Wednesday, March 25, 2020

452. This Belongs to C.S. Ricketts

Books from the library of Charles Ricketts often bear his autograph signature, or dedications from the authors to the artist, but no bookplate. Ricketts designed a couple of bookplates - one for the critic J.W. Gleeson White, one for the collector John Morgan, and one for the publisher Copeland & Day, - but not one for his own use.

When he lent out books, he wrote his name on the front free endpaper, and added a formula that indicated that the book had not become the property of the borrower. In his biography about Ricketts, Paul Delaney referred to such a copy from the collection of Dr Robert Hillenbrand. Upon inquiry it appeared that Dr. Hillenbrand still has this book in his possession and he sent some scans for this blog (for which I sincerely thank Dr. Robert Hillenbrand).

The inscription reads:

This belongs to C.S. Ricketts & not to R. Wills.

Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee (1901):
owner's inscription of Charles Ricketts
(Collection Dr Robert Hillenbrand)
The inscription is written in a copy of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the Bee, translated by Alfred Sutro, and published by George Allen, London, in 1901. The book contains a postcard written by Maeterlinck on both sides; it dates from much later, 15 January 1921, and thanks Ricketts for his work on The Betrothel that premiered at the Gaiety Theatre on 8 January 1921. Ricketts didn't like the play, which he deemed pompous and sentimental, but his designs for the scenery and dresses were admired, the play was a success, and Ricketts noticed: "There was a fairly solid body of opinion that nothing quite so beautiful had ever been seen upon the English stage" (Self-Portrait, 1939, p. 331). 

Postcard from Maurice Maeterlinck to Charles Ricketts,
15 January 1921 (Collection Dr Robert Hillenbrand)
Dr Hillenbrand remembered that the book, The Life of the Bee, was bequeathed to him "by my beloved great-aunt, who loved buying fancy books. One of the attached scans is of the fragment of the catalogue from which she bought it before WW2." (Email from Robert Hillenbrand to PvC, 18 March 2020).

This copy was acquired from Henry Sotheran on 3 February 1937. It had been sold before in 1933, by Christie's, in an auction of "valuable books on the fine arts from the collection of C.H. Shannon, Esq., R.A. and the late Charles Ricketts, Esq., R.A."

From this we can conclude that the inscription had done its job. R. Wills had understood that this was not her or his book and had neatly returned it to the lender.