Wednesday, August 20, 2014

160. One Hundred Remaindered Copies of The Dial

In October 1931 Charles Ricketts died, and the mentally ill Shannon had to be cared for.

Christie's, auction catalogue, 4 December 1933, page 35
Thomas Lowinsky and Ernest Jackson, the executors of Ricketts's will, took a series of difficult decisions. Townshend House was sold in 1933 and Shannon was moved to Kew Gardens Road (where he would die in 1937). Valuable pieces from their art collections were sent to the museums to which they had been left in Ricketts's and Shannon's wills. And in December 1933 books and prints were sold at auction.

Christie's, auction catalogue, 4 December 1933
Dedication copies of Oscar Wilde, Michael Field, Gordon Bottomley, and W.B. Yeats were thus dispersed, as were sets of Eragny and Vale Press books, art books, a collection of 77 lithographs by Shannon, and a complete set of the five issues of The Dial, their own magazine. The Christie's catalogue is a record of that sale.

Christie's, auction catalogue, 4 December 1933, lot 403
Lot 403 contained Ricketts's and Shannon's stock of The Dial. Almost 40 years after publication, ten copies of No. 3, seven copies of No. 4, and no less than eighty-three copies of No. 5 were remaindered. Eighty-three copies! A pile of almost one meter!

Of the first issue (1889) 200 copies had been printed, thirteen of which were still available in 1892. The second issue, also 200 copies, apparently sold out. Then the number of copies was raised to 250 for the third issue, and 270 for the last two issues.

Title on the wrapper of The Dial (No. 4, 1896)
In October 1893, the prospectus for the third issue announced that the first two issues had been sold out. In 1898 copies of the third and fourth issue could still be obtained from the publishers, who mentioned that of No. 4 'A few copies still remain'. The phrase was not used in regard to number 5 (A List of Books, 1898), of which many more copies had remained unsold. In 1901, John Lane could still offer his American customers copies of Nos. 3 to 5. Apparently, copies of the third and fourth issues were sold eventually, while of the fifth and last number almost a third of the edition remained unsold. 

An explanation for this failure is not easy to give. Perhaps Ricketts did not care enough when the last number was published in 1897, as he was occupied by the more demanding task of The Vale Press that had issued its first book in 1896. He no longer was in need of a magazine to publish his wood-engravings, and kept them for the Vale Press books.

In 1933, eighty-three copies of the last number of The Dial flooded the market, or were they kept by a bookseller who, every now and then, would sell off a copy? The word 'scarce' usually found its way into descriptions of The Dial in bookseller's and auction catalogues, although the fifth number never had been scarce. Only if all copies that were auctioned in 1933 would have been destroyed (on purpose, or, during the War) the fifth number would have become really 'scarce': with 187 previously sold copies the issue would have been more scarce than the first number that was issued in no more than 200 copies.

However, today, two copies of number 5 are offered for sale online, and none of the others. That, perhaps, is an indication.

 Publisher's name on the wrapper of The Dial (No. 4, 1896)