Initially, Gray compiled the book for The Bodley Head and a letter to John Lane shows that Ricketts was going to 'build the book', just like he did for the famous Silverpoints. In fact, 'there has been some talk of his doing an "emblem" for a frontispiece but I think this may possibly not come to much'. (Letter in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library).
|Charles Ricketts, opening page for John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)|
|Charles Ricketts, detail of opening page for John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)|
Seven years later, the exhibition catalogue Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. An Aesthetic Partnership (Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham) asserted: 'The full page frontispiece, signed CR and JG[ray]'.
This attribution of the wood-engraving to artist and author has continued to circulate ever since. See for example, Susan Ashbrook's dissertation The Private Press Movement in Britain 1890-1914 (1991): 'John Gray’s initials join those of Ricketts on the lower right, which, it has been suggested, indicates that Gray was a participant in formulating the design.' I repeated this dual authorship 'CR & JG' in my 1996 checklist, as did Maureen Watry in The Vale Press (2004).
For my review of the latter book, I took another good look at the (minuscule) monogram and saw that the intertwined letters did not represent the ampersand (&), but the letters T and O: 'CR TO JG'. In other words, the artist dedicated the wood-engraving to his friend the author.
|Ricketts's monogram in John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)|