Wednesday, May 3, 2017

301. The 2017 Alphabet: D

D is for Dost.

Dost see how unregarded now

That piece of beauty passes?

Initial D in The Poems of Sir John Suckling (1896)
The early Vale Press books contained numerous decorated initials, often one on each page. There was some variety in the initials within one book. The 1896 edition of The Poems of Sir John Suckling, for example, counted 77 initials on 117 pages. However, there were six larger variants (for the letters A, I, O, S, T, and W), while there were also two variants for the small initial A.

In the distribution of the larger and smaller variants, a scheme was not strictly adhered to, not even regarding the length of the lines, allowing for the space to be filled with either a smaller or a larger variant. The use of two similar small initials A seems to be at random, or may have been an error, or indeed a conscious choice.  

Even so, in some cases surely the variation was based on typographical issues, and did not have to do with matters of aesthetics.

Sonnet I on page xiv opens with the small initial D. On the opposite page Sonnet II opens with a large initial O. The opening lines of the first sonnet occupy one line each. In the second sonnet the lines had to be broken up three times, which is shown by an indentation. Ricketts did not use the smaller initial on that page, because, even if he had, he would have had to break off most of the lines. These are not Shakespearean sonnets with lines of equal length. Some of the lines of the second sonnet are longer than those of the first sonnet. The white spaces after the line breaks would have been too large if the smaller initial had been used. These have been avoided by the use of the larger initial of 40 mm width - the smaller initial would have taken 27 mm.

Initial O in The Poems of Sir John Suckling (1896)