Wednesday, June 3, 2015

201. Bindings for Daphnis and Chloe

Artcurial (Brest, Poulain, F. Tajan) in Paris has announced an auction of Livres et manuscrits modernes (Modern Books and Manuscripts) to take place on 22 June. More than 200 lots are described in the catalogue and 78 of these are from the collection of Jan van der Marck, an American museum administrator, book and art collector of Dutch origin who died in 2010. At the end of his life Van der Marck donated bookbindings and printed works to several institutions. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands, received 200 objects, including unique bookbindings and a collection of French works printed by Léon Pichon. Van der Marck also sold parts of his collection, and wrote the catalogue descriptions for the Bloomsbury auction in 2009 that contained examples of English and Dutch fine printing from his vast collection. He told me he wanted the catalogue to make a plea for the high typographical qualities of Dutch book production in the twentieth century. 

Bookbinding by J.Frank Mowery for Daphnis and Chloe with wood-engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893)
Lot 171 in the Artcurial auction in June is a book that remained unsold at the 2009 Bloomsbury auction. It is a copy of Daphnis and Chloe with wood-engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893). Van der Marck ordered a binding for it by the American bookbinder and paper conservator J. Franklin Mowery: a black morocco binding, ruled in blind in blocks of diagonal rules and titled in gilt, with black suede doublures and moiré silk flyleaves, signed at foot of rear doublure 'JFM 93'. The book is housed in a modern cloth slip-case.

Daphnis and Chloe is a relatively large book - measuring 29 by 22 cm. It was issued by Elkin Mathews and John Lane at the Bodley Head in 210 copies, all bound in plain green cloth.

Daphnis and Chloe with wood-engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893)
The book belongs to the early works of the Vale Artists, as they were called in several portraits of them in The Sketch (1895): Ricketts, Shannon, Lucien Pissarro and Reginald Savage. The name referred to Ricketts's and Shannon's house and studios in The Vale, and would become the name of their private press as well: The Vale Press. The cover for Daphnis and Chloe testifies of their wish to publish the book themselves, and mentions 'The Vale' on the spine. While the artists were still working on the engravings, John Lane of The Bodley Head agreed to take the risk of publication, and paid for the costs of printing and binding. 

Usually the book is found in its original green cloth binding. Van der Marck's copy in a new binding is a modern exception; it has lost the reference to 'The Vale' on its spine.

Another Dutch collector, Paul May (see my blog about a vellum Vale Press book from May's collection), ordered a binding from Sybil Pye.
Bookbinding by Sybil Pye for Daphnis and Chloe: bound in 1928 for Paul May
Sybil Pye bound two copies of this edition. The May copy is bound in 'Blue goatskin, inlaid with deep red, green, and natural goatskin, and gold-tooled', and a copy for G.F. Simms was bound in ‘Black pigskin, inlaid with red niger goatskin and undyed goatskin, and gold-tooled' (Marianne Tidcombe, Women Bookbinders 1880-1920). One of those is now at the William Andrews Clark Library in Los Angeles. It was acquired in 1959. 

Another rebound copy is at The Houghton Library at Harvard University: green morocco, gilt extra, bound by Rivière for Harold Wilmerding Bell, while The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, owns a copy in crushed brown Levant morocco extra, uncut, top edges gilt, acquired from the library of Frederic R. Halsey in 1900.

I have no knowledge of a copy in a binding designed by Ricketts himself, and I doubt if he ever did a design for this book, other than the original plain green cloth binding. Today, Daphnis and Chloe in a unique Ricketts binding would be special. 

There was a time that every book that was brought to a private library had to be bound in a matching colour. Then, a taste for novel and unique bindings was developed and each book was given an individual binding. Later in the twentieth century the original state of issue became of primary importance to collectors, and books that were authentic were sought after, thus separating collectors of private press books from collectors of bookbindings. The Van der Marck copy of Daphnis and Chloe will probably be of more intense interest to a collector of - abstract, 1990s - bookbindings than to a collector of works by Ricketts and Shannon. 

[The Van der Marck copy was sold on 22 June. Hammer price: €1,300.]