Wednesday, May 14, 2014

146. The Mosher imitation of Gray's Silverpoints

In some of his publications, Thomas Bird Mosher reproduced Kelmscott Press initials designed by William Morris, and borders from Eragny Press books cut on wood by Lucien Pissarro, and he also used designs by Charles Ricketts. This unusual mix-up of designs by different artists is not always a lucky one, and was done without the consent of the artists.

For one of his publisher's catalogues Mosher re-used a Ricketts design that was quite well-known.
John Gray, Silverpoints, designed by Charles Ricketts: de luxe edition bound in vellum (left) and regular edition bound in cloth (right)
John Gray's Silverpoints had been designed by Ricketts for Matthews and Lane in 1893. The wavy lines and leaves on the cover were used for Mosher's 1906 catalogue.

The Mosher Books (1906)
The design was adapted - the catalogue was broader in format than the original book. Mosher added a pattern of wavy lines including a column of leaves to the right-hand side, as Phil Bishop recorded in his bibliography, Thomas Bird Mosher. Pirate Prince of Publishers (1998, p. 216-217). 

The original design measures 212 x 103 mm, while the Mosher adaptation is 212 x 118 mm. The original 'CR' monogram is still positioned in the lower left-hand corner, however, the binder's stamp (Leighton, Son, & Hodge) that appeared in the lower right-hand corner of the Gray edition, is now some 15 mm from the corner on the right, as another 15 mm of wavy lines and leaves have been added to the right side. Instead of lines of three leaves, we now see lines of three leaves alternating with lines of four leaves. 

John Gray, Silverpoints (1893) on top of The Mosher Books (1906)
But there is more to be said about the adaptation. To begin with, the joint between the original and the new wavy lines is visible; a small irregularity in the new block occurs at the top between the last original line and the first new one.

Detail of The Mosher Books (1906)
Ricketts used his publisher's resources economically, and made only one drawing for the design, from which a heavy 5 mm thick brass block was made (now kept in the Bodleian Library). This block was used for the front cover and for the back cover of the regular cloth-bound edition, as well as for the front and back cover of the deluxe edition, bound in vellum. 

Although it seems that front and back cover are the same, the placement of the design was slightly different. Due to the French groove, towards the spine, the row of willow flowers that is attached to the left part of the border, is not completely visible. On the back cover, however, these flowers have more room. From this we may conclude that Mosher did not copy the front cover, but the back cover of Silverpoints.

John Gray, Silverpoints (1893): front cover (top) and back cover (bottom) with The Mosher Books (1906)
And there is another detail to consider. At the base of each willow leaf is a stipule, and these show quite some variation in design. Some stipules are curved more than others, and some end in a dot; some of them touch the nearest wavy line, while others cross that line. The stems of the large leaves themselves are all individually designed, most of them pointing to the left, some more than others, while only one points to the right. From this, it should be possible to deduce which column of leaves was reproduced by Mosher for the new line. If we try to find the originals for these new lines and leaves, however, we get stuck. It turns out that the new leaves and flowers and lines are also designed (and drawn) individually.

Leaf designs on The Mosher Books (1906): added by Mosher (1 and 2), original by Ricketts (3 and 4)
Perhaps, Mosher realized that a simple photo-engraved copy of one of the original lines would, as an addition to Ricketts's original design, have reduced its liveliness.

Mosher had ready access to the Silverpoints design, as he owned two copies. The auction catalogues show that he owned one of only 25 large paper copies bound in full vellum (catalogue of 10/11 May 1948, p. 22), and that he also had a copy of the regular edition (catalogue of 11/12 October 1948, p. 35).

Library of the late Thomas Bird Mosher (1948, p. 22)
Mosher's vellum copy was sold for 24 dollars. In the early 1980s this copy was traded by the firm of Rota's in London; its current whereabouts is unknown.