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.