Wednesday, August 28, 2013

109. Oscar Wilde in Philadelphia

On my return from Philadelphia, last July, I was pleased to see a parcel from Oxford University Press with a copy of volume V of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, subtitled Plays 1, containing the texts of The Duchess of Padua, Salomé (the original French text) and Salome (the English version). The combined texts only occupy some 285 pages, whereas the editorial matter needs another 500.

The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, volume V
Oscar Wilde visited Philadelphia himself on his American tour in 1882. On 17 January 1882 (he arrived a day earlier) he lectured about 'The English Renaissance' at the Horticultural Hall in Fairmount Park, a building that was erected for the Centennial Exposition in 1875 and that lasted until 1954. In May Wilde returned there to speak about 'The House Beautiful' at the Association Hall (10 May). The 'Association' in question was the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and its venue was located at 1430 Chestnut Street (at 15th Street) in a building that has since been demolished.

An announcement of the second lecture was printed on translucent paper. There is a copy in the Rosenbach Museum and Library. I did not see the flyer when I was there.

There is more about Wilde at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. An image in the new volume illustrates a floor plan for Salomé (the French original). Salomé, daughter of Herodias, dances for Herod, 'the Tetrarch'. Herod is so taken with her dance, that he promises her everything she wants, which turns out to be the head of John the Baptist, who is a captive (in a cistern) in the palace, and who is called Iokanaan. Salomé has fallen in love with him, he has refused her, and she demands his execution by asking for his head on a silver tray. Then, while she kisses the dead lips, Herod has her killed. 

The 'ground plan' in the Philadelphia collection is in several hands. The hand of Wilde is easily recognizable, see for example his 'o la lune', and other words that are written in ink.

'Plan de la scene' for Salomé [detail] (Rosenbach Museum and Library)
The editor of this volume, Joseph Donohue, states: 'Another hand, in pencil, has adjusted some of the features of the scene, moving the wall of the building and the staircase to opposite positions and the cistern to the centre of the stage. The hand is probably that of Charles Ricketts, who, at an early point, at W[ilde]'s request sketched a ground plan for a production of the play - perhaps for Paul Fort's proposed production in 1892 - to which the present sketch may well be related. Ricketts later appears to have used this sketch for his own London production. Earlier, he discussed in detail with W, at W. request, details of the design that might be used for a production of the play.' (p. [508]).

However, the words written in pencil do not show Ricketts's characteristic handwriting. Although the re-location of staircase and cistern are confirmed by Ricketts's own staging of the play in 1906, we must still doubt his involvement in this particular, early sketch of the scene.

The Rosenbach also possesses the third manuscript draft of Salomé, with 'interlinear interventions in the presumed hand of Pierre Louÿs, whose grammatical corrections Wilde accepted but whose other suggestions he steadfastly rejected' (p. 335).

The long, informative introduction frequently quotes Ricketts, who repeatedly wrote about the play.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

108. The Rosenbach Museum

While I was in Philadelphia, I visited the Rosenbach Museum and Library, where an astonishing collection of books is being preserved in the former home of two (unmarried) brothers Rosenbach, A.S.W. (1876-1952) and Philip (1863-1953).

Entry to the Rosenbach Museum and Library
A.S.W. was the book dealer and book collector (the Folger and the Huntington Libraries benefited from his acute acquisitions in Great Britain); his brother Philip was the fine art dealer. Both were collectors in their own right. The Rosenbach Museum now holds the original manuscript of James Joyce's Ulysses and a shelf of Joseph Conrad manuscripts, as well as the papers of Marianne Moore and the drawings of Maurice Sendak.

The tour, on the eve of the SHARP 2013 conference in Philadelphia, allowed me to see some of the library's treasures.

After the tour, I asked for their copy of John Addington Symonds' In the Key of Blue (not yet in the catalogue of the Rosenbach), in order to check the signatures. (See my earlier blogs about this book: the first issue of In the Key of Blue, the signatures of In the Key of Blue, and Inked impressions of quads in In the Key of Blue). 

Detail of spine, J.A. Symonds, In the Key of Blue (1892)
The Rosenbach copy (shelf mark EL3. S988i)  is a well preserved copy in cream buckram, with the usual placing of the signatures (the A under ab in 'cinnabar' in the last line on page [1]).

It was tempting to ask for other books to come out of their glass cases, but there was no time. The upstairs library is a treasure trove, and the downstairs sitting and dining rooms make one wonder what went on in this collector's house.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

107. Vale Press books: printed on a hand-press or 'printed by machinery'

This week I was asked how the books at the Vale Press were printed, as there seemed to be no consensus about it. Since the press started in 1896, some commentators believed that the books were printed on a hand-press, others that the books were printed by machinery, probably on a rotary printing press.

The contradictory sources have a common root in the history of the Vale Press. Originally, Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon used as their publisher's address, the house in The Vale, Chelsea, where they could print their own lithographs. For The Dial, they had to make use of book printers. For the first issue of this magazine, they went to Hazell, Watson and Viney, but the second and later issues were printed at the Ballantyne Press, as were all books issued by the Vale Press between 1896 and 1904.

At the time, no one gave a testimony of the presses that were at the disposal of Ricketts at the Ballantyne Press, which was a large printing establishment in London. The colophons, the prospectuses, even the bibliography of the Vale Press that was edited by Ricketts, made no mention of the presses on which the books were produced. This, obviously, points to a 'normal' procedure, one that was too common to mention.

Here follows a selection of opinions:

Ricketts told an interviewer: 'Fortunately, I have in Messrs. Ballantyne, my printers, and particularly in their London manager, Mr. MacColl, most enthusiastic helpers' (Temple Scott, 'Mr. Charles Ricketts and the Vale Press', in: Bookselling, December 1896, p. 506.)

In 1900, Charles Gerring wrote: 'It might be urged against the Vale books that they are printed by Messrs. Ballantyne. This criticism, however, does not go very far, and the only difference between the Vale and Kelmscott books in this respect is that Morris had the oversight of workmen in his own employ, while the Vale books are printed by craftsmen of a commercial house, but again under the supervision of the designer and builder of the page.'
(in Notes on printers and booksellers with a chapter on chap books. London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd., Nottingham, Frank Murray, 1900, p. 32).

Others, at the time, also attested to the fact that Ricketts had his books printed at the Ballantyne Press, 'an arrangement which seems to answer perfectly', according to H.C. Marillier ('The Vale Press, and the Modern Revival of Printing', in: Pall Mall Magazine, October 1900, p. 188.)

The first testimony of a totally different approach to printing private press books was written by C.R. Ashbee in his book The Private Press. A Study in Idealism. To which is added a Bibliography of the Essex House Press (Broad Campden, Essex House Press, 1909, p. 47): 'Machine printed books can be, and often are, produced with as much beauty as hand printed books. I believe I am right in saying that the books of the Vale Press were nearly all printed by machinery'.
Here, the seeds of doubt were sown, and subsequent commentators were prone to think that Ricketts did not have his books printed on a hand-press. In 1913, Lucien Pissarro wrote to the Dutch private press owner J.F. van Royen that he surmised that Ricketts did not print the Vale Press books on a hand-press (quoted by J.P. Boterman, in Disteltype, corps 15. Over de Disteltype van J.F. van Royen en L. Pissarro, en de literatuur van de Zilverdistel. Amsterdam, De Buitenkant, 2000, p. 29).

W.G. Blaikie-Murdoch wrote that Ricketts decided 'simply to entrust his types to a firm of machine printers, whose doing he supervised with fastidious care' ('The Serbian National Sculptor: Being Some Account of Ivan Mestrovic and His Art', in: Art and Progress, December 1915, p. 450).

G.S. Tomkinson's Select Bibliography of the Principal Modern Presses Public and Private in Great Britain and Ireland provided a new clue: 'Although the actual printing was done on the premises of the Ballantyne Press, the Vale books were built entirely on Mr. Ricketts' design under his personal supervision on a press set apart for his sole use'. The last part of this sentence came to be repeated over and over, without solving the issue 
(London, The First Edition Club, 1928, p. 163).

The debate about the private press during the late twenties made an issue of printing at home. Will Ransom, in Private Presses and their Books, stated: 'One of the debated points in bibliography is whether or not Vale shall be considered a private press. In actual fact it was not, composition and presswork being done at the Ballantyne Press. Yet certain workmen and a press were assigned to work exclusively on Vale books under Ricketts' personal supervision, and his spirit was so unmistakably identical with that of the men who had their own plants, that the Vale Press is accepted as one of the group' (New York, R.R. Bowker Company, 1929, p. 39)'.

J.H. Mason, who worked for the Ballantyne Press, asserted that 'The Vale was strictly a residential quarter and so Ricketts transferred his Press to Ballantynes' (A selection from the notebooks of a scholar-printer. Leicester, The Twelve by Eight, 1961, p. [6]).

The Catalogue of the Edward Clark Library had 'typographical notes' by Harry Carter (Edinburgh: Privately Printed for Napier College of Commerce & Technology, Lothian Regional Council, 1976, p. 283) and professes that 'the printing was done at the Ballantyne Press on a hand-press.'

This was repeated by Stephen Calloway: 'The Ballantyne Press was still to be employed to carry out the actual printing, but now a hand press and a press-man were to be reserved there for the use of Ricketts alone' (Charles Ricketts. Subtle and fantastic decorator. London, Thames and Hudson, 1979, p. 18).

The introduction of the hand-press went without a reference.

When Paul Delaney published his biography of Ricketts he asserted that the beginnings of the press were located in their own home: 'At this time Ricketts's and Shannon's publishing venture was also making headway. The first publications from their own press (which they named after the Vale) were albums of prints by Lucien Pissarro and Shannon. An album of Lucien's woodcuts was ready as early as January 1892', and these and later albums 'show that Ricketts had first envisaged the Vale Press as an art, as well as a book, publisher. Lack of funds and equipment (for their press at the Vale was not suitable for books) necessitated a slow and modest beginning.' (Charles Ricketts. A Biography. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 73).

Susan Ashbrook's wording of the issue was that 'Ricketts subcontracted his printing to the Ballantyne Press' (The private press movement in Britain 1890-1914. Boston, Boston University Graduate School, 1991, p. 81).

None of the above mention a source for either the rotary press or the hand-press.

David Butcher repeated the statement about the hand-press that was set apart for the Vale Press: 'Ricketts supervised the printing of Vale books by a pressman at the Ballantyne Press on a hand-press kept exclusively for Vale publications' (British Private Press Prospectuses, 1891-2001. Risbury, The Whittington Press, 2001, 
p. 59).

There was, however, an eye-witness report that went unnoticed and unpublished for almost a century. Charles Home McCall, son of the manager of the Ballantyne Press, had left a testimony, which was quoted, in an edited form, by Maureen Watry in her book The Vale Press (2004). At the back, a portion of McCall's memoirs is printed, but the parts about the Vale Press are dispersed over quotations in the introduction. Almost no quote in this book is free from errors, as I explained in my review of the book for The Library, and this means that one has to find a way to quote the original unpublished notes to be sure.

Nevertheless, the evidence points to the use of a hand-press, because, at the time, hand-presses were set apart for
limited editions, and also for printing large paper copies, for economical reasons. 

An Albion press
Watry, perhaps accurately, quoted McCall on the actual printing of Vale Press books: 'Imposition was by half-sheets for printing on a "work-and-turn" basis, each sheet thereby yielding two copies of eight pages each, rather than one of sixteen pages. The commercial output of the Ballantyne Press was imposed in multiples of thirty-two or sixty-four pages for machine printing, whereas Vale Press volumes were printed four or eight pages to the sheet on a hand[-]press. The imposition of fewer pages at a time ensured "a more evenly perfect inking and impression as can be on a small sheet".' (p. 42)

The books were printed on Albion presses, 'by "a famous Albion press-man", Mr. Arnold, assisted by "a senior apprentice, Mr. Crews".' And Crews 'would pass the doubled-banded inking roller over the forme, then swing over the tympan, run in the forme on the press by use of the handle and draw-over the impression lever' (p. 42-43). 

When I reviewed Watry's book many years ago, I pleaded for a complete (facsimile) edition of McCall's memoirs of the Vale Press. I will not repeat myself, but surely, someone can publish scans of the original manuscript online?

They constitute our only reliable source for this issue.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

106. Brother Printer

In The Grolier Club, last July, I saw a copy of Ricketts's posthumous publication, Recollections of Oscar Wilde (1932).

The book is printed by George W. Jones at the Dolphin Press, in Linotype Granjon type, on Van Gelder paper, in an edition of 800 copies. Most copies are numbered, but there are some unnumbered copies, one of which was listed by Claude Cox in his catalogue 99 (1993). This particular copy was 'out of series for review'.

Other unnumbered copies ended up in copyright libraries, such as the Bodleian Library (shelf mark 2696. d 214). 

Complimentary copies were also among the unnumbered ones; the artist and poet Thomas Sturge Moore had a copy like that, and another example can be found in The Grolier Club's collection.

Charles Ricketts, Recollections of Oscar Wilde (1932): colophon of a copy in the Grolier Club, New York
It has the 'out of series' note handwritten by 'F.M.', Francis Meynell, the designer and publisher of the book for the Nonesuch Press.

Dedication from Francis Meynell to Geo W. Jones in Charles Ricketts, Recollections of Oscar Wilde (1932) [Grolier Club, New York]
In the front of the book is a handwritten dedication from the designer/publisher to the printer: 'To Brother Printer / with the regards and thanks of / the Fidgetter of types / Francis Meynell / July / 1932'.
Brother Printer... A book dealer has annotated this in pencil to explain the identity of the 'brother'...

[For my visit to the Grolier Club, see also blog 105: An Attack on the Defence of the Revival of Printing.]