Wednesday, November 27, 2013

122. Forty-five autograph cards and letters for sale

Yet another auction with Ricketts and Shannon material is about to take place at Bloomsbury in London. Tomorrow, 28 November, 45 autograph cards and letters by Shannon and Ricketts come up for sale. Most of these letters are related to their contacts with F. Ernest Jackson during the second half of their career.

Letters from Charles Shannon to F. Ernest Jackson [Bloomsbury Auctions, London]
F. Ernest Jackson (1872-1945) was the subject of a book by J.G.Paul Delaney in 2000, and of blog 100: 'Francis Ernest Jackson and the Ricketts legacy'. Jackson was schooled at the famous teaching studio Atelier Julien in Paris in 1895. By 1900 he settled in London to design posters. He did watercolours too, but he excelled in lithographs. As a teacher of lithography his influence became widespread. He did not strive to be popular, or even known to the public, and never became a household name.

As usual, Ricketts's letters contain humorous asides, and they reflect Ricketts's attempts to get his way with things as well as his anger as he failed to do so. When a student of Jackson did not receive 'the prize which he deserved', Ricketts blamed several committee members for that, such as 'Olivier & Coward & perhaps Lawrence', and he added to the last name: 'I hate him'. He vented his rage on the Royal Academy in its entirety:  

The whole affair has added to my sense of vicious & exaggerated indignation against all RAs Philpot included.

Later letters refer to Shannon's accident (he suffered from brain damage after a fall), and one can clearly see that Ricketts was without hope and dreaded the future.

The sale also includes a letter from George Bernard Shaw to Ricketts and one by Ricketts to Sigismund Goetze.

[Note, 18 December 2013: all lots were sold: Shannon's letters to Jackson were sold for £950; Shaw's letter went for £450; Ricketts's letters to Jackson were sold for £2400, and Ricketts's letter to Goetze was sold for £150.]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

121. A faded spine for sale

Bloomsbury in London has another auction next week, on 28 November. In it are some leftovers from the successfull Hodson sale. Last week unsold paper copies were offered again at lower estimates than before, now the same goes for two more important unsold books: a specially bound copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese (Vale Press, 1897) and a vellum copy of Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (Vale Press 1902).

Binding in green morocco for Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (vellum copy)
The Sonnets from the Portuguese is a copy on paper, but it is bound in white pigskin after a design by Ricketts. There is a geometric panel on the covers, with small flowers and roundels tooled in blind and gilt. At least two copies on paper exist in a binding with this design. This copy differs from the other one in that it bears the initials HR of the publishers Hacon and Ricketts on the inside of the lower cover (lot 171, estimate £1000-£1500 [reduced by £500]).

The vellum Religio Medici is bound in green morocco with repeated LH monogram and bird tool on the covers. The description says it is a copy in 'brown' morocco, but only the spine and parts of the covers are browned; one can clearly see that it used to be a full green binding. The discolouration is probably why the book has not sold. The book is a large octavo - height is more than 30 centimetres - and the scale of the browning is too bad. 

Also, the decoration is not typical for Ricketts. From the letters that were auctioned last time, one may conclude that this design was prompted by the collector. It is much more Hodson's design than it is Ricketts's. A similarly designed copy of The Rubayat of Omar Khayyam, however, did find a buyer last time (for £2450), but that has always been a popular text.

The Browne is described as lot 172. The estimate is £1500-2000 - which is £1000 less than in the Hodson sale.

[Note, 18 December 2013: The Browning, again, remained unsold at auction; the Browne, however, was sold for £2200.]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

120. Another copy

Dreweatts and Bloomsbury auctions have a 'bibliophile sale' tomorrow (14 November) at their Godalming site. In it are some leftovers from the earlier Hodson sale. Most of the vellum copies from this collection were sold, but some did not realize the reserve, as was the case with many paper copies.

The paper copies are now offered for sale again, but not much effort has been given to the descriptions as they have been copied from the earlier catalogue. No 443, for instance, is 'The Race of Leaves, another copy, one of 280 on paper'. The phrase 'another copy' also turns up in the next lot with a single copy of 'Julia' - both Vale Press books were written by Michael Field. There are ten Vale Press books in this sale, of which seven are described as being 'another copy', but in none of these cases there is a second copy of the same book for sale. Of course, in the Hodson sale, all these copies were preceded by a copy on vellum.

All estimates are now fifty pounds lower, around £150-200.

An unsold vellum copy will be auctioned later.

[Postscript 17 November 2013: The results were lower than the estimates, with hammer prices between £100-190; two items remained unsold, the other eight sold for a total of £1210.]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

119. Ricketts and The Yellow Book

A few years ago Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra launched The Yellow Nineties Online. It is a surprise to find that Ricketts and Shannon as search terms do yield some results, as they did not contribute to the 1890s magazine that became notorious for firing its art editor Aubrey Beardsley after the arrest of Oscar Wilde for homosexual conduct. Wilde had not been a contributor to the magazine, but it was associated with him in a newspaper headline in 1895: 'Arrest of Oscar Wilde. Yellow Book under his arm'. This yellow book was not even the publication that Elkin Mathews and John Lane had launched successfully only one year earlier, in April 1894, but probably a yellow bound copy of Aphrodite, a novel by the French author Pierre Lou├┐s.

Front cover of the first issue of The Yellow Book (April 1894) in the second issue
The site contains a short biography of Charles Ricketts written by Nicholas Frankel, and a short description of The Dial written by the editors of The Yellow Nineties Online. It also reproduces the texts of the advertisements that were published at the back of the magazine.

It is in these advertisements that the names of Ricketts and Shannon were frequently printed. In the first issue, for example, Ricketts was named as the illustrator and designer of Lord de Tabley's Poems, Dramatic and Lyrical (listed under 'De Tabley') and both were mentioned in a description of their publication of Hero and Leander (listed under the heading 'Ricketts (C.S.) and C.H. Shannon'. This book was said to be published 'Immediately'. Ricketts's name also popped up in the advertisement for Symonds' In the Key of Blue, Wilde's The Sphinx, and the proposed but never realized edition of Wilde's Incomparable and Ingenious History of Mr. W.H. The name of Shannon was mentioned in relation to three volumes of Wilde's plays. Other issues of The Yellow Book also have such advertisements, although after Wilde's arrest, his works were no longer listed.

Back cover of the first issue of The Yellow Book (April 1894)

Many friends of Ricketts and Shannon were part of the Yellow Book circle, notably artists such as William Rothenstein and Laurence Housman. It is not quite clear why Ricketts and Shannon did not contribute to the magazine. Shannon would later contribute to another magazine that was published to continue the career of Beardsley, The Savoy. Apparently, although they admired his drawings, Ricketts and Shannon were somewhat jealous of Beardsley's success, and disapproved of his personality. When they were invited to contribute, they refused, stating that it 'might lead to complications over the fourth Dial'. 

Cf. J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A Biography. Oxford 1990, p. 84-85; Margaret D. Stetz & Mark Samuels Lasner, The Yellow Book. A Centenary Exhibition. Cambridge MA 1994, p. 31; Catalogue Number 165. Books from the Library of John Lane Publisher. London (Dulau) 1928, p. p. 97-98, item 932.