Wednesday, March 6, 2019

397. The 2019 Alphabet: &

& is for &

& art thou dead, thou much loved youth
& didnt thou dye for mee?
Then farewell home, for ever more
A pilgrim I will be.

Charles Ricketts, 'The Friar of Orders Grey' (1890)
The June 1890 issue of the magazine Atalanta included an illustrated poem for which Charles Ricketts did the handwriting and the illustrations, The Friar of Orders Grey (misspelled on the first page as 'Gray'). The poem was printed on five subsequent pages, and the design of these was varied.

Charles Ricketts, 'The Friar of Orders Grey' (1890)
The opening page was designed as a title-page which gave away that the designs had been done two years before. Ricketts had signed the page with a clover leaf containing his initials, the whole dated '1888'. At the top was a dark opening vignette of the friar near a tree next to a stream meandering towards a bridge in the background. On three sides of this page a border of violets intrudes into the border of the opening vignette.

There is no border on the second page that has a large free standing image and an initial L. The third page has an illustration for which Ricketts drew a two-sided border consisting of a single line. The next page, again, is different: it has two separate drawings, both enclosed in a drawn border of multiple thin lines, and there is an illustration that appears to be a corner decoration with a border on two sides. The last page has no borders. On that page Ricketts has instead drawn an ampersand for an initial, which, of course, is quite unusual.

Charles Ricketts, 'The Friar of Orders Grey' (1890)
The illustration shows a landscape with a church and houses on a hill in the background; in the foreground is the edge of a forest, with a girl, holding a child, near two other children. A lady in long garments is being watched by two rabbits. There are violet decorations to the middle right and to the lower left. The initial contains two compartments, one for the ampersand, and one for a violet. The violet borders on some page look different in style from the other drawings, but the inclusion into the ampersand initial suggests that they were not added at a later stage. The cropping of the line endings of the first stanza on this page also suggests that the illustration had been finished before Ricketts wrote the selection of verses from this long poem.

The six verses on this page are in Ricketts’s script, containing leaf ornaments, a flower, or other decorations below each verse.