Wednesday, May 7, 2014

145. Unsold, unsold, sold.

Over a year ago the collection of Laurence W. Hodson was sold at auction. The vellum copies of Vale Press books in specially designed bindings by Charles Ricketts fetched high prices. However, a paper copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese (1897) in a binding of white pigskin, designed by Ricketts - the design is in the Victoria and Albert Museum - remained unsold.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese (Vale Press, 1897): paper copy in white pigskin, designed by Charles Ricketts
To my knowledge, only two paper copies were bound thus, and this one has the bookplate of Laurence Hodson. It also has the monogram of the publishers, HR (Hacon & Ricketts). The other copy does not have this monogram, although the design is identical in every detail, that is, almost identical, as the bindings were handmade, and there are very small differences in the positioning of certain gilded elements. In fact, each binding is unique.

After the sale of 14 April 2013, the Hodson copy was entered for auction again in November. The original estimate of £1500-£2000 was lowered to £1000-£1500, but at the auction of Important Books, Manuscripts & Works on Paper (Bloomsbury Auctions, 28 November 2013) the Hodson copy remained unsold once more.

Then, a description of the same copy appeared in the auction catalogue Printed Books and Manuscripts, Bloomsbury Auctions. At the sale, on 17 April 2014, the Hodson copy was finally sold with an estimate of £500-£700. It realized a hammer price of £750.

Paper copies of Vale Press books in leather bindings designed by Ricketts are extremely rare, and it appears that only some early books were bound thus. The special bindings were usually done for vellum copies. An inventory of these bindings, however, is not yet available.