Wednesday, January 18, 2017

286. The 2017 Alphabet: A

A is for A.

A thing of beauty.

Charles Ricketts, initial A in The Poems of John Keats, volume I (1898)
Book I of volume I of the two volume edition of The Poems of John Keats published by the Vale Press in 1898 opens with a large initial A, starting the first verse of 'Endymion'. Along the first line of the poem more initials meet the eye.

The second word of the first sentence in fact is a small initial T within a quartet of leaves, and the second sentence starts with a large initial 'I' for 'its loveliness'. Then the eye is dazzled by a variety of capitals and lower case letters that are not asked for by the poet.

Opening pages in the private press era sometimes echo the earlier nineteenth-century habit of showing off as many different typefaces as a printer could supply on a title page or cover, as a testimony of craftsmanship and excellence.

What we see on this page, and especially the smaller initial T, might be described as a remnant of Charles Ricketts's early career as an illustrator of poems for magazines in which he was asked to display an atmosphere of medievalism or of Tudor period pieces for which he used a sprinkling of small initials and fleurons. 

This said, the image is only a small part of two harmoniously designed facing opening pages for the poems of one of Ricketts's favorite poets, John Keats.

A is also A for Adoration.