Wednesday, February 22, 2012

31. The tale of the rabbit

A wide range of animals was depicted in drawings, lithographs, woodcuts and paintings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, including geese, a stag, a bear, fishes, doves, seagulls, dogs and cats, pigs, mice, bulls, peacocks, dolphins, hares, mammoths, and rabbits. Some of these could be observed in woods or parks.
Two hares, drawn by Charles Ricketts (from Atalanta, June 1890, p. [545])
In his diary Ricketts wrote, 13 May 1901 (Self-Portrait 1939, p. 56):

In the Park an exquisite thing occurred: a young rabbit plunged, not into a hole, at the sight of me, but into the bole of a may-tree. There I tickled him, meaning to take him out, till I feared, from the palpitating of his flanks, that he might faint or die; so I stood off, to see him escape. This, however, he would not do, so I plucked up courage and lifted him out by the scruff of his neck from the dark inner hole where he had been hiding his face. I remember the fantastic sensation of his loose soft skin and huge startled eyes before he escaped into the bracken shoots, to look back at the enemy.

'Spring', a tailpiece (detail) (from The magazine of art, April 1891, p. 204)
A tailpiece, 'Spring', drawn in 1891 for The magazine of art illustrates a child with his playmate, a rabbit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

30. A copy for reference

Most private press publications go without a personal inscription by the author and buyers have not written their opinions between the lines or in the margins of these expensive books. However, there are exceptions. A copy of a Dutch private press book by Geerten Gossaert, Experimenten, was heavily annotated by his mistress, the poet Annie Salomons, in preparation for a lecture about his work. This copy is now in the National library of the Netherlands.
Note, in pencil, in a copy of The Kingis Quair (1903)
Only a small number of Vale Press books have inscriptions by the authors or editors. Copies with inscriptions by former owners turn up now and then, but copies with annotations by readers are more rare. A short inscription is found in a privately owned copy of The Kingis Quair by James I of Scotland. Underneath the colophon a German reader has pencilled a note on the type:

'King's Fount
by Charles Ricketts
Vale Press 1903
laut Encycl. S. 149'

This reference ('according to the encyclopaedia, page 149') perhaps indicates that the owner collected books for their typography and design, and not so much for the text, and there is no note on the author, although the book seems to have been read all through (all quires have been cut open). Of course, the note may have been written by a dealer. Whatever the case, the writer left no trace - there is no name, bookplate, note on provenance, or inserted letter.

Anyway, the most important 'handwriting' in private press books can be ascribed to Time. The title label on the front cover for example has brown stains for which the glue may be blamed.
Title label for The Kingis Quair (1903)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

29. The beautiful forehead

In the December 1896 issue of Bookselling, Temple Scott published an interview with Charles Ricketts, from which this quote is taken:
No. 52, Warwick Street, Regent Street, W. (from: Bookselling, December 1896, p. 506)
One Saturday afternoon, in the late spring of the present year [1896], we entered a little green-painted shop in a side street leading from under one of the archways of Regent Street into the regions of bric-à-brac and Wardour Street. The shop had not then, as it has now, its swinging white and gold painted "Sign of the Dial." Within, and behind a tiny counter, was seated on a high chair a pale and slight man. This was our first introduction to Mr. Charles Ricketts. We have often been to the little shop since; but we shall never forget that Saturday afternoon. We had a cup of tea, seated in a tiny back room; and soon friends came to drink tea with us. The talk turned on many things, but chiefly on matters related to art - and the pale man with the beautiful forehead talked liked one inspired. Saturday afternoon, we found out later, was receiving day at 52, Warwick Street. The other days of the week Mr Ricketts spends working at home, somewhere in Chelsea.

Signboard 'At the sign of the Dial' (855x488 mm)
See: Temple Scott, 'Mr. Charles Ricketts and the Vale Press', in: Bookselling, II (1896), December, p. [501]-512 (quote on p. 502).
For the signboard see Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums (the signboard was purchased from Amarylis Robichaud, widow of Llewellyn Hacon, 1949).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

28. Two limited editions

Limited editions of books from the nineties only had a statement of limitation in the edition in question: for example, the ordinary edition of Lord de Tabley's Poems, dramatic and lyrical (1893) stated on the page preceding the frontispiece: 'This Edition is limited to Six Hundred Copies'. Another hundred copies were bound in vellum and they had a different limitation statement: 'This Edition is limited to One Hundred Copies' - neither Edition mentioned the other one. The advertisements in Elkin Mathews & John Lane's List of new and forthcoming books (1893) did not reveal all that much: 'A limited number on Japanese paper'. This practice underlines the exclusivity of the more limited edition - if you did not have access to it, you would be unaware of its existence. 

This kind of editorial secrecy has also been applied to books about Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, of which I will give two examples. In 1972, L'Art ancien of Zurich published bulletin 25: A collection of books designed by Charles Ricketts. Shortly after the bibliography went to press, the collection was sold to John Paul Getty II (1932-2003). The colophon (facing the title page) mentioned: '500 copies of this catalogue have been printed : this is no :' Many copies were not numbered, and ordinary copies do not mention that, besides an edition in blue paper wrappers, there was an edition in half cloth. A true Ricketts collector, of course, has copies of both editions.

From top to bottom: Catalpa Press catalogue (limited edition and ordinary edition) and L'art ancien catalogue (bound copy and copy in wrappers)
Another semi-secret de-luxe edition was published by the Catalpa Press in 1985. The ordinary plain paper edition of the Catalogue of the works of Charles Ricketts RA from the collection of Gordon Bottomley, written by Michael Richard Barclay, has no statement of limitation. However, fifty copies were printed on Conqueror paper - making the book twice as thick - and these have a handwritten limitation statement on the first fly-leaf: 'No. [..] of 50 Copies', bearing the author's signature underneath. Recently, Ian Hodgkins & Co. Ltd. described a copy of this edition on their website.