Wednesday, May 29, 2019

409. A Unique Copy of Ricketts's Dell'Arte Della Stampa

Last Saturday, auction house Hesse in Hamburg dispersed part of the personal collection of the book designer Hans (Giovanni) Mardersteig, including a range of his own publications that were issued under the name Officina Bodoni. Some of these books have escaped good descriptions in official Officina Bodoni bibliographies, as can be concluded from the two copies of Carlo Ricketts, Dell'arte della stampa (1926). 

Carlo Ricketts, Dell'arte della stampa (1926)
This Italian translation of Ricketts's Defence of the Art of Printing (1899) - the name of the translator is unknown - was printed for the Officina Bodoni by the Stabilimenti Grafici Mondadori in Verona in only 125 copies, all on Fabriano paper. They were numbered from 1 to 125 and bound in half vellum.

Carlo Ricketts, Dell'arte della stampa (1926)
However, one of the copies in this auction is not numbered, but lettered: 'E', and this is one of at least five, and perhaps more copies that were kept by the publisher, or, perhaps, given to the author.

Carlo Ricketts, Dell'arte della stampa (1926):
Mardersteig's copy on Japanese paper
Another copy of the same book was an exceptional one, printed on Japanese paper, especially for Mardersteig himself, and bound in leather. Even the Officina Bodoni's own bibliographies and exhibition catalogues didn't mention these lettered copies, let alone the one copy printed on a different deluxe paper. 

Other deluxe editions in this auction were recorded, for example in the 1979 catalogue by Giovanni Mardersteig, Die Officina Bodoni. Das Werk einer Handpresse 1923-1977 published by the Maximilian-Gesellschaft in Hamburg. According to this bibliography the 1932 Ovidius edition was issued in an edition of three copies on vellum and 120 on Magnani paper. Likewise, Plato's Crito was issued in an edition of 480 copies, of which five deluxe copies on Japanese paper. One of those was sold at the Hesse auction. This was the 'Printers copy', formerly owned by Frederic Warde. It was sold for €2600.

Neither the lettered edition of Ricketts, nor the unique copy on Japanese paper is mentioned in Mardersteig's bibliography. They were sold for €380 (lettered copy) and €2600 (Japanese paper). 

Carlo Ricketts, Dell'arte della stampa (1926)
These books in the Hesse auction came from the grandson of Mardersteig. Most of Mardersteig's collection has remained intact in Italy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

408. Ricketts and Shannon as Robert Ross's Characters (1)

On the 24th of this month, Robert (Baldwin) Ross's 150th birth anniversary will be commemorated with a Robert Ross Celebration Dinner in London's Savile Club. He was born on 25 May 1869, and died in October 1918. Ross, a Canadian art dealer, art critic, and journalist, is mainly remembered for his relationship with Oscar Wilde. Eight years after the death of the author, Ross published a first edition of his collected works, restoring Wilde's literary reputation.

Robert Ross, Masques and Phases (1909)
In 1909 Ross published a series of essays and reviews, Masques and Phases, that ran into several reprints. Ricketts and Shannon figure in some of them, as characters in short plays that comment upon Bernard Shaw's latest dramas, The Doctor's Dilemma (staged in 1906, parodied by Ross in February 1907) and Man and Superman (1902, elaborated by Ross in June 1907). However, the first appearance of both men was in Ross's review of a new edition of Swinburne's William Blake. A Critical Study: 'Swinblake. A Prophetic Book. With Home Zarathrusts'.

Ross's narrator recounts:

We came to a printing-house and found William Morris reverting to type and transmitting art to the middle classes.
‘The great Tragedy of Topsy’s life,’ said Theodormon, ‘is that he converted the middle classes to art and socialism, but he never touched the unbending Tories of the proletariat or the smart set.  You would have thought, on homœopathic principles, that cretonne would appeal to cretins.’
‘Vale, vale,’ cried Charles Ricketts from the interior.
I was rather vexed, as I wanted to ask Ricketts his opinions about various things and people and to see his wonderful collection.  Shannon, however, presented me with a lithograph and a copy of ‘Memorable Fancies,’ by C. R.
How sweet I roamed from school to school,
   But I attached myself to none;
I sat upon my ancient Dial
   And watched the other artists’ fun.
Will Rothenstein can guard the faith,
   Safe for the Academic fold;
’Twas very wise of William Strang,
   What need have I of Chantrey’s gold?
p. 95Let the old masters be my share,
   And let them fall on B. B.’s corn;
Let the Uffizi take to Steer—
   What do I care for Herbert Horne
Or the stately Holmes of England,
   Whose glories never fade;
The Constable of Burlington,
   Who holds the Oxford Slade.
It’s Titian here and Titian there,
   And come to have a look;
But ‘thanks of course Giorgione,’
   With Mr. Herbert Cook.
For MacColl is an intellectual thing,
   And Hugh P. Lane keeps Dublin awake,
And Fry to New York has taken wing,
   And Charles Holroyd has got the cake.
Robert Ross, Masques and Phases (1909, pages 94-95)
This is the only poem that Ricketts was said to have written; he kept himself to reviews, art criticism, and prose. This poem mentions almost everyone that counted in the contemporary art world - and included many friends and enemies of Ricketts; Ross, of course, was friends with most of them. 'Vale' refers to the Vale Press, the 'dial' to the magazine The Dial.

After this brief meeting, the narrator doesn't mention Ricketts anymore. 

However, the narrator asks his guide after the whereabouts of John Addington Symonds, the author of A Problem in Greek Ethics, a title that Ross changes into one that reminds us of John Keats's poetry: An Ode on Grecian Urning, the proceeds of which were destined for the Arts and Krafts Ebbing Guild, a contamination of the Arts and Crafts Society and Richard von Kraft-Ebing, the German psychiatrist whose definition of homosexuality was based on the idea of a 'sexual inversion' of the brain. Symonds's Problem has been called 'perhaps the most exhaustive eulogy of Greek love'. This openly display of homosexual inside jokes was not without danger at the time; yet, published without problems. The writings by Ross were taken as literary playfulness in the manner of Max Beerbohm. In comparison to Ross, Ricketts was a closed book.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

407. An Exhibition of Famous Woodcut Illustrations

For some of the early shows at Hacon's & Ricketts's shop 'The Sign of the Dial', it has proved difficult to establish dates. The exhibition of Famous Woodcut Illustrations of the Fifteenth & Early Sixteenth Centuries is one of those. In my checklist (1996) and in my bibliography of Ricketts's publications (2015), I assumed that 1898 was correct, even though Maureen Watry, in her book about Ricketts listed it as a 1897 catalogue. There seemed to be no diary notes, letters, or other documentary evidence available.

Famous Woodcut Illustrations of the Fifteenth & Early Sixteenth Centuries (1897)
However, the growing number of digitised newspapers has now given us that proof. The Glasgow Herald of 5 April 1897 published a short descriptive review of this exhibition that can definitely be dated: 25 March to 24 April 1897.

Famous Woodcut Illustrations of the Fifteenth & Early Sixteenth Centuries (1897)
The exact dates are taken from a copy of the invitation on which the dates were written in ink by the shop's assistant (collection of The Bodleian Library).

The review - part of 'The World of Art’, in Glasgow Herald, 5 April 1897, p. 7 - reads as follows:

Messrs. Hacon & Ricketts have gathered together a small but very choice exhibition in their little gallery at The Sign of the Dial, in Warwick Street, where also may be seen examples of their very beautiful printed books. The exhibition consists of about two score of woodcut illustrations by famous masters of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a period of rapid development and great output in this particular branch of art. The earliest shown woodcut dates from the middle of the fifteenth century, and is from – the probably Dutch – block-book “Canticum Canticorum,” and there are fine examples from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” 1497; Petrarch’s “Trionfi,” 1499, &c. By the German masters there are woodcuts from Dürer’s “Life of the Virgin,” 1505; “The Little Passion,” 1510; “The Great Passion,” 150, and his earlier work the “Apocalypse.” Also examples of Holbein’s “Dance of Death” and “The Old Testament,” Burgkmair’s “The Wise King,” and “Praxis Criminis”, by Geofroy Tory, 1541.

Famous Woodcut Illustrations of the Fifteenth & Early Sixteenth Centuries (1897)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

406. Go in One Day to Van Wisselingh's "Dutch Gallery"

James McNeill Whistler wrote hundreds of letters. On 20 March 1901, he posted a letter in Ajaccio, destined for London where his sister-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip would open it sometime later to read his instructions:

Go in one day to Van Wisselinghs “Dutch Gallery”. There is an exhibition of C.H. Shannon’s drawings pastels etc.. Get a catalogue and post -

(See Letters of J. McN. Whistler 1855-1903; A.M. Whistler, 1829-1881, online at the University of Glasgow website.)

A text-only catalogue, printed in Vale type, had been issued by the Dutch Gallery, 14 Brook Street. It listed 73 drawings (studies, mostly in chalk or silverpoint), pastels, lithographs and woodcuts.

Charles Shannon, 'The Toilet' (lithograph) [National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Felton Bequest, 1914]

The exhibition was favourably reviewed by Roger Fry in The Athenaeum (23 March 1901), who stated that the show was 'as rare as it is delightful':

His imagery is unconditioned by time and place. He combines and recombines into a succession of harmonious designs a few elemental motives. The relaxed forms of leisurely torsos, the rhythmic movement of bare limbs seen against an expanse of sea, figures draped in vague impersonal costume moving slowly in a dim chamber - these, and such as these, are the whole material of his art.


It will be seen, then, that Mr. Shannon sets before himself a most difficult task: he resolutely refuses all those aspects of life which fascinate our curiosity or involve the interests and passions of every day; he will gratify us only in so far as he can reveal and we can accept ideas of pure visual beauty, almost as pure and as unconditioned as the ideas of music.

Fry noted that 'a certain grasp of structural form' was lacking, and 'a more permeating imaginative investigation of the relations of the parts in a possible three-dimensional space' could be hoped for in future works by this 'distinguished' artist. He singled out some studies for 'Shell-Gatherers' as evidence of Shannon's investigative nature.

Charles Shannon, 'Shell-Gatherers' (lithograph, 1894)
[British Museum]
On 6 April Whistler, still on the Island of Corsica, had received a report, or several letters, from his sister-in-law, and he answered: 

I have had all the results of your expeditions - The Galleries - and the tea parties - and the various descents upon the town! -- Shannon's catalogue & the rest of it! all excellent! and very prettily done - together with wise & most apt remarks upon the occasions - which I enjoyed in my Island! - Napoléons - & mine! -

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

405. Who Edited Marlowe?

In May 1903, the Vale Press published Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus. The colophon mentioned that this volume was edited by John Masefield - he was only 24 at the time. However, in his bibliography of the press, Charles Ricketts stated that the volume had been edited by Thomas Sturge Moore who also edited the multi-volume Vale Press Shakespeare edition. Therefore, the question is: who edited Marlowe?

Spines of Shakespeare's Richard III and Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (Vale Press, 1903)
There are no Vale Press archives extant; we will have to examine other sources for evidence. The Vale Shakespeare had been issued in green linen bindings stamped in blind after a design by Ricketts. Doctor Faustus, executed in the same style of binding, was printed on the same paper bearing the mermaid watermark, the text being set from the same type (Avon). 

Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (Vale Press, 1903)
In his bibliography Ricketts wrote:

This Volume was edited by T. Sturge Moore, and printed uniform with the volumes of Shakespeare, the border used being that of the Tragedies.

Colophon of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (Vale Press, 1903)
The colophon of the book itself stated:

This edition of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe has been seen through the press by John Masefield.

Charles Holmes, the Vale Press's manager, had met John Masefield early on, and in his memoirs Self & Partners (Mostly Self) (1936), he mentioned Masefield once, in a chapter about a regular dining group at Roche's in Old Compton Street:

I particularly recall one evening when [Laurence] Binyon brought in a tall, bronzed young man in blue serge, with a grave quiet manner, whom he introduced to us as John Masefield the sailor-poet.
(p. 188)

Masefield remained unmentioned in his chapter about the Vale Press that alluded to quarrels with Sturge Moore over the proofs for the Shakespeare volumes. There is no written testimony (in print or in manuscript) that links Sturge Moore to the Marlowe volume, other than Ricketts's bibliography.

Colophon of Shakespeare's Richard III (Vale Press 1903)
Each volume of the Vale Shakespeare had an almost identical colophon, for which standing type could be used, switching only the lines that contain the title and the year of publication. However, there were slight alterations (the first volume, for example, included information on the Avon type). 

The two vertically placed decorative leaves that conclude the first part of the colophon (it continued at the bottom of the page stating the names of the publishers) were absent in the Marlowe volume, that, although issued simultaneously, was not part of the Shakespeare series. The lists of books that advertised the Vale Press volumes didn't mention the name of the editor. A Final List of Books to be Issued by Messrs. Hacon & Ricketts (1902) announced the book as 'the only book besides the Shakespeare printed in the Avon fount', and a Special Notice dated January 1903 stated: 'Non-subscribers to the Shak[e]speare may obtain Copies of this book, provided their orders are received before Feb. 1, 1903.' All copies were sold before the end of June.

Masefield was a young, but prolific writer, who by 1903 had published a book of poetry, an anonymous introduction in the catalogue of the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition, 1902, and his edition of Poems by John Keats was to be published in September 1903. Moreover, he had published more than fifty prose fragments, poems and book reviews in newspapers and magazines such as The Tatler, The Speaker, The Pall Mall Magazine and The Academy.

Masefield was an up-and-coming man, and an acquaintance of the Vale Press coterie: Laurence Binyon had met him first at Yeats's house, in February 1901, went out of his way to get him commissions, and introduced him to Holmes (and others); Ricketts and Shannon were both very much involved in the 1902 Wolverhampton exhibition for which Masefield acted as secretary - which meant they corresponded and met at several occasions; Masefield, Ricketts and Shannon would be collaborators for the 1903 magazine The Venture; and Masefield was a member of a group of stage writers around W.B. Yeats, and the Marlowe edition aimed to financially support this group that was called - not officially, but in this colophon - the Romantic Stage Players. Several names were used for the stage initiatives, such as the Theatre Society for Romantic Drama, and The Masquers, - and Yeats was anxious that the money would be lost to his dramatic efforts - but when the Literary Theatre Club came into existence, the money raised with the publication of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus went to them.

The colophon of the book wouldn't have mentioned Masefield's name if he had not been involved in the editorial process. It was the only Vale Press book that contained his name. Masefield, as early as 1906, would claim the work as his in a listing of his work (see Philip W. Errington's John Masefield. The "Great Auk" of English Literature. A Bibliography, 2004, p. 576). Ricketts (not a bibliographer by training) simply made a mistake in his bibliography (not his only one). 

At the time of publication, Masefield's name was mentioned (based on the book's colophon no doubt) in the Publisher's Weekly of 4 July 1903, in a message about the new publications of John Lane (co-distributor the Vale Press books in America): 'they announce another Vale Press volume, Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus," which has been seen through the press by John Masefield, and decorated by Charles Ricketts, under whose supervision the book has been printed for the benefit of The Romantic Stage Players. There will be only two more volumes of the Vale Press, after which the Press will suspend operations.' 

And there is a particular copy of the book to be considered. The book appeared in May - the British Library copy is stamped '25 May 03' - and Masefield's own copy bears a presentation to his wife, dated 8 June 1903. That private copy would probably not have been dedicated by him, had he not been the editor. 

Inscription by John Masefield to his wife, and Masefield's posthumous book label
in his copy of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (private collection)
It can safely be said that Masefield edited the Vale Press edition of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. There is no evidence of the contrary.