Wednesday, July 13, 2016

259. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (2): A House of Pomegranates

Last week I wrote about the earliest known Ricketts dust-jacket, for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Several copies of the original edition in the paper wrapper with Ricketts's design exist, both of the ordinary and the deluxe edition of Oscar Wilde's novel.

For the next Ricketts related dust-jacket, there is only one known copy, and I have never seen an image of it. This dust-jacket appeared on the next cooperation between Ricketts and Wilde, including four plates by Charles Shannon, published later the same year by James R. Osgood McIlvaine: Oscar Wilde's A House of Pomegranates

This collection of stories was published at the end of November 1891, and originally all copies must have been delivered in a paper jacket.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891): cover design by Charles Ricketts
Ricketts not only designed the cover that came to be harshly criticized - and subsequently ardently defended by Wilde - he also designed 12 illustrations (one including a large letter T), 2 initials (1 repeated), and 17 decorations (1 repeated 10 times, 1 repeated 17 times, 1 repeated 3 times). Wilde came to the defence in a letter to The Speaker (December 1891) (see The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, 2000, p. 501): 

Indeed, it is to Mr. Ricketts that the entire decorative design of the book is due, from the selection of the type and the placing of the ornamentation, to the completely beautiful cover that encloses the whole.

Wilde mentioned the cover, but not a wrapper of any sort. The reviewer for The Speaker had also spoken about its 'cover'. Wilde went on to mention 'the overlapping band of moss-green cloth that holds the book together'. 

Obviously, Wilde had immediately discarded of the wrapper - if he received a copy having one in the first place of course.

Anyhow, there was a wrapper. A copy of the book in its original wrapper was offered for sale in 1989 by Bernard J. Shapero in London. The firm's catalogue Oscar Wilde. A Collection listed as No. 25 a copy in its original binding and ‘in original paper wrappers in original box’.

Not only was there a copy of the dust-jacket, and not only was it in its original box, the dust-jacket was not just a plain wrapper: ‘To find a copy in its original dust wrapper designed by Ricketts and in an original box not even mentioned by Mason is extremely rare, thus this copy is a highly prized item’.

Ricketts's design was printed on the dust-jacket. But which design? The drawing for the title page? The elaborate design of the front cover, or the spine design?

And more importantly, where is this copy now?