Wednesday, September 18, 2013

112. The death of a vellum subscriber

Last week, I wrote about the collector Laurence Hodson, whose impressive collection was sold earlier this year. 

After the closure of the Vale Press in the Summer of 1904, Hodson bought six vellum copies that were offered to him by Ricketts. This happened a few months after the last book of the Vale Press had been published, A Bibliography of the Vale Press (June 1904). A vellum copy had been reserved for Hodson and was dispatched in August 1904.

Announcement of A Bibliography of the Vale Press (1904) [detail]
In a letter, postmarked 23 September 1904, Ricketts wrote to Hodson: 'The unreasoning death of one of my vellum subscribers has placed six Vale vellums on my hands'. 
He offered, 'at Booksellers discount', the following:

The Parables  £ 6 . 6 . 0
Ecclesiastes  £ 5 . 5 . 0 
Amber Witch  £ 9 . 9 . 0
Julia Domna  £ 4 . 4 . 0
Kingis Quair  £ 4 . 4 . 0
Danaë  £ 5 . 5 . 0

Hodson seized the opportunity, and bought the lot. On 23 September Ricketts wrote that the books 'will be shipped soon', but on the 29th he added that he still had 'to get Shannon in a packing mood in conjuction with brown paper which is not always easy'. Shannon used to pack their paintings, prints, or books, to be send off to exhibitions, or buyers, as in this case; and in the earlier years he also used to write letters for Ricketts, who would only add his signature underneath. On 24 October 1904 the magic packing trick had been performed.

The Hodson sale may have given the impression that Hodson collected all paper copies and all vellum copies, but in fact, in some cases, he must have had duplicate vellum copies. One of them, a copy of The Parables, was inscribed by him to another collector in 1918. This copy later turned up in the collection of Robert Wayne Stilwell. A second copy was in the Hodson sale in April 2013.
Announcement of A Bibliography of the Vale Press (1904) [detail]
Ricketts's list of prices gives a unique insight into the vellum business practices. The annoucements of the Vale Press books did not mention a price for the vellum copies, as they were all subscribed beforehand. There is one exception. The prospectus for the bibliography, probably issued late May, early June 1904, mentioned: 'Two hundred and fifty copies printed in red and black for England and America, ten on Vellum. Price fifteen shillings net on paper, three guineas on Vellum.'

The bibliography was not on the list, and the prices for the vellum books that were on offer are new to us.