Wednesday, August 5, 2015

210. A Plaque to Commemorate Charles Ricketts

Gavin Morrison and Scott Myles are working on a project concerning the gravestones of type designers, A History of Type Design. Gavin asked me if I happened to know where Ricketts was buried, and if he had a headstone. 

The result of the project combines aspects of typography and art. I quote from the site: 

'[...] using a variation on the Japanese frottage technique of Takuhon, impressions have been taken from the headstones of prominent type-designers. These images have then been used within magazines [...] and have been used to create a lithographic edition with the Barcelona print studio Polígrafa Obra Gráfica. This body of work exists as an ever expanding, but idiosyncratic, anthology of type design. It is necessarily erratic in that it is constrained by the difficulties of determining locations, access and the logistics of finding the grave sites. As a result certain prominent type-designers will fail to feature.'

The research is based on the question whether the designer's own type-design is utilized in the stone-carving. Imprints have been taken from the type-designer graves of William Caslon (1692-1766), William Morris (1834-1896), Eric Gill (1882-1940), Kurt Schwitters (1887-1947), Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) and others.

Ricketts designed and put into execution a monument for Michael Field in 1926, but it has not survived. He did not design a headstone for his own grave, and there is no grave.

Ricketts died on 7 October 1931. He was cremated at Golders Green, and his ashes were to be scattered to the four winds in Richmond Park. His friends found out that the shoe box they were given contained a seemingly endless quantity of ashes, so they decided in the end that Cecil Lewis would take the remaining ashes to be scattered in Arolo near the Lago Maggiore. (The Arolo land had been a present from Ricketts to Lewis.)

Lewis himself hollowed out a niche of the cliff, placed Ricketts's head in bronze (by F.R. Wells) facing the mountains, and a plaque was attached underneath it, 'duly inscribed', as Lewis wrote. The inscription is probably his, but the carving itself may have been a local job.

Bust of Charles Ricketts by F.R. Wells (1902), Arolo, Italy [photograph J.G.Paul Delaney]