Wednesday, July 25, 2012

52. Farewell to Dublin

My recent visit to Dublin (see Ireland where I have never been and A prize binding) brought me to Parnell Square, where the Dublin Writers Museum stands almost next door to the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane.
Decorated ceiling, Dublin Writers Museum, June 2012
The Writers Museum, situated in two restored Georgian houses at the north side of the square, has a charmingly old fashioned feel to it. I think I have never before seen so many more or less famous typewriters in two rooms. Photography, alas, was not allowed. Upstairs is a splendid reception room, with decorated plaster ceilings, busts and paintings, and, surprisingly a piano that was bought by James Joyce in 1910, when he lived in Triest. The instrument, manufactured by Anton Petrof, is on loan from the James Joyce Museum. (Incidentally, while I was walking the Dublin streets, Ulysses was published in Amsterdam in a new Dutch translation by Erik Bindervoet and Robbert-Jan Henkes: Ulixes).

James Joyce's piano
Next to this 'Gallery of Writers' is a small room with bookcases, containing a selection of recently published and not systematically acquired or arranged Irish books.
Dublin Writers Museum, library, June 2012
Two odd volumes of Yeats' collected works were placed on the shelves (on opposite sides of the room). One can easily recognize the binding design by Ricketts that I discussed in blog 48 on an edition Plays in prose and verse, which was published in 1922 and reprinted several times, carrying the abbreviated title Plays on the spine.
Dublin Writers Museumm, library shelf, June 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

51. Anniversary & Adoration

This is an anniversary blog, commemorating the first post to my weblog, almost a year ago, when on 20 July 2011 I decided it was time to write online about Ricketts. Some people anxiously told me they did not think that a weekly blog about Ricketts would survive for a year, due to lack of subjects. The opposite is what happened: the list of subjects I can write about is longer than ever, and I would like to thank Ton Leenhouts for his support and for his suggestion that I write about the patterned papers for the Vale Press books, a series of seven blogs that will be continued. Also, I am grateful to Marja Smolenaars for correcting my usual grammatical errors and typos. Looking back, I am particularly pleased with a contribution by Paul Delaney about Ricketts's mother and another one about the Burlington magazine by Barbara Pezzini. If you would like to write an article for this blog, please mail me, as the blog is intended for Ricketts scholars, Ricketts collectors, Ricketts enthousiasts, the 'Ricketts racket', as Paul Delaney once called us.

In April, one hundred years ago, a new book of poems was published by Sands & Co. in London and Edinburgh, Poems of adoration, written by Michael Field. These belonged to 'the first fruits of our Catholic life' (*). The poet Gordon Bottomley admired the cover of their book.
Michael Field, Poems of adoration (1912): two copies with the upper board blocked in gold and two copies with the upper board blindstamped with a design by Charles Ricketts
Bottomley wrote: 'How happy I was to see the lovely lines playing together in crystal-clear chimings again, as I first saw them when I was a boy and thought there was never such a master of line - indeed there never was and there is not.' Ricketts, who had designed the much admired cover, had to admit that most of the poems were closed to him, 'owing to temper or subject matter', as 'the religious spirit is far more constant and very inward.'

The binding design incorporated Christian symbols, such as the Holy Spirit (on top), a burning lamp, organ pipes on either side of a crucifix, and an altar. Underneath are the words 'Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum sacramentum', while lines with dots, circled dots and two small leaves form an orderly rectangular pattern, which is broken by three diagonal lines symbolizing the stigmata. The design was blocked in gold on the upper cover and the spine was also printed in gold. However, there are also copies with the design blindstamped on the upper cover (the spine design still printed in gold), probably a secondary binding.
Michael Field, Poems of adoration (1912), four copies: spine design
Ricketts's own copy was exhibited in 1933 at the Royal Academy ('lent by the estate of Charles Shannon, Esq., R.A.') and that copy had the gold tooling on purple cloth which makes the design so brilliant and evocative.

(*) Works and days. From the journal of Michael Field, 1933, p. 308.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

50. Patterned papers (g: Wild rose)

The only patterned paper for a Vale Press book that was not designed by Charles Ricketts is the one that can be found on the cover of De la typographie et de l'harmonie de la page imprimée. William Morris et son influence sur les arts et métiers, which was published in February 1898. The cover paper, with a pattern of wild roses (in profile), printed in orange and green on a pale green paper, was designed by Lucien Pissarro in 1897 and printed by Esther Pissarro in December 1897.
Cover for De la typographie et de l'harmonie de la page imprimée. William Morris et son influence sur les arts et métiers (1898)
That Lucien Pissarro designed this paper was no coincidence, as he had in mind to publish the book at his own press, The Eragny Press, and after the text of the two essays, written jointly by Ricketts and Pissarro, had been corrected by Georges Lecomte, Pissarro started to set up the text in the spring of 1897. After eight pages had been set (not yet printed), he suffered the first of a series of strokes, which partly paralyzed him. Esther and Lucien Pissarro spent a few months in France and after their return to England, Lucien had two more attacks. It was decided that Ricketts would take over the book for his Vale Press. The other pages were set at the Ballantyne Press, however, printing was delayed by a strike. At the beginning of January 1898 the printed quires were ready for the binders; the book was published a good six weeks later.

Meanwhile, Esther had printed the cover paper, for which a woodblock had been supplied by T.N. Lawrence (£1.19.06), the paper had been supplied by P. Young (.05.00). The whole block had 23 rows of roses, and in each row nine flowers were shown. The book is somewhat smaller and has the paper pasted on the back cover, the spine and the front cover, showing a series of 6½ roses in each row, while from top to bottom 21 rows can be counted. One leaf of the patterned paper sufficed for one book. Esther Pissarro may have printed around 300 leaves in all, as the projected edition was 256 paper copies. However, the printer at the Ballantyne Press made an error and printed no more than 216 paper copies.
Patterned paper for De la typographie... (1898), designed by Lucien Pissarro
The surplus leaves may have been used for an Eragny Press book that was issued in 1902: Francis Bacon's Of gardens has the same cover paper, however, additional leaves would have had to been printed for the job. The design was used again for La belle dame sans merci by John Keats (1905), but for this book the design was printed in green and yellow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

49. A prize binding

On my visit to Dublin (see last week's blog) I took the opportunity to inspect the stock of several antiquarian bookshops, most of which deal in 'Irish history and literature' or 'Celtic studies' (see Stokes Books) and also some more general second hand book stores (such as The Secret Book and Record Store). The most interesting Ricketts-related books are to be found at Cathach Books in Duke Street, near the corner of Dawson Street, which now holds copy number 62 of Oscar Wilde's Poems in the famous 'Seven Trees' cover design by Ricketts.

Cathach Books also had two volumes of the collected works of Yeats that I showed last week. The spine design for these cloth bindings was used by Macmillan for a series of poetry volumes by a variety of authors, including many Irish writers, such as Lennox Robinson, Katharine Tynan, and James Stephens.

James Stephens, Collected poems (first edition, 1926, in dust wrapper; second edition, 1926; reprint, 1931, in dust wrapper): spine design by Charles Ricketts
James Stephens (1882-1950) collected his poems when he was in his forties, the book was reprinted twice with the spine design by Charles Ricketts, in 1926 and 1931. Cathach Books had a special copy of the second edition of 1926, which was given as a prize for 'Northern Universities' Matriculation Work' to Frances Pickard on 25 May 1931, that is: five years after it was published.

School prize label, dated 1931, in the second edition of James Stephens, Collected poems
Following a nineteenth-century custom, the name of the school and its crest were printed in gold on the upper cover: Penrhos College, Colwyn Bay, with the motto 'Semper ad lucem' ('always toward the light'). This college was founded in 1880 as a Methodist girls' boarding school in the town of Colwyn Bay on the north coast of Wales. The college crest shows an oil lamp on top of a book. The school is now incorporated in the Rydal Penrhos School, a private co-educational Methodist boarding school, and its modern crest contains a fish between the lamp and the book, that is no longer closed. The old motto has been replaced by 'Veritas scientia fides' ('Truth, knowledge, faith').
James Stephens, Collected poems (second edition, 1926), prize binding with the front cover stamped in gold
Books of poetry were a suitable gift for Methodist girls. Recently another book dealer, St Marys Books and Prints in Lincolnshire, listed an edition of the Collected poems of John Masefield (Heinemann, 1931), with the same school prize stamp on the upper board.
John Masefield, Collected poems (1931) [photo by St Marys Books and Prints]