design for the Vale Press
Volume after volume was issued, monthly, by the Vale Press, amounting to 39 volumes in total. Some of Ricketts's decorations are corner pieces, others embrace the text on two sides, while a few enclose the text on three sides, but none of them are heavy. They are not distracting the reader from Shakespeare's text. The borders illustrate honeysuckles, acorns, or show other floral details, and they are used many times over, although in each volume only four or five or so make an appearance.
The borders usually decorate the beginning of a new act; they are quite functional, and herald a pause in the play. Some, however, are not used as markings, and seem to be inserted arbitrarily to lighten up a page of the plays. The two poetry volumes, Sonnets (1903) and Poems (1903), do not contain decorations. The same goes for the identically issued play by Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (1903).
In the sixth volume, on page xi of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, a border of the older type was printed, an intricate border of oak leaves, signed 'CR' in the bottom left corner. The steel engravings have not been signed; this is an exceptional decoration, as if it had been found among the debris of the fire. It might indeed have been one of the original wood engravings Ricketts had designed for the Vale Press edition.
|Charles Ricketts, decoration for The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (1900)|
In 1901, another border was to surprise the buyers of the Vale Shakespeare edition. It was published for the first time in Love's Labour Lost (1901), page xxx. It is border for a verso page, a left-handed page. The facing page is not decorated. The border is not signed. It is a new vine border, enclosing the beginning of Act III, Scene I.
This border re-appeared in A Midsummer-Night's Dream (1901), page xxviii. Act III begins on the opposite page. It is also used to decorate the beginning of Act II on page xviii of Much Ado About Nothing (1902), and for the beginning of Act V of As You Like It (1902), page lxxvi.
In 1902, this older type of border - reminiscent of the opening pages of the earliest Vale Press volumes - was used for the last time in The First Part of King Henry IV (1902), page lxviii.
|Charles Ricketts, vine border for Henry IV|