Wednesday, December 19, 2018

386. The 2018 Alphabet: V

V is for v.


The Passionate Pilgrim (Vale Press, 1896, page v)
One of the enigmas of Vale Press books is the page number on page v of The Passionate Pilgrim. The book contains poems by Shakespeare accompanied by songs from his plays.

There is a roman numeral 'v' inserted within a decorative half border in the lower left hand corner of the first text page.

The Passionate Pilgrim (Vale Press, 1896, page xxxvi)
All of the pages in this edition have roman numerals set in Vale Press type, but not page v. The letter 'v' on this page is smaller than the others, probably because the opening in the plate for the decoration didn't allow for a larger type, although the difference is small.

As the book was printed on a specially reserved Albion hand press at the Ballantyne Press in London, the compositor could easily have loaned a small size 'v' from one of his colleagues in the compositor's room of the large printing firm. For the other books, he had at his disposal Vale Press type that came in only one size, a 13 point letter. The Vale Type specimen doesn't contain numerals (see Watry's bibliography, page 38), nor do the other two typefaces that were designed by Ricketts, the Avon Fount (11 point) and the King's Fount.

However, numerals were used for the page numbers in several books, such as the two-volume edition of  The Rowley Poems of Thomas Chatterton (1898).

The Rowley Poems of Thomas Chatterton (Vale Press, 1898)
These numerals have not been identified yet, nor has the small letter 'v' on page v of the VP Shakespeare edition that was issued years before Ricketts decided to design his second and smaller typeface, the Avon Fount.

Frequently, when called for, Ricketts designed new decorations and initials for his books, but numerals and page numbers were, apparently, not that important to him, and were not seen as part of the design that he wanted to control. That's another enigma: why didn't he design numerals?