Wednesday, May 27, 2015

200. 200th Blog Post Celebration

Today, I'm celebrating the 200th blog post on 'Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon' with the publication of A Bibliography of Charles Ricketts that was announced earlier this year.

Unbound sheets of A Bibliography of Charles Ricketts:
the entry about  La Ronda
Copies can now be obtained. To celebrate the 200th blog post, I will add a separate booklet that contains an index to the bibliography. 

The bibliography and the index can be ordered by sending a mail to paulton[@]

The introductory price of €15,00 (including postage) is valid until 20 July 2015. On that date we celebrate the fourth anniversary of this blog.

A Bibliography of Charles Ricketts
with the index on the day of publication, 27 May 2015
I thank my advisers and collaborators who have inspired me with their comments and questions and who have written blog posts about Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon and their circle. I especially wish to thank my readers and hope they will keep supporting this blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

199: Vellum Copies of the Vale Press Cellini Edition (2)

Ten copies on vellum exist of the Vale Press edition of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (1900-1901), but most of them are impossible to locate. They were not often exhibited, and their provenances are not easy to trace. In 1953 the British Council exhibited a vellum copy in an exhibition, Private Presses and Their Background. Occasionally, copies are offered for sale. This brings us to a complicating factor, namely that sets are sometimes divided over separate collections. In 1993, for example, Christie's in London sold a copy of the vellum Cellini in its original vellum binding, with ties, bearing the bookplate of William Crampton (1843-1910). However, this was volume I only. There must be a lonely vellum volume II somewhere.

Vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini: volume II, colophon (Vale Press, 1901) [Private collection]

In 2014 the collection of Laurence W. Hodson was sold by Bloomsbury Auctions. This contained a special set of the vellum Cellini, in bindings designed by Ricketts for Hodson, and probably after his instructions. The covers show 'twenty-nine rows of alternating LH monogram and bird and spray of leaves tool interspersed with small dots', as the catalogue description has it. The bird and spray of leaves tool was based on the family crest. 

The Hodson copies had been on show in 1902 at the Wolverhampton exhibition, just one year after the publication of volume II. In May 1903, an interesting set was offered for sale by Sotheby's. This was part of 'The Remaining Portion of the Library of H. Sidney, Esq.' The volumes were not bound in vellum, but the leaves were folded, and enclosed in two boxes. Ricketts had finalised his publication programme for the Vale Press that month, in June the firm officially closed, and around that time several vellum sets in loose quires came on the market. Perhaps these were unsold copies, or leftover stock. Of most Vale Press books such sets of vellum leaves can be found, some complete, others incomplete, lacking a few leaves or wood-engravings.

Prior to 1902 Ricketts did not offer a uniform binding for vellum copies - paper copies were always bound in some way, but for the vellum covers he could supply a binding in leather after his design, or the customer could bring the leaves to his own binder. The Cellini set of leaves in a box may have been the original way these vellum copies were delivered to the subscribers if they had not asked for a Ricketts binding. On the other hand, the Crampton copy (volume I only) suggests that unsold copies may have been issued in a uniform vellum binding with ties before the closure of the press.

Ricketts himself owned an incomplete, or rather, unfinished set of the Vale Press Cellini. It may have been compiled from proof pages, or from discarded leaves. The volumes are now in the private collection left by Sir Paul Getty at Wormsley Library. Robert Harding of Maggs Bros. kindly informed me that this copy does not have the wood-engraved floral border or the opening initial (volume I, page 3). A plain green morocco binding holds the book, but this has been signed with the firm's monogram, "HR" for Hacon & Ricketts. This binding, remarkably, is unfinished. Harding writes: 'Sir Paul Getty believed it was Ricketts' own copy from the initials "CSR" on the titles (now very faded). It was subsequently owned by Sir Robert Leighton and Francis Kettaneh.' The collection of Francis Kettaneh (1897-1976) was sold in Paris by Claude Gurin, Hôtel Drouot, 20 May 1980. The Wormsley copy should be seen as the eleventh copy of the edition, an extra copy.

Vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (Vale Press, 1900-1901), bound by Zaehnsdorf [Private collection]
Recently a private collector approached me, and asked about a copy in a binding that was not designed by Ricketts, but looks contemporary all the same. The binding is signed by the firm of Zaehnsdorf.

Vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (Vale Press, 1900-1901), bound by Zaehnsdorf [Private collection]

This copy may have been acquired from Hacon & Ricketts in loose gatherings, or it may have been bought at the 1903 sale. It is also possible that the original vellum binding had been found too simple, and that a new binding was ordered from Zaehnsdorf. Whatever the case, this copy has a provenance history attached to it that brings us back to the time of publication, around 1900-1901.

Inscription in a vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (Vale Press, 1900-1901) [Private collection]
There is an inscription in volume I, written by Helen Ladd Corbett, daughter of William S. Ladd, a wealthy mayor from Portland, Oregon, and founder of a bank. Helen - described as a woman with a 'potent vanity' and a 'love of luxury' - was married to Henry Jagger Corbett (born 1857). He suddenly died in 1895. Around 1899 she was involved with the Portland based poet and lawyer Clarles Erskine Scott Wood (1852-1944) who frequently had extramarital love affairs. He wrote a series of sonnets about their love affair, and though it lasted some time, the poet soon found other women to love. In 1914 Helen Ladd Corbett experienced financial troubles, forcing her to ask him for a loan, and then she reminded him of the 'lavish gifts' she had bestowed on him in the past, between 1899 and 1914.

So, although the inscription is not dated, we may assume that the book was given as a present between 1901 and 1914, probably early on in the affair.

Vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (Vale Press, 1900-1901), bound by Zaehnsdorf [Private collection]
This search for vellum copies has brought to light - so far - four exceptional copies: one that was bound by Sybil Pye for Paul May, whose collection was taken by the Nazis, returned to the family, and sold in Switzerland; a second copy that seems to have been compiled from unfinished proofs, now in Wormsley Library; a third copy in an exceptional Ricketts binding from the collection of Laurence Hodson; and a fourth copy in a Zaehnsdorf binding, now part of a private collection, and telling a romantic story from Portland.

Where are the other copies? We may assume that that there are more copies in special bindings, but there may be original vellum bindings designed by Ricketts as well. Where have they gone? I would love to hear about them.

[Note, 28 November 2015:
The Helen Ladd Corbett copy was sold at auction by Doyle New York on 23 November 2015 (Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs) for US$ 6,250.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

198. Vellum Copies of the Vale Press Cellini Edition (1)

Vellum copies of Vale Press books are understandably rare, as only two to ten copies of each edition were printed on vellum. Vellum copies of The Parables (1903) or the Bibliography (1904) appear on the market now and then, but the larger formats, say, Ecclesiastes (1902) or The Amber Witch (1903), are seen less often. 

The two volumes of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini (1900-1901), the largest book to date printed for the Vale Press, were issued in a paper edition (300 copies) and an edition printed on vellum (10 copies). The vellum copies occasionally appear in the auction room, the most recent one being the Lawrence Hodson copy auctioned in 2013.

Vellum copy of The Life of Benvenuto Cellini: volume II, page xxxv (Vale Press, 1901) [Private collection]
In 1938 a vellum copy was bound by Sybil Pye for the Dutch book collector Paul May (1868-1940). The black goatskin volumes were inlaid with natural goatskin, and gold-tooled. The set was 'stolen in 1942 during the German Occupation’, wrote Marianne Tidcombe, in her book about Women Bookbinders, 1880-1920, but the facts are slightly more complicated.

The story of the vellum copy as such can not be traced, but the fate of Paul May's library is well documented, see Ed van Rijswijk's contribution to the Community Jewish Monument

Siegfried Paul Daniel May was born in 1868; in 1897 he married Rosine Mariane Fuld who was two years his junior. May was a banker for the family business of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co., and involved in many financial organizations, but also charities, and the KLM. An ardent bibliophile, he was co-founder of a private press, De Heuvelpers, in the 1920s, and he assembled a vast number of valuable books.

Country House De Breul
On 15 May 1940 Paul May and his wife committed suicide (by cyanide). The Lippman bank came under the supervision of the Nazis (under the German 'Verwalter', A. Flesche). May's library was located in his country home, De Breul in Zeist. Furniture and art from the house - paintings, Chinese porcelain, silver, jewellery - was sold by Frederik Muller's auction house in Amsterdam in October-December 1941, but the books were left at the country estate until February 1943.

Announcement of the second sale of paintings from the May-Fuld collection
(De Telegraaf, 30 November 1941)
The value of the library had been estimated at fl. 63.000. However, the firm of Frederik Muller, made a new calculation, and now estimated that it was worth far more: fl. 250.000. One part of the collection was packed in crates for the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, and sent to Amsterdam; later the other books were also confiscated by the Nazis (as was the house that had been occupied by the Luftwaffe); and a total of 23 large crates were needed to move the collection.

Paul May in 1936
The crates were transported to Germany, ending up - for the time being - in the High School of the NSDAP in Frankfurt am Main. After the war they were located in the Abtei Tanzenberg, a convent near Klagenfurt in Austria. The collection was returned to the heirs of Paul May, his daughter Ellen May and her husband Alexander von [later: van] Marx, who had been able to escape from Amsterdam to New York on 14 May 1940, four days after Germany attacked the Netherlands, and one day before her parents ended their lives. In 1962, when her uncle Robert died (her father's brother), she signed the death announcement as E. van Marx-May, 46 North Avenue, Westport, Conn., USA. Ellen van Marx-May (born 1897) died in 1970, her husband Alexander van Marx (born 1895) died in 1980.

The two vellum volumes of the Vale Press Cellini had been transported to Germany and Austria, and were since returned to the family, only to be auctioned in Switzerland as part of the Paul May collection. August Laube sold the collection in two parts, on 19 October 1949 and on 25 September 1956. The second sale included the Cellini edition in lot 358 (estimated price 1000 Swiss Francs). It was the only Vale Press edition on vellum in the Paul May collection, but it was not the only Vale Press book - there were 19 Vale Press lots, including the complete Shakespeare edition in 39 volumes. 

Paul May possessed more bindings by Sybil Pye: Daphnis and Chloe (1893, bound in 1928), The Poems of Sir John Suckling (1896, bound in 1926), Michael Field's The World at Auction (1898, bound in 1913), Maurice de Guerin's The Centaur The Bacchante (1899, bound in 1925), and Poems from Wordsworth (1902, bound in 1923). 

All in all, May possessed sixteen bindings by Sybil Pye (for twelve editions), only a few less than Major Abbey who is said to be Pye's main customer, and who ordered nineteen bindings (for fifteen editions). May had bindings that were dated 1913 and 1916, but it is highly probable that he purchased all these bindings between 1923 and 1938. There were bindings for editions of The Vale Press (five), The Eragny Press (three), The Kelmscott Press (one), one for a German Insel-Verlag edition, and two for Dutch private press editions. 

The current location of the Vale Press Cellini printed on vellum from May's collection is not known to me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

197. Signed by the Artist

Tonight I will be giving a lecture about Flemish private presses around 1900 in the Nottebohm Room of the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library in Antwerp. There were three presses active at the time, the best known of them is that of Julius the Praetere. 

During the preparations, I read a book by Henry Nocq, Tendances Nouvelles. Enquête sur l'Évolution des Industries d'Art (1896) that discusses, among many other issues, the need for the artisan and the modern industrial artist to sign his work, and complaints about managers who signed the products as their own. Book artists knew the problem. Their illustrations were usually signed, and often a signature of the block maker was added, or the artist's signature was excluded. What was the private press practice at the time?

Sire Degrevaunt (Kelmscott Press, 1897): frontispiece by Edward Burne-Jones and borders by William Morris
William Morris never signed his decorative borders or initial letters. Edward Burne-Jones's monogram does not appear on, for example, the wood-engravings in the most famous Kelmscott Press book, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, for which he made the drawings, nor those for minor works of the press, such as Sire Degrevaunt (1897). His name does appear in the colophon, as does the name of the engraver. And, of course, Morris's name. In fact, the Chaucer mentions: 'Printed by me William Morris at the Kelmscott Press', which intellectually was true, but practically untrue, as he had a staff to print the books for him.

Lucien Pissarro, wood-engraving for Some Poems by Robert Browning (1904)
As a rule Lucien Pissarro signed his wood-engravings, even if the colophon of his books already stated that 'the frontispiece has been designed and engraved on the wood by Lucien Pissarro'. Charles Ricketts did not always sign his borders, decorations and wood-engravings, but frequently he did. As independent artists both Pissarro and Ricketts needed their work to be recognized as theirs. The border for the opening pages of Nimphidia and The Muses Elizium (1896) is signed by Ricketts in the lower right corner.

Michael Drayton, Nimphidia and The Muses Elizium (1896)
This will probably be mentioned only in passing during my speech, so if you want to hear the rest of the story, you will have some time travelling to do.