Wednesday, December 19, 2012

73. The first issue of In the key of blue

When I wrote about the colour of In the key of blue a few weeks ago I mentioned Percy L. Babington's bibliography of the writings of John Addington Symonds. We have to reconsider part of his description of In the key of blue (no. 56 in his listing).

'List of books in belles-lettres', 1892-93, in J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue (1893)
In his note to the binding Babington mentions that some copies were bound in blue cloth, but that the main part of the edition was bound in cream coloured cloth. These share the same collation formula, which mentions that at the back a 16-page list of books issued by Mathews and Lane was inserted. According to Babington (who did not mention the exact title), this 'List of books in belles-lettres' was dated '1892-3'; in fact, the list is dated '1892-93'.

Three copies of the first edition of J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue (1893): it is difficult to find a copy in cream cloth in good condition.
Apart from this regular issue, there was a limited 'large paper issue', bound in full vellum to the same design. In these fifty copies the list of books is omitted.

It is rather puzzling to read bookseller's descriptions or catalogue entries that describe the regular cream copies as 'second issue' and the blue copies as 'first issue'. An example is a catalogue compiled by G. Krishnamurti for the National Book League in 1973: The Eighteen-Nineties. A literary exhibition. No. 642 in the exhibition was a cream copy ('buff cloth'), that was listed as: 'First edition, 2nd issue'. It should be said, that there are no separate issues; the only bibliographical fact is that there are two different colours used for the bindings of the regular issue of the first edition.

All copies in blue and in cream cloth have the same list. There were later reprints, which had other lists. More about those editions later.

There is, however, one exception. In November 1894 Elkin Mathews inscribed a copy to Miss Alice Horton. It is a copy in cream cloth and it does not have the 'List of belles-lettres' bound in at the back. The book has another irregularity, which has to do with the signatures of the gatherings, which are lettered from A to T, but in this copy the signatures are A* to T*. An asterisk has been added to the letters, which means that these were proof sheets. In the printing process these asterisks were removed after the text was corrected and before the book was printed. One can also see that the signature was moved to the right.
J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue (1893), page 1, proof copy
J.A. Symonds, In the key of blue (1893), page 1, copy in cream cloth
More details will be given in a later blog.