Wednesday, May 17, 2017

303. The 2017 Alphabet: E

E is for Empress.

Empress, you bade me leave my orbèd temple,
And leave my Vestals. Sudden the command.

Initial E in Michael Field, Julia Domna (1903)
For Michael Field's play Julia Domna, published by the Vale Press in 1903, Charles Ricketts designed a border for the beginning of the text. The text itself begins with the name of the first speaker, Varonilla, who addresses Julia Domna, the empress. The initial E on this page was not a new design; the initial had been used since 1896, but there is a difference.

Initial E in The Poems of Sir John Suckling (1896)
Originally, the initials appeared in a black field that gave the letter a square format, and acted as its own border. For the Michael Field play, Ricketts decided to draw a separate black lined border around the initial. This isolates the initial from the text lines (more so than originally), and it underlines the overall construction of the page that consists of two longitudinal illustrated black borders on each side with four horizontal fields in the middle. It also isolates the black fields from each other, so that they stand out on their own, and don't fuse into one large black block.