Wednesday, November 21, 2018

382. The 2018 Alphabet: T (Always)

T is for Ton.

Ton will be celebrating his birthday on 22 November.

Initial 'T' in Daphnis and Chloe, illustrated by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893)
Ton Leenhouts will be eighty-four this Thursday. In a way, he is the instigator of this blog, as he put me on the path of Ricketts and Shannon way back in the early eighties. His collection started in the mid 1970s, before major exhibitions and publications drew attention to these artists.

It all started with a poster that has since disappeared. In about 1977, Ton bought it in a Verkerke shop that specialized in modern reproductions, most of which were published by this Amsterdam firm. This poster was of an imitation brown packing paper with a blown-up image from a Ricketts woodcut for Hero and Leander (1894) printed in gold and blue. It was one of a series concerned with Aubrey Beardsley and art nouveau. In London these posters were advertised by Gallery Five and presented as wall panels in the late sixties or early seventies. For many years Ton's poster must have decorated his office at the Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague where he was director of publicity and public relations, but when I met him it had vanished.

Initial 'T in Daphnis and Chloe, illustrated by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893)
Shortly afterwards Ton started a collection of Ricketts's books. In November 1977 he procured his first Vale Press book, T.S. Moore's DanaĆ«, which incidentally was the last book published by this private press (followed later by a bibliography). Ton must have thought this book a nice acquisition for his collection of 19th- and 20th-century illustrated books. Over the years he bought quite a few Vale Press books, mostly illustrated with wood engravings by Ricketts. One of the earlier purchases was a copy of Daphnis and Chloe (February 1978) with pencilled notes by T.S. Moore; other acquisitions included Beyond the Threshold (May 1978) and the two volume Vale Press edition of Chatterton's Rowley Poems (July 1978). Subsequently Wilde's A House of Pomegranates (July 1978), Ricketts's Recollections of Oscar Wilde (August 1978) and a proof copy of Symonds's In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays (October 1978) were added to the collection. 

One day Ton read a short notice in a Dutch newspaper about an exhibition in London. He rushed over to Orleans House Gallery at Twickenham and arrived just in time to see the show before it was taken down that same afternoon, the 20th of May 1979. This of course was the important exhibition mounted by Stephen Calloway and Paul Delaney, who thereby changed the appreciation of the work of Ricketts and Shannon. 

Correspondence with the curators of the exhibition (also the authors of several books on Ricketts and Shannon) helped to direct Ton on his collector's path. Catalogues by dealers such as Robin Greer in London, Blackwell in Oxford, Horodisch of Erasmus in Amsterdam, Warrack & Perkins (who offered a wealth of rare Ricketts materials until the untimely death of Geoffrey Perkins) and the London based dealer Eric Stevens (who sadly died recently) helped to inform him of possible acquisitions for his growing collection. Parcels arrived, sometimes more than two months after ordering a book. Many times catalogues were received in The Hague days after the most desirable books had already been sold in London. Still, new catalogues arrived in the post the following morning.

Exciting years. Fond memories. 

Many happy returns, Ton!