such attempts for any of the later books.


Charles Ricketts, decoration on a proof page
of Hero and Leander (1894) [detail]
However, there was the search for added value in a book. London booksellers were always looking for copies that could be sold at higher prices than ordinary copies. Frank Karslake (1851-1920) was one of them. Denis Collins, in an article for The Ibis Journal 5 (2014), wrote about the practice of attaining added value:

'There were various ways of doing this: a book might be bound in an attractive cloth cover or rehoused in a fine leather binding, or the standard edition of a work might be accompanied by a limited edition either on large paper or on japan vellum. Karslake actually commissioned special copies of books on japan direct from the publishers.'

Karslake also offered copies of books that were hand-coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew, who is the subject of Collins's article in The Ibis Journal: 'Gloria Cardew: Colourist of the 1890s'. The name appears to have been a pseudonym for a colourist who was born around 1878 and worked between 1897 and 1904 - there are photographs of her, but no biographical facts.


Portrait of Miss Gloria Cardew (from The Sketch, 28 December 1898)
Karslake organised an exhibition of books that were bound by women bookbinders at his Charing Cross Road shop in November 1897. Included were 32 books with hand-coloured illustrations by Cardew. Among the illustrators whose work had been 'improved' were Robert Anning Bell, Paul Woodroffe, and Charles Ricketts.


Poems by John Keats, illustrated by Robert Anning Bell,
and hand-coloured by Gloria Cardew
Most books Cardew coloured involved a lot of work. Poems by John Keats for example contained about eighty illustrations that were all worked in watercolour. The Vale Press did not issue books with that many wood-engravings, and Cardew probably only coloured the frontispiece and the opening pages - I haven't seen any reproductions of her Vale Press work. The three books that were executed by Cardew were early Vale Press books (Denis Collins provides a checklist of her work):

Michael Drayton, Nimphidia and the Muses Elizium (November 1896)
William Blake, The Book of Thel, Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience (May 1897)

Michael Field, Fair Rosamund (May 1897)

Denis Collins does not provide any additional information on previous owners and the current location. 

The Drayton copy was described by Howard M. Nixon in his British Bookbindings presented by Kenneth H. Oldaker to the Chapter Library of Westminster Abbey (London, Maggs Bros, 1982), and should now be in that library. It was purchased by Oldaker from the firm of Heywood Hill.

The Blake was offered for sale by Bromer Booksellers in Boston in 2001.

The Michael Field copy has left no traces that I could find. Perhaps the readers of this blog may help us out?