Wednesday, January 27, 2016

235. Sincerely Yours: Letterheads (1)

Between May 1902 and May 1923 Ricketts and Shannon lived in Lansdowne House, Lansdowne Road, Holland Park in London. 

Lansdowne House, London
Ricketts's correspondence cards and letters had a printed letterhead that consisted of the address. His name was not included.

Letterhead on correspondence card

Ricketts usually signed his letters and cards with the signature: C Ricketts.

Charles Ricketts, signature on correspondence card

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

234. Copeland & Day Bookplate

The Boston firm of Herbert Copeland and Fred Holland Day was one the commercial American publishing firms that tried to follow in the footsteps of the Arts and Crafts movement and the English private presses. They strove to set a new standard in 'imaginative publishing' (as their bibliographer, Joe W. Kraus puts it).

During the six years of its existence (1893-1899), Copeland & Day published some innovatively designed books, such as Stephen Crane's book of poetry The Black Riders and Other Lines (1895) with a cover design by Frederic C. Gordon, and Robert Louis Stevenson's An Elegy and Other Poems Mainly Personal (1895) with a title page designed by Will Bradley. Some of their books were joint publications with the London firm The Bodley Head. An example is Oscar Wilde's poem The Sphinx of which 50 copies were for sale in America; only the large paper edition mentions the name of Copeland & Day. Ricketts had designed The Sphinx, at the request of Elkin Mathews and John Lane, but he also did some design work for the Boston publisher.

Charles Ricketts, 'Copeland & Day' (1894/1895)
Ricketts did not design a book for the American firm, but, at the request of Fred Holland Day he designed a bookplate for the firm. He was asked to do this towards the end of 1894. 

In his bibliography Messrs. Copeland & Day (1979), Kraus includes an illustration of the bookplate; the caption reads: 'Copeland & Day Bookplate, design by Charles Ricketts. Printed in deep yellow green (Centroid 118) on yellowish white paper (Centroid 92). 13.2x8.7 cm.' The bookplate is not mentioned in the bibliography, nor in the introduction.

What was the use of this bookplate? It was not meant for the private libraries of Copeland and Day, nor for books sold by the firm, but apparently in use as 'office copies' that were kept on the shelves of the firm. At least one book bearing this bookplate has been identified: it is a copy of Oscar Wilde's Salome (1894) that was sold at auction in 2009.

The bookplate was printed in green, Kraus recorded. However, a few copies have been printed in black. These may have been proof copies. One such copy can be found in the Carl Woodring Collection, Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas. Another copy was recently sold at auction.

Charles Ricketts, 'Copeland & Day' (1894/1895)

Both copies, printed in green and in black, are quite rare, and more difficult to find than a copy of The Sphinx. The design is very much in style with The Sphinx drawings and lettering. The 'O' and 'A's in the bookplate have the same sort of curved lines. 

Charles Ricketts, initial letters for The Sphinx (1894)
In The Sphinx these letters are used as initials, printed in green after Ricketts's drawings (these are not wood engravings). In the bookplate they also have been drawn and photomechanically reproduced. The Art Nouveau style of these letters exaggerates the horizontal curve in the 'A' to the extent that is has become diagonal. In the 'O' such a line is quite unusual.

Even the landscapes in Ricketts's drawings for The Sphinx display similarities, especially in the curved lines and rock formations, see for example the lower left corner of the third drawing in The Sphinx

Charles Ricketts, illustration (detail) for The Sphinx (1894)
The drawing for the Copeland & Day bookplate resembles those of The Sphinx, but it was not intended to illustrate Wilde's poem; there is not one line in the poem that refers to the figure of a woman, bending down to pick a flower that seems to be the source of a stream that flows from the rock. 


1866 Charles Ricketts 2016

In 2016 this blog will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Charles Ricketts's birth on 2 October 1866.
Contributions are most welcome.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

233. Pleasantly Adorned by Mr. Charles Ricketts

While the Vale Press was in full swing - publishing one volume after another - Ricketts still managed to contribute drawings to magazines; he illustrated both articles and poems.

In August 1898 - the Vale Pres had recently issued Michael Field's The World at Auction and an edition of Shelley's Lyrical Poems was in preparation - Black and White published 'Cynthia and Alexis', a poem in medieval style, signed "G.", which was described as 'an elegant pastoral, pleasantly adorned by Mr. Charles Ricketts'.

Charles Ricketts, illustration for 'Cynthia and Alexis' (1898)
The poem is about a lover, who finds himself:

So near the Rose, and yet all thorn-entangled.

The drawing depicts him trapped between branches, out of reach appears his love, the Rose. Before his chest a heart-shaped cartouche contains the words: 'I am Heart-Broken'. The Rose knows no mercy, as she needs his blood to colour her leaves.

The drawing seems to be very much in style with the opening image of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx, which was published four years earlier, in 1894, and indeed, the drawing may date from this period, only to be published in 1898. It might even be earlier, as the drawing resembles other pre-1894 drawings by Ricketts, and his earliest works for Black and White date from 1891. The art editors may have kept a supply of these early drawings, and published them in later years. During the early years of The Vale Press this kind of drawing by Ricketts appeared in several magazines, but all of these drawings had been published well before that time; all were reprints. The 'Cynthia and Alexis' drawing had not been published before, but must have been drawn years earlier, as Ricketts did not have the time for this kind of work when he was a publisher.

The frontispiece of The Sphinx shows the sphinx and a female figure with branches and grapes of the vine, intertwined with branches that bear no roses but show a multitude of thorns.

Charles Ricketts, frontispiece for Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (1894)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

232. William Shakespeare's Sonnet 66

In December I received a copy of Sonnet 66, published by Lupus in Geldermalsen. The booklet contains William Shakespeare's sonnet 66 (version 1609) with three Dutch translations made in 1888, 1993 and 1997. The book was printed for a joint publication by the members of the Dutch private press society that celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014.

Sonnet 66 (Lupus, 2015)
Charles Ricketts - him again - published two editions of Shakespeare's sonnets. The first edition appeared in November 1899. Each sonnet was printed on a separate page. The text was set in the Vale type.

Sonnet 66 in Shakespeare's Sonnets (Vale Press, 1899)
The text was 'seen through the press' by Thomas Sturge Moore, after Ricketts himself had edited the text of the 1609 edition. He altered many words, correcting errors, but also amending the text to his own likes and according to the Kelmscott Press edition of Shakespeare's poems (1893). Sturge Moore would edit the sonnets twice for the Vale Press.

In April 1900 the first volumes of the Vale Shakespeare edition were published, and initially the sonnets were not to be included. However, to please the subscribers who in the course of three years saw a series of Shakespeare volumes bound in buckram grow to over a metre, it was decided to print and bind the sonnets uniformly.

Sonnet 66 in Shakespeare's Sonnets (1903)
In this edition there were three sonnets to a page. The spelling was modernized, the use of capitals avoided. After Sturge Moore had edited the text, both Ricketts and Charles Holmes (the manager of the Vale Press) revised it. The text was printed in the Avon that was specially designed for the Vale Shakespeare edition. The book appeared in April 1903.

1866 Charles Ricketts 2016

In 2016 this blog will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Charles Ricketts's birth on 2 October 1866.
Contributions are most welcome.