Wednesday, July 8, 2020

467. Three Spine Designs by Charles Ricketts

Charles Ricketts made quite a few designs for his friends, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper who wrote under the name Michael Field. Their books have special decorations, decorative papers, frontispieces, bindings, and more, all designed by the artist.

In the years 1912-1914, he designed a series of three volumes for collections of poetry: Poems of Adoration (1912), Mystic Trees (1913), and Dedicated (1914). Although it appears to be a uniform series in terms of execution, the volumes were issued by three different publishers: Sands & Co., Eveleigh Nash, and G. Bell & Sons Ltd.

Michael Field,
three spine designs
by Charles Ricketts


The spines of the linen bindings are more or less identically designed and show the names of the author and publisher, the title, as well as some horizontal lines printed in gold. The first two volumes display the circled dots - one of Ricketts's favourite design features.

The third binding lacks these circled dots, but has a more elaborate decoration of two laurel wreaths (at the same time two interlocking rings symbolizing the love of the two women), and a thyrsus (a staff topped with a pine cone). 

The first two volumes contain the religious (catholic) poems from later years, the last volume contains 'early work' that is more hedonistic, or even pagan. 

The design is similar to that by Selwyn Image who combined symbols of paganism with those of fidelity; this was used for several books.

Selwyn Image, design for
Underneath the Bough.



The first poem of Dedicated is about Dionysus Zagreus, which explains the staff (a symbol of him). In this poem Dionysus escapes his 'hunters' (who will tear him apart according to mythology), and following his father's bird (Zeus's messenger), he makes his own laurel wreath:

I, the rejected, hunted, mad, unwelcome,
I weave these tragic bunches in a wreath,
Fit crown for ever, of my misery

Ricketts provided this volume with a visual and symbolic spine design - why the other two were much more sober, remains a (probably financial) mystery.