For the Vale Press books Charles Ricketts designed fourteen different patterned papers. After the closure of the press he hardly ever designed such papers, but there are two exceptions, late in his life. In the meantime, he made designs for bookbindings in linen and parchment, and also designed paper covers and dust wrappers. The two patterned papers date from 1924 and 1931.
The first edition of Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan was published in June 1924, followed in October that year by an édition de luxe with illustrations by Ricketts. The plates were based on his stage settings and sketches for the London performances of March 1924 (the play had received its premiere in New York in December 1923).
|Charles Ricketts, patterned paper for Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1924)|
The patterned paper on the boards (on a quarter linen binding) show a repetitive design of arms, printed in blue, and with a label printed in black, dark blue and green. Alternately, two rows of coats of arms are depicted. One row shows the coat of arms of Saint Joan (32x32 mm): two French lilies (fleurs-de-lis) in an azure field; a sword with hilt and guard in the middle. At the top should have been a crown, but Ricketts deleted that detail. The other row shows three French lilies in an azure field (the coat of arms of the French king Charles VII). This coat-of arms is slightly larger than that of Saint Joan, measuring 34 by 33 mm. In between the coat of arms crowns (again with lilies) fill up the space.
|Charles Ricketts, patterned paper for Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1924) [detail]|
The coats of arms are not all identical; there are small differences: for example, the curved leaves of the lilies are sometimes rounder, sometimes thicker.
The title label at the top is placed in the middle of the patterned paper, slightly to the right of the cover, because of the linen binding. At first sight, the design seems to be symmetrical, with the two weapons on the left and right, and the title in the middle and below. But the word "with" has been shifted slightly to the right, and while the text underneath is fairly central, the flower and the circled dot are placed asymmetrically, creating a livelier design.
|Charles Ricketts, cover design for Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1924) [detail]|
Similarly, the title label on the dust jacket is not symmetrical. The title and author's name are slightly to the left of the centre and the decorations to the right are closer to the line border. The drawing on the dust wrapper is characterised by a complex symbolism.
|Charles Ricketts, dust wrapper design for Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1924) [detail]|
On the dust wrapper Saint Joan hangs (as it were) crucified above the pyre. The pattern of her dress shows the French lilies again.
|Charles Ricketts, dust wrapper design for |
Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1924) [detail]