Wednesday, August 28, 2019

422. Charles Shannon's Lithographs for The Savoy (1)

Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon would never contribute anything to the infamous magazine The Yellow Book. In a letter to Richard le Gallienne, Shannon wrote: 'Ricketts and I have decided not to appear in your Yellow Book, as it might lead to complications over the fourth Dial'. This issue of their own magazine was to appear in March 1896, it was long in the making (and number 3 had been published in October 1893, before The Yellow Book started). They admitted that the first issue of The Yellow Book appealed to them: 'We think the Yellow Book looks extremely well and bright' (See Books from the Library of John Lane Publisher. London, Dulau and Company Ltd., 1929, p. 98.)

Charles Shannon, 'The Letter', lithograph in The Savoy, No. 1 (January 1896)
After Beardsley was dismissed as editor of The Yellow Book, he was given the opportunity by Leonard Smithers to fill a new magazine with drawings and stories. This was christened The Savoy. Shannon would contribute four lithographs to the first three issues (January to July 1896). 

Were the lithographs in Shannon's own publications - the issues of The Dial and three Portfolios - printed by the artist from the original stones, those in The Savoy were so-called transfer lithographs. In his catalogue of Shannon's lithographs Ricketts would state:

My experience obtained while assisting or merely watching the proofing of lithographs, and clinched by the fate of prints published in the "Dial," points to there being nearly always a slight deterioration between the first printing and any subsequent issue, if the stone has been "rolled up" and put on one side even for a small space of time. In the editions of the "Dial," where as many as three hundred and ten proofs have sometimes been taken, deterioration has taken place. This disadvantage need not exist in transfer-lithography as the drawing is usually transferred to a hard surface, a polished stone (the friction in printing being thereby reduced to a minimum), on which a chalk drawing cannot be made, while several transfers can continue the reproduction indefinitely.
(Charles Ricketts, A Catalogue of Mr. Shannon's Lithographs. London, E.J. van Wisselingh, 1902, p. 19).

Printing the lithographs himself took Shannon many hours of course and since the edition of The Savoy was ten times as high as that of The Dial, there was no escaping it: the 3,000 lithographs were printed as transfers by Thomas Way. However, Shannon also printed a number of these as separate proofs on Van Gelder paper. Of 'The Letter' (published without a title in The Savoy's first number) there were 25 proofs in red and black, while The Savoy's version is in grey.

Charles Shannon, 'The Letter', proof, printed by the artist, signed in pencil (British Museum)
Shannon's contribution was highly esteemed by, for example, the critic of The Academy, and the poet Ernest Dowson.

The British Museum describes the first lithograph, 'The Letter' as follows: 'Two girls, whole-length in profile to right, huddled together reading a letter'. 

Ricketts, in his catalogue, described it more precisely: 'A slight sketch of two girls in wide muslin skirts perusing a letter.' 

The second issue of The Savoy contained two lithographs by Shannon. The first of these was called 'Salt Water' (it was printed in green). The British Museum's description gives: 'Young nude woman standing on a beach, whole-length and in profile to left, stooping slightly and holding the hands of two small children, the boy striding towards the sea and the girl leaning back'. (See The British Museum.)

Charles Shannon, 'Salt Water', lithograph in The Savoy, No. 2 (April 1896)

According to Ricketts's the work depicts: 'A young girl bather bends facing the sea and wind. She holds two small children by the hand.' Here the BM description is more detailed. Of this lithograph, Shannon printed 35 separate proofs in black, in red, and in green.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

421. Advertising The Vale Press Books in 1896

Before the first books of the Vale Press appeared, the firm Hacon & Ricketts opened a shop, published an advertising leaflet (The List of Books...) and the fourth issue of The Dial. In the meantime, the new publisher had also announced its forthcoming publications through advertisements.

The earliest advertisements appeared in several weekly magazines on 14 March 1896. I had never seen them before (or read about them), and in order to find them, I had to browse through several complete volumes of magazines, page by page, and read through all the small advertisements. (Some of these magazines are now available digitally, but often the small advertisements are not easy to find). The Vale Press advertisements can be found among other small announcements of typists, new magazines, publisher's agencies, etc.

The Saturday Review, 14 March 1896

The advertisement appeared in several weekly newspapers. The first one I found was in The Saturday Review of 14 March 1896. On the same day The Academy and The Athenaeum published similar ads.

The Athenaeum, 14 March 1896
Probably all these magazines got the same text, but because of their own editorial instructions, each advertisement is spelled slightly different. Sometimes there are even verbal differences, an example of which is the sentence about the original spelling in which the new editions would be published.

The Editions will be printed with Spelling with which they were written. 
(The Saturday Review)
The Editions will be printed with spelling in which they were written. 
(The Athenaeum and The Academy)

The Academy, 14 March 1896

The advertisement clearly shows that the fourth issue of The Dial was for sale from 14 March. This early date was not yet known.

The text of the announcement in The Academy reads:

THE SIGN of the DIAL. – Messrs. HACON & RICKETTS, 52 Warwick Street, Regent Street, W.  – Messrs. HACON & RICKETTS beg to announce the forthcoming publication of carefully edited Books, for which a fount of type has been designed to accompany the illustrations and decorations cut on the wood by Charles Ricketts and other original engravers. The Editions will be printed with spelling in which they were written. Catalogues may be had on application. THE DIAL, of which No. 4 is now ready, will henceforth be published at their shop, 52, WARWICK STREET, REGENT STREET, W.

This advertisement did not appear in the newspapers (such as The Times) or in other magazines (such as Pall Mall Gazette), at least not on 14 March 1896. These papers did not have extensive sections with publisher's advertisements. The three weeklies mentioned did have such sections and they published reviews and lists of books published that week. 

Apart from that, these journals were aimed at an academic audience, often an audience of collectors. Reports on book and art auctions regularly contained details that would interest the bibliophiles among them. The phrase about the spelling of the classics of English poetry was of course aimed at an audience of scholars and connoisseurs.

Advertisements in The Studio and The Bookman for April 1896 have been noticed before, but these earliest advertisements are new discoveries. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

420. Series That Will Be Continued...

Several series of blogs I started in the past have not yet been completed. Some series have stopped halfway, others are almost at the end. Hereby my assurance that these series will one day be continued and finished. 

Charles Ricketts, initial W for Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (1894)

Series I

On 18 January 2017 I started a series about Ricketts's initial letters, calling it 'The 2017 Alphabet'. [See blog No. 286 for the letter 'A']. The series ran through the following year, with a slight change in the title, and this a number of instalments were published this year. High time for a new one. We are almost at the end of the alphabet!

Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892), designed by Charles Ricketts
[Carl Woodring Collection]

Series II

Another series - planned as a shorter one - was about the design of Oscar Wilde's Poems from 1892. But the way it goes, as soon as you go into details, it gets complicated - the series has been discontinued for a while, but will certainly be resumed in due course. The first instalment was published on 14 March 2018 [See blog No. 346. Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (1)].

'Mouse and nut' pattern, used upside-down 

Series III

The oldest series that I started, but never finished, is the one about patterned papers. The first blog on this subject (blog No. 18) appeared on 23 November 2011. I thought it would be a good idea at the time to have a series of blogs in reserve in case I couldn't think of a topic for a new blog, but that never really happened. Anyway, in this series I came across all kinds of unsolvable questions and details that needed to be sorted out first - but of course I'm just trying to live a life outside the blog universe as well, so follow-up episodes can get stuck. I feel most guilty about not completing this series. [See blog No. 18. Patterned Papers (1).]

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

419. Printing The Illustrations of A House of Pomegranates (1891)

The most recent volumes of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, IX and X, contain the texts of The Importance of Being Earnest and the versions on which this play was based. The editor, Joseph Donohue, pays attention to some of the book historical aspects, such as the textual tradition, the printing process and the date of publication, but not to the binding designed by Charles Shannon - Shannon is not mentioned in the whole book (two volumes, 1189 pages).

Charles Shannon, untitled illustration for 'The Star-Child'
(Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates, 1891, between p. 128 and p. 129)
(Photograph: Henk Treur)
This certainly does not apply to all volumes of this edition, but strangely enough it does to Volume VIII: The Short Fiction (2017), which reprints and publishes a commentary on the fairy tales from A House of Pomegranates (1891), among other prose pieces. This volume was edited by Ian Small. He frequently mentions Ricketts and Shannon in his introduction, and discusses various book-historical aspects, such as the desire of publisher and author to play two markets at the same time: that of the children's book and that of the luxury, bibliophile edition: 

It is at this point that a consideration of the book's design and printing becomes important. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. had not only commissioned Charles Ricketts to design the book, they had also commissioned his partner Charles Shannon to provide the illustrations. [...] The finished work, however, had a number of shortcomings.
(p. xlix)

Small then falls back on the bibliography of Stuart Mason from 1914 without quoting later literature on the printing process. Pages later - in the 'Textual Introduction' he returns to this point and seems surprised that the printing company, the famous firm The Chiswick Press, was content with the fact that Shannon's prints were not printed properly. 

The proofs also confirm the assumption that the illustrations (made by Charles Ricketts) were added to the type after the galley-proofing of text was complete, and that the subsequent plates were sent to Paris for printing.
(p. xcviii).

I am not sure I understand this point, as galley proofs were not meant to contain illustrations. As to the plates, Mason stated:

These four plates were printed in Paris by some "improved" process. After the book was finished and bound it was noticed that a dusty deposit had formed on each plate, probably owing to some chemical impurity either in the printer's ink or in the chalky paper used. To take off this deposit each plate was rubbed with soft flannel, which removed the surface and left the reproductions faint and in some cases almost obliterated.
(quoted by Small, pp. xlix, lii).

However, the problem of the enigmatic French process was solved years ago and it is therefore very surprising that Ian Small does not refer to the article on this subject published by Paul W. Nash in the Spring 2007 edition of The Private Library.

Nash's article was a response to my article (published in The Private Library of Summer 2005) in which I argued that there are two different binding editions of A House of Pomegranates, one bound in a pale yellowish green spine and ivory cloth boards; the other in a darker green spine and light brown cloth boards; in the first case Shannon's plates are pasted on white linen guards, in the second case on pale brown paper guards, - and there are more differences. 

Two binding states of Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891)
I also pointed out that Shannon's plates contained a small monogram that was hard to interpret and that I read as 'WHD sc', but that Nash was correct in reading as 'VDH sc'.

Monogram 'VDH sc' (lower left corner of the plates by Charles Shannon
in A House of Pomegranates, 1891)
Nash was able to find out at which firm in Paris the blocks for these illustrations were manufactured and which process had been used. After a discussion of the Chiswick Press ledgers, he continues: 

An examination of Shannon's plates in A House of Pomegranates confirms that they were drawn on Papier Gillot. Their overall appearance suggests an etching process; the paler tones show a clear pattern of fine vertical lines, while darker areas show a pattern of equally regular horizontal lines bisecting the vertical to form a close network. The palest shading of all shows the expected pattern of dots, diminishing to nothing at all for pure white areas.
(Nash, p. 34)

'VDH sc', he stated:

is in fact the monogram of the firm Verdoux, Ducourtioux et Huillard, which existed in Paris between 1890 and 1895. They were etchers, engravers and photo-engravers, generally preparing blocks for printing by others.
(Nash, pp. 35-36)

To summarise, the text and decorations for A House of Pomegranates were printed by the Chiswick Press, before 10 November 1891. Shannon's drawings were made on Papier Gillot and sent to Paris, where Verdoux, Ducourtioux et Huillard created etched relief  blocks directly from them (justifying at least in part Mason's statement about an 'improved processs' being used at Paris); the blocks for Ricketts's illustrations may also have been made in Paris, perhaps by the same firm. Verdoux, Ducourtioux et Huillard may well have printed Shannon's plates too, although this remains unproven, and other companies (including Gillot's) could have been responsible.
(Nash, pp. 38-39)

The technical details and the name of the Parisian engraver are therefore known, and in the future it will no longer suffice to refer to Mason to describe the production of Shannon's illustrations. It is strange and extremely unfortunate that this important article by Paul Nash has escaped the attention of the editors of Wilde's complete works.