Wednesday, November 11, 2015

224. Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World (4)

Before the publication of his drawings in The Woman's World, edited by Oscar Wilde, the young artist Charles Ricketts had already received several commissions from the publishers Cassell and Company. 

His initial contribution to The Woman's World appeared in June 1888 (volume I, number 8, page 372), illustrating an essay on Elizabethan ballads.

His earliest drawings for Cassell and Company - as far as I know - had appeared more than six months before, in November 1887. These were, however, not his earliest published drawings as he had contributed drawings to an elusive periodical called The Alarum in 1886, while Shannon had made drawings for Judy, a comic journal. They must at least have tried to find more sources of income and may have been lucky with other journals. 

Charles Ricketts's signature, 1887

Cassell's History of England

For years, Cassell had published a multi volume publication on the History of England, and in 1887 the publisher issued volume I of a new edition that was advertised as the Jubilee Edition, referring to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee that was celebrated on 20 June 1887. Since the 1850s Cassell's History of England had been a reliable seller, and the modern parts were updated regularly. The Golden Jubilee was too good an opportunity to pass up. New and revised editions had been advertised before, but large parts of the texts and numerous illustrations were republished in one after another edition.

Earlier, the publishers wrote in several introductions to the newly edited editions that revisions had been made, which may not always have been true: 'The preceding edition of this History has been most carefully corrected and revised, and the Publishers are thankful that the present one has not failed of a success more than equal to that which had attended its predecessor.' New editions came with added volumes: 'Ten years have passed since the publication of the Eight volumes of Cassell’s History of England, which originally ended with a notice of the lamented death of the late Prince Consort. The reader is now presented with a continuation of the narrative nearly to the present day'. Each time, the number of volumes grew. 

By 1887 it was time for another new and revised edition, and for the first time the texts were truly and thoroughly revised from volume I to the end. I compared several passages, and this time, the editors kept word: the texts have been rewritten. The title pages asserted: 'the text revised throughout, and profusely illustrated with new and original drawings by the best artists'.

Volume I ('From the Roman Invasion to the Wars of the Roses') appeared in 1887, volume 2 followed in 1888, volume 3 in 1889. These three volumes contain drawings by Charles Ricketts. Other volumes, without drawings by Ricketts, followed: volume 4 (1891), volume 5 (1892), volume 6 (1893), volume 7 (1894), and volume 8 (1895).

The new edition was issued in monthly parts (prices 7d at Ricketts's time), but I have not been able to locate any of these, as most, of course, must have been bound up. The 'New and Original Drawings' were 'specially executed for this Edition by Leading Artists', as an advertisement in The Publishers' Circular (6 December 1888) brought to the attention of the English booksellers.

Cassell's History of England. Volume I (1887)

The artists of Cassell's History of England

Who were these artists? Their names were not mentioned in the advertisements, nor in the list of illustrations that was published in each volume. Only a few illustrations mention the artist in the captions underneath the image, and these are for reproductions of paintings by John Gilbert (1817-1897) (p. 329), and Henry Gillard Glindoni (1852-1913) (p. 541).

The first volume of the Jubilee edition contained 36 full page illustrations, 162 normal illustrations (half or three quarter page illustrations), and 168 small illustrations. There were portraits of kings and other famous people (18), details of arches, pottery, dress, etc. (42), there were drawings or reproductions of coins, cameo's, rings, manuscripts, and engravings of objects (116), there were views of cities and buildings such as castles (60) and there were maps (2), and many of the illustrations depicted historical scenes (113). The historical drawings were mostly half and full page illustrations, and a large number of  these were signed by the artist.

However, most of the signatures are indecipherable: CDM (?),W[...]oot (?), and only some are signed with the full name of the artist. Most of them are not well known today. According to Cassell and Company the 'Leading Artists' of the day were R. Jones (p. 216), Herbert Railton (1857-1910), and L. Speed (p. 313), or  the French artists Jules Giraudet and Edouard Zier (1856-1924). These artist were at least ten years older than Ricketts, who was born in 1866, and was only 20 years of age in 1886.

Their drawings may not have been made for Cassell at all, because the publishers usually bought cheap blocks for illustrations in France, which explains the presence of French illustrators in a work about the history of England.

Most of the illustrators only made one drawing for this volume. However, Railton had six commissions (p. 261, 404, 413, 436, 480, 593), Zier did ten illustrations (p. 45, 69, 76, 121, 129, 145, 148, 228, 240, 337), Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922) signed seven illustrations (EBL: p. 149, 181, 249, 308, 344, 373, 512), while Wal Paget signed five (WP: p. 185, 193, 312, 525, 605), GB at least four (p. 97, 237, 368, 441), and most of the signed illustrations were the work of Henry Marriott Paget (1856–1936) (HMP: p. 8, 16, 41, 61, 124, 133, 184, 209, 220, 297, 397, 504, 588, and 596). He did fourteen illustrations.

A certain 'C.R.' did eight illustrations, but these were not carried out for the Jubilee edition, as his work appeared in earlier editions from around 1872 onwards. If we compare an earlier edition with the Jubilee edition, we see that most illustrations in the former were anonymous, while a lot of the illustrations in the Jubilee edition have been signed with initials. That was something of a novelty for illustrators at the time, and we can ascertain that a lot of the illustrations in this edition were, indeed, new, although they had not been produced by the most famous artists of the day. 

Anyway, 'C.R.' does not stand for Charles Ricketts, who initially signed his drawings for Cassell with his full name: 'C. Ricketts'. The other artists were at least ten years older than him.

Charles Ricketts, 'Flight of Mathilda from Oxford Castle'

Ricketts's first illustration for Cassell's

Rickett's five illustrations appear on page 176, 357, 381, 401 and 521. These are all signed 'C. Ricketts', and although they are not dated, we may be sure that at least two of them must have been published in the monthly instalments that appeared earlier, possibly in 1886, as drawings on page 213, 216 and 361 are dated 1886 and those on page 413 and 436 are dated 1887. Ricketts probably recieved his commission in 1886. The five included one full page illustration (page 401).

His first illustration, 'Flight of Mathilda from Oxford Castle', was a pen drawing, reproduced on a half page format (101x135 mm, within border: 105x140 mm), illustrating the text on page 176: 'One night in December, when the ground was covered with snow, Matilda quitted the castle at midnight, attended by four knights, who, as well as herself, were clothed in white. The party passed through the lines of their enemies entirely unobserved, and crossed the Thames, which was frozen over.' The escape by the Empress Matilda (c.1102-1167) took place in 1142.

The other illustrations were 'Capture of Bruce’s wife and daughter at Tain', 'Escape of Roger Mortimer from the Tower', 'Black Agnes at the siege of Dunbar Castle', and 'Arrest of the conspirators at Cirencester'. More about these drawings and those for volume 2 and 3 of the Jubilee edition will follow later.

Next week: back to Oscar Wilde's The Woman's World.