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 The old motto has been replaced by 'Veritas scientia fides' ('Truth, knowledge, faith').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]