Wednesday, July 27, 2016

261. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (4): Poems Dramatic and Lyrical

The dust-jackets on books designed by Charles Ricketts come in different styles: plain wrappers, wrappers with spine titles, and printed wrappers repeating Ricketts's binding design.

In March 1893 Elkin Mathews and John Lane co-published a book with Macmillan and Company in New York: Poems Dramatic and Lyrical By John Leicester Warren, Lord de Tabley. The book was issued in a dust-jacket with the spine printed in blue.

John Leicester Warren Lord de Tabley, Poems Dramatic and Lyrical (1893):
copy with dust-jacket (showing difference between binding and jacket design)
The jacket was printed in blue, and the paper originally was blue as well, but has darkened to brownish grey.

Ricketts's design has not been repeated on the spine, instead the title, author's name, price and names of the English publishers appear on the spine in a typeface that was not used for the text of the book.


The author's name in misspelled Lord de Tablay (read: Tabley).

The Bodleian Library (Oxford) holds a copy that has part of the spine of the jacket pasted in.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

260. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (3): In the Key of Blue

In Mark R. Godburn's recently published Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets, examples of dust-jackets in many varieties are given, and the most compelling evidence for their widespread existence after 1850 is found in the collection of file copies of John Murray Ltd. (incorporating Smith, Elder & Co.), a collection that is housed at the Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mark R. Godburn, Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets (2016, pp. 168-169)
The list of more than 200 jacketed titles in the archive from 1858 to 1900 shows the increasing usage of dust-jackets: 1 from the 1850s, 4 from the 1860s, 11 from the 1870, 44 from the 1880s, the rest dates from the 1890s.

The list contains plain waxed paper jackets, illustrated jackets with advertising, printed jackets, plain semi-transparent jackets, printed jackets with price on spine, plain jackets, decorated jackets, blue printed jackets, jackets printed on spine, and printed jackets repeating binding design. 

There are also publishers who printed advertisements on the flaps, for example with information about other books in the same series.

There was a great variety of styles of printing on the jackets, including colour, but even after the initial use of the wrapper as a marketing tool, many jackets still were plain without any form of decoration.

John Addington Symonds's In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays, published in the week of 7 January 1893 by Elkin Mathews & John Lane in London and Macmillan & Company in New York, was issued in a plain jacket.

John Addington Symonds, In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays (1893):
back cover, spine and front cover (copy without a dust-jacket)
No image of this dust-jacket is known to me, and only one copy seems to have survived. It was mentioned in a catalogue issued by John Updike Rare Books in Edinburgh in August 2000: The Eighteen Nineties. Listed on page 40, no. 224, was a copy of the first edition of this book in the cream cloth binding designed by Charles Ricketts.

The 'elaborate gilt-stamped design of curvaceous laurel and hyacinth by Charles Ricketts is still bright', the catalogue mentioned, and this may partly have been the case because of its protective paper wrapper: 'original plain paper dust jacket just a little edge-worn'.

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?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

258. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (1): The Picture of Dorian Gray

Recently, the Private Libraries Association and Oak Knoll Press published Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets by Mark R. Godburn, an American bookseller and collector. The book traces the use of dust-jackets in Great Britain and America. From his research it becomes quite clear that the use of dust-jackets started in Germany in the early 1820s, then spread to England during the early 1830s, and by the time that Charles Ricketts's design for Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was reproduced on the dust-jacket (1891), these jackets were quite common, although only a fraction of them have survived.

They were not seen as part of the book, but as a much-needed protection until the moment of sale, and it is only around the time of the First World War that collectors, and later bibliographers, came to see them as part of the published book.

Dust-jacket for the ordinary edition of Oscar Wilde's
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
Interpretations of the importance and meaning of the dust-jacket for Oscar Wilde's novel have focussed on Wilde's own vision of the book. Nicholas Frankel, for example, has asked: 'What does the book's cover say about how we might read Wilde's novel itself?'. Wilde wrote about book ornamentation and bookbindings in this novel, and according to Frankel, 'it is the details of the book in question [Gautier's Émaux et Camées] that connote the meanings Wilde wants to suggest (rarity, luxury, self-conscious artfulness and so forth).' 

About the dust-jacket for Wilde's own novel Frankel wrote:

As a book, the novel was originally issued in buff-colored outer wrappers, which we would now term a dust-jacket, with the designs and lettering printed in brown. G. Thomas Tanselle records just thirty-two instances of such wrappers in England prior to 1890, from which we infer that the book jacket wrapping of the 1891 edition of Wilde's novel must have represented a dramatic departure from normal publishing practice. More than anything else in the edition's design, it calls our attention to, as much as it protects, the book as a significant entity in its own right.


Whether Wilde intended his binding to "reflect" those changes or not, his book's binding is composite with them by virtue of the fact that no text can wholly escape the actual mode of its existence.

Now that we know that dust-jackets were far more common than previously surmised on the basis of the small number of surviving jackets, we should reconsider the meaning of the dust-jacket, the involvement of Wilde in its appearance and in its existence in the first place. Most jackets were simply used for protection, and for that they didn't need to have text or images on them. Most jackets were plain (blank, unprinted) paper folders. Some had attractive borders, and coloured paper or ink were used for others.

By the 1860s dust-jackets had become quite common and their use had changed. Publishers had begun to see their promotional value, and started to print advertisements on them, or reproductions of the title-pages, and many large publishing houses were doing this: Blackie & Son, Chapman & Hall, George Bell & Sons, Macmillan & Co, George Routledge, and many others. The jacket had become a marketing tool as early as the 1860s.

The binders delivered the books in a jacket, and the publishers decided what was to be printed on them. The reproduction of the binding's design by Ricketts on the dust-jacket of his novel was probably the result of a normal procedure at the publishers. There is no reason to assume that Wilde was the instigator of the dust-jacket. Even Ricketts - who liked to interfere - may not have been aware that a dust-jacket echoing his design would be printed. 

And Wilde will have disposed of the dust-jacket almost immediately, as did most readers, and as did Ricketts himself, in all probability.

The large-paper edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray - different format, more elaborate design - was also issued in a dust-jacket. 

We shouldn't read too much into it.