Wednesday, August 22, 2012

56. Curious errors (2)

My summer series of curious errors continues today. In Simon Loxley's Type. The secret history of letters (2004) I came across a passage (on page 94) about the type designer Frederic Goudy, who was the owner of The Village Press, an American private press:

Inspired by Charles Ricketts's Songs and Poems of Sir John Suckling, designed by Ricketts and Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, Goudy now decided he wanted to set up his own press.
Patterned paper (detail), designed by Charles Ricketts, for The poems of Sir John Suckling (1896)
I wrote about the patterned paper for this book, The poems of Sir John Suckling (1896) in December 2011. This Vale Press book was, of course, designed by Ricketts alone. Cobden-Sanderson, at that time a bookbinder, who, in 1900, would become the co-owner of the Doves Press (with Emery Walker) had nothing at all to do with the design of the Vale Press books. Where did Loxley get this piece of misinformation?

It turns out, that Loxley, a graphic designer and writer on design and typography, quotes an author and editor of The New York Times Book review, D.J.R. Bruckner, who published a biography about Goudy in 1990: Frederic Goudy. Bruckner related on page 44:

One book Goudy encountered in the Saints and Sinners Corner was The Songs and Poems of Sir John Suckling, printed in the Vale type designed by Charles Ricketts and Charles James Cobden-Sanderson, with woodcut borders and initials by Ricketts.

Loxley corrected Charles James Cobden-Sanderson to Thomas [James] Cobden-Sanderson, but should have deleted his name completely. Bruckner's text contains more of such trivial errors, calling Ricketts Sir Charles Ricketts (as Walter Tracy pointed out in The new criterion); Ricketts was elected as a member of the Royal Academy, but the abbreviation 'R.A.' behind his name should not be confused with a knighthood. Elsewhere (page 38 and the index page) Bruckner refers to Ricketts as 'C.W. Ricketts', adding a puzzling initial 'W'.

Goudy himself wrote, in the introduction to A bibliography of The Village Press by Melbert B. Cary, Jr. (1938, p. 5-6):

I have told elsewhere how the sight of a Vale Press copy of the Poems of Sir John Suckling first stirred my imagination regarding its type, the hand-made paper and its general get-up as a private press publication. At that time this particular book, to me, was an aristocrat belonging to an aristocracy of craft and typographic art. A new leaf in the book of my life was turned and my interest in fine bookmaking was born; a wide prospect was disclosed and a world that lay beyond the horizon of my imagination invited exploration. [...] Two or three years ago, Miss Fanny Borden, Librarian of Vassar College Library, at a talk I gave before a group of Vassar College students, remembered that I mentioned this book as the earliest inspirer of my, as yet, unawakened taste and desire for greater knowledge of private press publications, and kindly presented me with a copy of the Poems; not, of course, the actual copy I saw at McClurg's [a bookshop in Chicago], but one of the same issue, which I note now is dated 1896, thus fixing the beginnings, the vision, it may be, of The Village Press itself.

Another copy of this book, inscribed by Goudy to Edmund Geiger Gress, is said to be in the collection of the Grolier Club, New York.