Wednesday, July 25, 2018

365. A Written Picture of Charles Ricketts (1)

Pan Asleep


He half unearthed the Titans with his voice;
The stars are leaves before his windy riot;
The spheres a little shake: but, see, of choice
How closely he wraps up in hazel quiet!
And while he sleeps the bees are numbering
The fox-glove flowers from base to seal├Ęd tip,
Till fond they doze upon his slumbering,
And smear with honey his wide, smiling lip.
He shall not be disturbed: it is the hour
That to his deepest solitude belongs;
The unfrighted reed opens to noontide flower,
And poets hear him sing their lyric songs,
While the Arcadian hunter, baffled, hot,
Scourges his statue in the ivy-grot.

                                                         Michael Field

Katharine Bradley

Written on 15 January 1901 by Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper). This poem was written by Katharine, also known as 'Michael'.

Ivor C. Treby, in his 1999 edition of A Shorter Shirazad. 101 Poems of Michael Field, said this poem 'possibly' was a 'picture' of Charles Ricketts, who, on its first publication in Wild Honey from Various Thyme (1908) 'certainly took it to be so'.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

364. Charles Ricketts's Design for Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (9)

Elkin Mathews and John Lane issued a prospectus for the new 'edition' of Oscar Wilde's Poems in 1892, probably around April, as it stated that the book would appear on 23 April. There was some delay, and the book was said to be 'just ready' on 7 May 1892.


Prospectus for Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892)
[Image: Vincent Barlow]
Advertisements, as we have seen in an earlier blog, were probably considered too expensive, and unnecessary. From the few advertisements and list of published books we have deducted that the book probably appeared in early May, and was sold out before the end of Summer 1892.

The prospectus may have done the job. Hundreds of copies must have been printed, but only a few have survived.

The order form (on the reverse side) mentions the details that the advertisements also dealt with: the hand-made paper, the 'decorated title and end-pages', the name of the binding design ('The Seven Trees') that was 'in gold on iris' with, between brackets, the word 'cloth', and the name of the designer.


Binding Designs with Titles 


Much has been made of this title for the design, and it must be said, that it was quite rare to see the name of the designer advertised at the time, let alone the title of the design. That was quite unusual. Designs for earthenware and pottery had names, such as 'Willow Tree'. Ricketts had attended classes at the City and Guilds art school that was 'set up to train students for the local industries like the manufacture of hand-painted china' (as Paul Delaney wrote). We have seen that Ricketts signed his early drawings when young artists like him didn't dare to do just that. And, moreover, most of the bookbindings and the borders for title pages that he designed after 1892 were to carry a title.

Bookbinding was considered to be a decorative art. Nicholas Franklin (in Oscar Wilde's Decorated Books, 2000) pointed out that the title suggested that the author held another view and considered the binding design to be an expressive, or representational art work, worthy of a title. However, we can't be sure whose idea it was to give the design its title. Not Wilde, I presume. The artist and the publisher held the same view on art.

Earlier binding designs by Ricketts, commissioned by Osgood McIlvaine & Co., didn't carry titles. In advertisements, the cover for Oscar Wilde's Intentions was described as 'Cloth Extra', meaning that it had been decorated. The same goes for Thomas Hardy's A Group of Noble Dames. Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories was said to have 'ornamental' boards. Other designs for Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., including A House of Pomegranates were only described as colourful: 'cover in moss-green and ivory white'.

But Elkin Mathews and John Lane took publicity very seriously, and named Ricketts's designs, starting with Wilde's Poems. J.A. Symonds's In the Key of Blue and Other Essays had a cover that was called 'Blue-bells and Laurel'. The cover for Silverpoints was called 'Water and Willow Leaves'. Lord De Tabley's Poems, Dramatic and Lyrical had a cover of 'Rose petals'. Even the cover design for Ricketts's and Shannon's pre-Vale edition Hero and Leander had a titled cover design: 'Pearl and Thread'. The book was sold exclusively by Mathews and Lane.

Remarkably, designs by other artists were not given special titles, not even the designs by Charles Shannon for Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan and A Woman of No Importance. This must imply that Ricketts and the publisher considered his designs as works of art, but not all book binding designs. For example, Selwyn Image designed the cover for Michael Field's Stephania, but it wasn't given a title. Perhaps, Image didn't want it, perhaps the publisher didn't even consider it.

The Academy, 10 December 1892
Ricketts certainly wanted his designs to be recognised as works of art. There seems to be a continuous line if we turn to the border designs for his Vale Press books that started to appear in 1896. In his bibliography of the press, Ricketts mentioned the titles of the border, such as 'Honeysuckle border', 'Laurel border', and 'Violet border'. However, he never used these titles in the prospectuses.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

363. Exported and Destroyed Paintings by Ricketts and Shannon

The Spring 2018 issue of The British Art Journal contains an article by Libby Horner about the art collection of Kojiro Matsukata (1865-1950), a dockyard company president from Japan who had studied law in the USA. He bought paintings at amazing prices and in huge quantities, not caring for style or subject, as long as the works could expand the understanding of Western society by Japanese artists. Years after his death in 1950 a National Museum of Western Art was opened in Tokyo. (In the list of artists represented in this museum, the names of Ricketts and Shannon are absent.)

Kojiro Matsukata (source: Wikimedia Commons)
In October 1939, a devastating fire in a London depository destroyed almost 1,000 art works from Matsukata's collection. The part of his collection that had been brought to Japan suffered heavily from the Allied bombing during World War II. Other parts of his collection were kept in France, and these survivors are now in Tokyo. 

Among the works he bought were paintings by Ricketts and Shannon. In her article Libby Horner mentions that one oil painting by Ricketts, 'Legend of the Wise and Foolish Virgins',  was brought to Japan on the S.S. Agusta Maru, in addition to two oil paintings by Shannon: 'Wood Nymph' and 'Three Sisters'. 

Among the works that were certainly burned in the depository fire in London in 1939 were Charles Shannon's painting 'The Summer Sea', that had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1919, and was acquired for £500. It was listed as No. 79 in an inventory of works that were stored at the premises. The list was found among the Arthur Tooth and Sons papers in the Tate Archive (the gallery had been in business from 1842 to the 1970s). 


Charles Shannon, 'Linen Bleachers' (lithograph, 1894)
The now lost collection also included, as Libby reports, 'The Convalescent' (No. 80, £200), 'Winter' (No. 81, £400), and 'Linen Bleachers' (No. 82, £20). The last one probably wasn't a painting, but a lithograph published in 1894.


Charles Shannon, 'The Three Sisters' (lithograph, 1894)
Shannon used to depict subjects multiple times in diverse media. The painting 'The Three Sisters' is lost, but a lithograph with a similar scene has survived. Also dated 1894.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

362. Charles Ricketts's Design for Oscar Wilde' Poems (1892) (8)

For the new issue of Oscar Wilde's Poems in 1892, a prospectus was issued by Elkin Mathews & John Lane.


Prospectus for Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892)
[Image: Vincent Barlow]
It is printed on a sheet of cream laid paper (without a watermark), c. 20x12,3 cm, which is slightly larger than the title page in the book (18,9 x 12,5 cm).

Collector Vincent Barlow was so kind as to send me an image of it. 


The printer of the book?


The front side reproduced the image of the title page that was drawn by Ricketts. After Ricketts forwarded the drawing to the publishers', a block was made of it. In some copies of the book a small circle to the left of the word 'London' outside the border indicates that the page had not been typeset, but reproduced after a zinc block that was mounted on wood to the height of type. The small nails that fastened it should not have caught on any ink, but that sometimes happened. (See blog no. 352).

The same goes for the prospectus: the word 'London.' is part of what Ricketts had drawn by hand. However, here two blocks of typeset texts have been added, both decorated with a printer's flower, the first one a leaf, the second one an acorn. 

These might indicate - as Nicholas Frankel suggests - that the bifolium for the new issue and the prospectus were printed at the Ballantyne Press that had used these decorations for Ricketts's and Shannon's magazine The Dial. However, this kind of flower was quite common. Anyway, the new pages or the prospectus were not printed by the Chiswick Press (the firm ended the contract with Mathews almost six months earlier), nor by T. and A. Constable in Edinburgh (as their records do not contain any information on this book; the records do contain information on other works that were printed for Mathews and Lane around the time).


Date of publication?


The first text block gives information about number of copies, format, price, and the exclusiveness of all copies that were to be numbered and signed by the author. The prospectus also mentions the intended date of publication: 'April, 23, 1892'.

The contract for the book had been signed in 1891 (and the new edition was announced in The Publishers' Circular of 10 October 1891). More details about the book were published in the Christmas issue of the same magazine. Then the book was announced for 'Early in 1892'. At that time, the number of copies was stated as '230' and the format as 'Post 8vo'. But there was some delay. 

The binder gave an estimate in February 1892. In The Publishers' Circular of 5 March 1892, the book was announced again. This may have been based on the prospectus.


The Publishers' Circular (5 March 1892)
The book was published in May 1892. The date in the prospectus suggests that there had been another delay that may have occurred after the binder wasted 10 copies. 

Wilde's bibliographer Stuart Mason (Christopher Millard) stated that Poems was published on 26 May 1892.


The Athenaeum, 18 June 1892
Elkin Mathews and John Lane published a 'Notice' (The Athenaeum, 18 June 1892) in which they announced the postponed publication of two books, while Michael Field's Sight and Song was said to be 'just ready'. Wilde's Poems wasn't even mentioned. 

And the book wasn't advertised in The Publisher's  Circular or in The Bookseller, or, for that matter, in newspapers such as The Times. But then, the limited editions of Mathews and Lane were not intended for a large audience, and the publishers didn't want to waste money over advertisements for booksellers, publishers, and others that worked for the trade. They would have preferred to reach their audience without intermediaries such as local bookshops, and so they published their announcements in journals of standing that were read by book collectors. The Athenaeum and The Academy were examples of those. Even here, we see that the publishers didn't waste their money on advertisements. First, we have to turn to The Athenaeum of 30 April 1892.

Just a week after the date that was mentioned in the prospectus, The Athenaeum, published an announcement.


The Athenaeum, 30 April 1892
The description of Wilde's Poems follows the text of the prospectus, stating that 200 copies are for sale, and that - probably because the prospectus had already reached the customers - 'Very few remain'. The phrase, of course, emphasizes the limited number of copies, and the exclusivity of owning one of those. However, the announcements also made clear that the book had not yet been published! It would be published 'Next week'.

After this, The Athenaeum, didn't mention Poems anymore.

So, we open the ledgers of The Academy. In the week of 30 April the journal remained silent about the intended publications of Mathews and Lane. However, a week later, on 7 May 1892, The Academy published a follow-up advertisement of the publishers.


The Academy, 7 May 1892
And here we find that Oscar Wilde's author's edition of Poems is 'Just ready'. In the case of Mathews and Lane, the phrase 'Just ready' might be intended to increase the book collector's eagerness to obtain a copy, and doesn't really have to mean that the book had been published. One remembers the case of Sight and Song by Michael Field. It is 'Just ready' in The Academy of 7 May and also 'Just ready' in The Athenaeum of 17 June. Let's assume the former statement is closer to the truth than the latter. The Academy also announced that the Field book would be published 'next week' (14 May), while J.M. Gray's  review of it appeared in the issue of 18 June. The word 'Ready' was used with the same kind of nonchalance: The Book of the Rhymers' Club was said to be 'Ready' in the 7 May advertisement, while a review had appeared in The Academy of 26 March 1892.

The prospectus for Oscar Wilde's Poems was not noticed by The Academy, nor by The Athenaeum.

However, we may now assume that the publication date of Poems by Oscar Wilde is not 26 May (as stated by Mason or other bibliographers and scholars), but around 7 May 1892.

Poems didn't appear in the November 1892 list of 'new and forthcoming books' of Elkin Mathews and John Lane that was inserted in Michael Field's Stephania (1892), nor in subsequent lists of their books; therefore, we may assume that the book had sold out before the end of the summer.