Wednesday, December 29, 2021

543. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (8)

The final instalment of this series deals with the last book Charles Ricketts designed for the publisher Osgood, McIlvaine & Co., A House of Pomegranates, published in November 1891.

Charles Ricketts,
publisher's mark for
Oscar Wilde,
A House of Pomegranates (1891)

In this high-profile book, Ricketts placed the publisher's mark not on the title page, nor on the binding, but on the reverse of the title page. It has become a much more complex drawing, based on the first publisher's mark he drew for Intentions, but here the horse's wings are pointed upwards rather than horizontally. 

The publisher's mark is only partly visible here and is largely lost behind the figure of a woman with a brush; a palette lies at her side, the symbol for art and painting. She is working on perfecting the vignette. It is curious, of course, that Ricketts makes such a symbolic representation of his last publisher's mark, pointing to the artistic nature of his contribution to the book.

Some of the original drawings for this book are kept in the Eccles collection of the British Library. The one for the publisher's device is in black ink and Chinese white, 92x36 mm on white cardboard (c. 209x169 mm), signed l.r. CR (in reverse), with a marginal annotation in CR's handwriting: '5/2' centimetre (the format of the reproduction) and with corrections in Chinese white. 

The drawing was, apparently, intended to be reproduced in reverse. The handwritten letters O and M (Osgood McIlvaine) were also written in reverse: '.M .O', but were erased and replaced by 'O. M.' This has caused the image, which may have been reworked by the engraver of the block, to be blurred. It seems that the original dot before the original 'M' has not been erased completely.

Ricketts was often disappointed by the execution of his designs and that must also have been the case here.

Device No. V
November 1891. 54 x 21 mm.
Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates. Verso of title page. Printed in black.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

542. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (7)

In November 1891 the first volume of The Bard of the Dimbovitza. Roumanian Folk-Songs appeared. Ricketts designed the title page, with a new publisher's mark, and the binding (both spine and front cover). A second volume followed in 1894.

Hélène Vacaresco, The Bard of the Dimbovitza. Second Series (1892):
spine design by Charles Ricketts (detail)

The ivory-coloured cloth cover displays three gilt ornaments of musical instruments with wheat stalks and swirls. Ricketts made two vignettes for the front cover, one of which is also printed in mirror image. They probably depict a lute and a violin, but do not strictly resemble specific Romanian string instruments. The spine has decorations of dots and heart-shaped ornaments. Two winged hearts are depicted at the top of the spine.

The device on the title page is a stylized version of the one on the front cover of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories.

Hélène Vacaresco, The Bard of the Dimbovitza (1891):
title page designed by Charles Ricketts

In addition to the letters 'O' and 'M', the year in roman numerals has now been added to the design. The ribbons have been retransformed to a pair of snakes.

This publisher's mark became widespread through reprints of volume 1 (1894), the publication of volume 2 (1892, and a reprint in 1897), after which the title passed to Harper & Brothers publishers in London. A 'new and enlarged edition' (2 parts in 1 volume) was published by Harper in 1902, while the same book also appeared at Scribner's in New York. In 1904 a reprint of both editions appeared. Each time, the roman numerals to the left and right of the publisher's mark were adapted.

Hélène Vacaresco, The Bard of the Dimbovitza (1892):
publisher's mark designed by Charles Ricketts

In 1908, Harper & Brother's in London published an edition. In 1911 and 1914, reprints announced as 'Complete Edition' appeared at Harper & Brother's, now based in both London and New York.

Hélène Vacaresco, The Bard of the Dimbovitza (New York, 1902)

From 1911 onwards, the year in the publisher's mark disappears.

Device No. IV
November 1891. 69 x 35 mm.
The Bard of the Dimbovitza. Roumanian Folk-Songs. Collected from the Peasants by 
Hélène Vacaresco. Title page. Printed in black.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

541. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (6)

As mentioned last week, the title page of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde was not decorated or embellished with illustrations or illuminated initials. Ricketts designed the title page in an almost classical manner: title, author's name, place of publication and the name of the publisher are neatly centralised on the page, but between the title and author's name the word 'by' is not central; it is shifted to the right. And at the bottom, the year of publication is also placed 'too much' to the right - these words are italicised (but that also applies to part of the title), emphasising the asymmetrical design.

This asymmetry is continued on the cover.

Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories (1891)
Cover design by Charles Ricketts

In addition to the elongated publisher's mark on the front cover, Ricketts drew a smaller vignette for the spine and back cover. It only measures 40 mm in height.

Charles Ricketts, publishers's mark
for Oscar Wilde,
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories

This is one of the most fragile bookbindings Ricketts has designed. A very thin cardboard is used for the cover, overlaid with soft salmon-coloured paper. The ink for the vignettes has run out, making the details difficult to see. For the spine device, Ricketts has omitted the name of the publisher. The image combines the two pairs of wings (that were at either side of the caduceus in the other mark) with entwined snakes curling around it; below the upper pair of wings the snake's heads come together.

Device No. III
July 1891. 40 x 10 mm.
Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories. Spine. Repeated on the back cover. Printed in red or brown.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

540. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (5)

A new, elongated publisher's mark was drawn by Charles Ricketts for the cover of Oscar Wilde's collection of short stories, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories, published in July 1891.

Charles Ricketts,
publisher's mark for James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co:
Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories (1891)

Once again Ricketts has drawn the publisher's name, this time asymmetrically. The letters "O" and "M" added earlier by the publisher have now been incorporated into his design. To the left and right of the mark the letters are now in his own script, gracefully balancing between the curled ribbons.

It was printed in brown or red (both colours occur) on the salmon-coloured cover. This too is asymmetrical in design: the price (two shillings) is printed vertically along the left margin, the publisher's address on the bottom left, while the title and author's name are centred at the top in the same colour.

The hands and clouds (see the earlier publisher's marks) have been omitted.

Between the curves of the two crossed horns of plenty the changed caduceus has two pairs of wings, the lower pair mercurial in design, the upper pair now looks like the wings of a butterfly.

The snakes have been replaced by ribbons.

The leaping horse also features in some marks of the Wechel firm. (See my earlier blog.)

Device No. II
July 1891. 94 x 31 mm.
Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other StoriesUpper cover. Printed in red or brown.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

539. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (4)

When I published an article in The Book Collector in 2006 entitled 'The Revival of a Publisher's Device. Charles Ricketts and Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.', I thought that all the books that have the publisher's mark by Ricketts on the title page were actually designed by him, as opposed to books - such as those in the Red Letter Stories series - where they are (only) depicted on the binding.

It is the exception that proves the rule.

Agnolo Firenzuola Florentine, Of the Beauty of Women (1892)

Since 2006, I have only found one book that does not follow the rule, Agnolo Firenzuola's dialogue Of the Beauty of Women (October 1892). The cover title is slightly different: Dialogue of the Beauty of Women. The translation from Italian is by Clara Bell, the introduction by Theodore Child. An advertisement in The Morning Post of 15 December 1892 mentions: 'Printed on hand-made paper and bound in the "Lilly" cover, 7s. 6d'.

Agnolo Firenzuola Florentine, Of the Beauty of Women (1892):
title page

On the title page, the publisher used Ricketts's publisher's device Ia. That Ricketts himself is not responsible for the typography or the cover is shown, among other things, by some quasi-Renaissance decorations that are signed, but I have not been able to decipher the name.

Agnolo Firenzuola Florentine, Of the Beauty of Women (1892):
page [i]

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

538. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (3)

For each of Oscar Wilde's books published by Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. Ricketts designed a new publisher's mark, but he did not do so for Thomas Hardy's books. The publishers did not commission new designs for the binding and title pages of for Tess of the d'Urbervilles (fifth edition, in one volume, July 1892), nor forLife's Little Ironies (February 1894). They simply reused his design for A Group of Noble Dames, including the publisher's mark (Device Ia).

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles
(top: second edition, volume 2, 1891)
(bottom: fifth edition, 1892)
Binding designed by Charles Ricketts

However, for the first edition of Tess, Ricketts made one of his better-known bookbinding designs with long, wavy lines featuring honeysuckle flowers and stems. The novel appeared in three volumes in December 1891. For this elaborately designed book, Ricketts did not design a new publisher's mark. It was his last assignment for Osgood, McIlvaine, and he had already drawn five different publisher's marks for the firm. It remains remarkable that this time he made no effort.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

538. Ricketts's Publisher's Devices for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (2)

The publisher's mark that Ricketts had designed for Wilde's Intentions would, with a slight modification, be used almost immediately for another Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. publication, strikingly enough also a book whose title page and binding had been designed by Ricketts. Thomas Hardy's collection of stories, A Group of Noble Dames, appeared in the same month as Intentions, May 1891.

Thomas Hardy, A Group of Noble Dames (1891)
Title page designed by Charles Ricketts

The device is identical, but in a different hand the initials 'O.' and 'M.', for Osgood and McIlvaine, have been added at the top, in rather thick lines, deviating from the style of the mark.

Thomas Hardy, A Group of Noble Dames (1891)
Publisher's mark designed by Charles Ricketts

This mark was made into a stamp that could be applied to a book binding, and this was done for a series of translations published by Osgood, McIlvaine & Co under the title Red Letter Stories. They were bound in green cloth, about the same colour as Intentions. The publisher's device was not repeated on the title page. The series was not designed by Ricketts.

Guy de Maupassant, The Odd Number (1891)
[Red Letter Stories]

The first volume, Anatole France's The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, translated by Lafcadio Hearn,  appeared in June 1891, and subsequent volumes included Paul Bourget's A Saint and Others (translated by John Gray, September 1891), and Guy de Maupassant's The Odd Number (translated by Jonathan Sturges, October 1891). As far as I know, there were eight volumes in this series and they were printed in cloth, but each volume also appeared in a paper cover - I have not seen any of those.

Device No. Ia
May 1891. 35 x 20 mm.
Thomas Hardy, A Group of Noble Dames. Title-page. Printed in black.
Identical to Number I, except for the initials O. and M. at the top. These handwritten characters may have been added by the publishers.
(Cf. Paul van Capelleveen, 'The Revival of a Publisher's Device. Charles Ricketts and Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.', The Book Collector, volume 55 No 3 (Autumn 2006)

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

537. Ricketts's Publisher's Device for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (1)

From 1891 onwards, by virtue of Oscar Wilde, Charles Ricketts was commissioned  to design book covers (and sometimes more) for commercial publishers. In 1891 a series of books was published by James R. Osgood McIlvaine and Co: three books by Oscar Wilde, three titles by Thomas Hardy (in various editions) and a work (in two volumes) by Hélène Vacaresco. Most of these were reprinted several times, but the Wilde volumes least of all.

Oscar Wilde, Intentions (1891):
title page designed by Charles Ricketts

The first book in this series was Oscar Wilde's Intentions, which appeared in April 1891 and was reprinted once by this publisher in May 1894. 

James R. Osgood (1836-1892) was an American publisher who ran a successful business with several partners until he went bankrupt in 1885 and started working for Harper's Magazine. In 1891, together with Clarence Walworth McIlvaine (1866?-1912), he started a new firm in London: Osgood, McIlvaine & Co., whose first issues were reported in The Publishers' Circular of 25 April 1891. The books were published simultaneously in London (by Osgood) and New York (by Harpers Bros).

Ricketts designed a unique cover for each of these books, but he also drew a different publisher's device for their title pages. He played with Renaissance motifs and based the device on that of the Wechel family. Over the years, Chrestien Wechel (??-1581) and Andre Wechel (1495-1554) themselves also used a series of different but related publisher's marks for their title pages, quite a few displaying 'a caduceus at the centre of the image, flanked by cornucopias and with a Pegasus above, clouds below with shaking hands' (quoted from the website of the British Museum).

Publisher's device used by André and Chrestien Wechel
[British Museum, number 1895,1031.1100]
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum
Released under a Creative Commons
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Publisher's device used by Chrestien Wechel,
depicted by Ph. Renouard,
Les marques typographiques parisiennes des XVe et XVIe siècles
(Paris, 1926), device 1116

Publisher's device used by Chrestien Wechel,
depicted by Ph. Renouard,
Les marques typographiques parisiennes des XVe et XVIe siècles
(Paris, 1926), device 1118

Among them were broader and slimmer marks, as shown in the accompanying illustrations. Sometimes a jumping horse, sometimes a rearing horse.

Compared to the Wechel design, Ricketts's first publisher's device for Osgood, McIlvaine & Co is more refined in execution, even elegant and compact, although a little crowded, while the elongated image refers to his Pre-Raphaelite influence, and early Art Nouveau concept.

Charles Ricketts,
publisher's device designed for
Oscar Wilde, Intentions (1891)

Device No. I
May 1891. 33 x 19 mm.
Oscar Wilde, Intentions. Title-page. Printed in black.
At the foot, two hands emerge from the clouds, enclosing a caduceus with the winged horse Pegasus on top. Two pairs of wings, two snakes and two ribbons are attached to it. Two crossed horns of plenty support the horse. At the bottom is the publisher's name, written in Ricketts's script with the last 'o' characteristically placed in the curve of the 'C'. The horse on top faces left.
(Cf. Paul van Capelleveen, 'The Revival of a Publisher's Device. Charles Ricketts and Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.', The Book Collector, volume 55 No 3 (Autumn 2006).

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

536. P.N. van Eyck and The Vale Press

Recently, the Nederlands Genootschap van Bibliofielen (Dutch Association of Bibliophiles) edited a book on Dutch auctions from the twentieth century onwards, Eenmaal andermaal! (Going Once, Going Twice), published by De Buitenkant. The Vale Press is mentioned in my article on the Dutch poet and professor P.N. van Eyck (1887-1954). During the period that Van Eyck lived in London as correspondent for a Dutch newspaper, he bought books for his friends, or, as was often necessary in the 1930s, sold books for them. He performed this mediating role for fellow poet and historian Carel Gerretson. Van Eyck offered a number of private press editions to the Zwemmer firm in London; it proved to be a tough sell. In a report on his activities, he wrote:

The few Doves Press books are the most valuable but they are not among the most expensive. All under ten pounds, seven or eight at the most I think, and that is the selling price. Your Lucretius [Ashendene Press] could be sold at a profit. Most of the others are from the Vale Press printed on the machine, and have value but are difficult to sell. So it will take some effort and you don't say how their condition is.

William Meinhold, Mary Schweidler, the Amber Witch
(The Vale Press, 1903)

In another letter, he wrote that all private press books had decreased in value over the past year. Another factor was that the private press world had changed and that a hierarchy of publishers had arisen due to a definition of the term 'private press' constructed in retrospect, in which the possession of one's own press was considered the sanctifying factor, while historically other rankings could just as well have been justified. Van Eyck observed: 'The Vale Press is also unpopular.'

The idea had arisen that these books were not printed on a hand press. Van Eyck considered this a disadvantage and thought that the hand press provided a 'more severe colour', a 'sharper print' and a better registration, while only a hand press enabled the printer to take account of the irregularities of handmade paper. However, the Vale Press editions were indeed printed on a hand press, though not in the studio of designer Charles Ricketts, but at Ballantyne's, where a specially appointed printer was at his disposal; in this the approach differed only legally (the possession of a printing press) from that of Morris's Kelmscott Press. 

When Van Eyck's collection was sold in 1972, it turned out that he owned a single Vale Press edition: William Meinhold's Mary Schweidler, The Amber Witch. This copy, with its owner's inscription, was purchased for the Rijksmuseum Meermanno-Westreenianum/Museum of the Book (now Huis van het boek), The Hague.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

535. An Unknown Woodcut by Ricketts

For substantial book projects, such as Daphnis and Chloe (1893), Ricketts and Shannon made several sketches that were never developed into wood-engravings, and even some wood-engravings did not make it to the finish line, even though much work had been involved. For artists who at that time had to take on all kinds of jobs in order to pay the rent at the end of the month, this was obviously a huge waste of time.

Therefore, there are only a few wood-engravings that were not used for their magazine The Dial or for one of the book projects. The British Museum, however, owns a rare print of such a wood-engraving. 

Charles Ricketts, engraving for unknown project, undated
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]
(with permission of the executors of the Charles Ricketts estate,
Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmain O'Neil)

It is not clear when the woodcut was acquired, but it was described in 1986: 'Circular design with two naked figures seated to left, holding hands; proof illustration to an unidentified publication. Woodcut'. (Beneath the woodcut, a faint show-through of the British Museum stamp can be seen.)

It is clearly not a stand-alone illustration. Between the figures the shape of a letter 'I' is visible and therefore the woodcut was intended as an initial 'I'.

Around the stem of this character 'I' the female figure seems to reach for the hand of the male figure; it could be a love couple, but probably not. It appears as if she is looking for guidance. She is not seated, but standing in a position as if she has reached the water's edge. He is crouching. A dove is depicted at the top centre.

The shepherd's hat of the male figure (left) recalls that of Daphnis in some illustrations in Daphnis and Chloe, and it is not implausible that this was an early initial for this book.

Probably unsuitable because all the initials and woodcuts in this book were eventually designed as rectangles; this one was out of place because of its shape alone.

But then there is the small flower, left above the circular woodcut (and a small capital letter 'I'?).

The cover of the first number of The Dial (1889) displays a similar small flower, next to the year of publication in the bottom right-hand corner (see Yellow Nineties 2.0: The Dial volume 1). 

Charles Ricketts, decoration for the cover of The Dial 1 (1889)

However, this one looks more like one of the printer's flowers that Ricketts designed in 1895/1896 for the Vale Press editions, which represents a small acorn. 

This ornament appears in the first publication of the Vale Press, Milton's Early Poems (1896). The second poem therein opens with the title 'The Hymn' which is preceded by the ornament. Then follows an initial 'I' for the first line of the poem which is about the naked 'Heav'n born-childe', who is joined by 'meek-eyed Peace'.

Charles Ricketts, decorations to 'Hymn' in John Milton, Early Poems (1896)

Anyway, that makes two female figures and they are not depicted in the woodcut. Besides, it is the only initial 'I' in Early Poems, so it seems unlikely that this was a preliminary study for this book.

The male figure is not only wearing a hat, it is a winged hat. He also has a winged shoe, in other words, this could represent Hermes, or Mercury. The initial might therefore have something to do with Ricketts's and Shannon's edition of Hero and Leander (1894), in which Hermes plays a role. However, there is no initial 'I' in that book and only a leaf ornament. 

The woodcut may also have been intended for one of the prospectuses that Ricketts and Shannon published from about 1891/1892.

In short: the woodcut was made for an unknown edition, but because of the ornament I estimate that it dates from the time of Hero and Leander rather than from the period before or after.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

534. Preparing for the Academy

Six years before his death, Ricketts posed for a picture in The Sphere magazine. In the April 18, 1931 issue, it posted nine photographs of the preparations for the Royal Academy exhibition at Burlington House. Some photos depict the artist and her or his painting, while others show, for example, the moving of a large painting to Burlington House.

The Sphere, 18 April 1931, page 109

Ricketts looks critically, but wearily, at the painting 'Don Juan in Hell' (now in the collection of Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool).

Charles Ricketts, 'Don Juan in Hell' (1931)
[Collection: Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool]

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

533. Artist's Statements and Manifestos

Last week we reached the deadline for a major project I have been working on as editor-in-chief for the past few years: an almost 400-page work for Stanford University and the Codex Foundation, Materialia Lumina: Contemporary Artists' Books from the Codex International Book Fair. The book is due out next January when an exhibition on the twenty-first century artist's book opens at Stanford University. It will not surprise readers of this blog that I have managed to smuggle Charles Ricketts's name into this work in an essay on the Chinese book artist Leilei Guo, whose book Waves is discussed. It is a work without words, with images of an apartment building in Beijing.

Leilei Guo, Waves (2013)
Photo: Huug Schipper

Ricketts's name could be dropped in an exploration of a collection of artists' publications on their own work: from manifesto to letter.

Without the artist’s explanation, we would probably not be able to grasp the meaning of the visual presentation. Guo provided an artist’s statement for Waves that is an alternative manifestation of it. 

As a genre, the artist’s statement is controversial and not always recognized, although it has a long history. We can link it to the early modern artist’s manifesto that can be seen as a 'passport to modernity' (1) — starting with the Futurists just before the First World War, but we can go a step further back and refer to artists’ manifestos written by book designers such as William Morris, Lucien Pissarro, and Charles Ricketts to defend the private press ideals in the 1890s. 

The antithesis of the manifesto’s opinions and ideals is another modernist idea: the work of art should speak for itself. This proposition may compromise the performative nature of the artist’s statement that can be either the narrative or the meta-narrative, a supplement or a contextualization — 'the artist statement performs a vital if complex rhetorical role' (2). 

In addition to the manifesto, conceptual art is the breeding ground for artists’ statements. Since the 1990s, these have become more or less mandatory, for facilitating acquisition, as a justification for commissioned works, or as an explanation in exhibitions. Nowadays the statements correspond to the responsibilities of the artist as a cultural theorist and practitioner (3).

The viewer should also be aware that an artist’s statement may contradict or extend the artwork. In this case, Guo has produced a loose sheet of paper (or e-document) that is not specially designed to align with the style of Waves. As such, it shares the ephemeral position of an artist’s talk, an interview, or an exhibition statement, similar to other manifestations such as prefaces, sketchbooks, and private correspondence.

(1) 100 Artists’ Manifestos, ed. Alex Danchev (London: Penguin Books, 2011), xxix.
(2) Ibid.
(3) W.F. Garrett-Petts, Rachel Nash, 'Re-Visioning the Visual: Making Artistic Inquiry Visible', Rhizomes. Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge 18 (Winter 2008),

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

532. Birth and Death

Tomorrow, October 7, it is ninety years since Charles Ricketts died.
Last October 2 marked the 155th anniversary of his birth.

Charles Ricketts, Self-portrait (c. 1898),
Woodcut printed from two blocks on Japan paper
British Museum No
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

531. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew (3)

There are not many articles in newspapers and magazines that pay attention to Gloria Cardew's work around 1900 and only one mentions her work for the Vale Press books. That she also coloured editions of the Kelmscott Press is mentioned in The Sketch, 28 December 1898, p. 368:

Miss Cardew has even been trusted by some fortunate possessors of Kelmscott editions with the task of colouring the designs and borders, and their confidence in her powers has been fully justified.

Label in books hand-coloured by Gloria Cardew

In the same year in The Contemporary Review (August 1898), Albert Louis Cotton mentioned copies of Vale Press books coloured by Gloria Cardew (the article was partly reprinted in The Academy Supplement of 6 August 1898):

In Miss Gloria Cardew, a young art student,a  colourist has recently appeared who is capable of doing charming work in this direction. [...] Miss Cardew’s efforts form one more attempt to revert to good individualistic handwork, as opposed to the mechanical methods of a time in which sixpenny magazines, crowded with process blocks, furnish the mental pabulum of millions. It is difficult to realise the effect of, say, one of the Vale books, with its initials and borders embellished with delicate tints, after the fashion of the ancient miniaturists. Among Miss Cardew’s triumphs must especially be noted Mr. F.S. Ellis’s “History of Reynard the Fox,” a metrical version of the old English translation, with its fifty woodcut engravings after Mr. Walter Crane. These last, when decorated in gold and colours, in the medieval style, almost place the volume on a level with the illuminated manuscripts which were the glory of the monks of old.

Unfortunately, no titles of Vale Press books that were coloured by Cardew were mentioned. In an article on Cardew for The IBIS Journal, Denis Collins wrote in 2014 that he was aware of three such Vale Press books. I listed them in my blog 202 and new information has been added since:

Michael Drayton, Nimphidia and the Muses Elizium (November 1896).
The Drayton copy was described by Howard M. Nixon in his British Bookbindings presented by Kenneth H. Oldaker to the Chapter Library of Westminster Abbey (London, Maggs Bros, 1982), and is now in that library. It was purchased by Oldaker from the firm of Heywood Hill.
[See below for a second copy of this edition hand-coloured by Gloria Cardew.]

William Blake, The Book of Thel, Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience (May 1897)
The Blake was offered for sale by Bromer Booksellers in Catalog 110. Five British Presses: Daniel, Eragny, Vale, Essex House, Gregynog. Select Stock and Recent Acquisitions (Boston, November 2001, No. 53).

Michael Field, Fair Rosamund (May 1897).
Original owner: Oliver Henry Perkins (sld 1926)
Cf. The Fine Private Library of the late Oliver Henry Perkins. Des Moines Iowa […]. New York, The Anderson Galleries, 23-24 March 1926, p. 171, lot 809 (‘colored by Gloria Cardew’, ‘boards, uncut’).

To this short list can be added another shorter one of two Vale Press books. Both are special in their own way.

The Sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney (March 1898).
This copy has the library ticket of 'Earlston Reading-Room and Circulating Library No. SH80'. It  also has a printed label with the text: 'The Illustrations in this Book were coloured by hand by Miss Gloria Cardew.' 
There is a (possibly unique?) handwritten inscription on one of the endleaves: 'The illustrations in this book were coloured by me Gloria Cardew April 1898. This copy was sold at auction in 2021: Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs. Edinburgh, Lyon & Turnbull, 24 February 2021, lot 199. Now in a private collection.

The Sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney (1898)
Hand-coloured by Gloria Cardew

The Rowley Poems of Thomas Chatterton (June 1898).
Signed on inserted leave: 'Gloria Cardew'.
Owner's stamp of Helen Ladd Corbett.
This is one of eight copies on vellum, two volumes bound in one by Riviere & Son.
Offered for sale in Catalogue No. 8 (E-List), Recent Acquisitions (March 2020). Saint Louis Park, MN, USA, Under the Hill Books, Nolan Goodman, [17 March 2020], no. 10. Now in a private collection.

The Rowley Poems of Thomas Chatterton (1898)
Hand-coloured by Gloria Cardew

This supplement thus contains two new items of information about Gloria Cardew's coloured copies of Vale Press books. She dared to have a go at an extremely rare and precious copy printed on vellum. To sign her work, she has included a handwritten note in the other book in addition to her printed label. It brings Cardew just a little closer.

PS, 11 November 2022
A second copy of the Drayton edition was auctioned in New York at Stair Galleries in 2011.

Michael Drayton, Nimphidia and the Muses Elizium (November 1896).
This copy was sold on 19 March 2011 by Stair Galleries (New York) for $900: 'Handcolored by Gloria Cardew. Elaborate gilt morocco by the Hampstead Binding.' 
The provenance of this copy was the Estate of Louis Stanton Auchincloss (1917-2010), lawyer, author, and historian.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

530. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew (2)

Six years ago I wrote a blog about the hand-coloured Vale Press books to which the name of Miss Gloria Cardew is attached (blog 202. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew). In the meantime, there are some new facts to report, on the one hand due to the discovery of an unknown interview with the artist, and on the other hand due to the emergence of more Vale Press books coloured by her. 

Miss Gloria Cardew
The Ladies Field, 11 December 1898

Nothing was known about Cardew's life until now, except that she was about twenty years old when she first exhibited work at Karslake & Co. It is therefore suggested that the name is a pseudonym. Although a few photos have been published, I had not seen the one accompanying this blog before. She worked between 1897 and 1902 and then disappeared from the scene.

The author (E.M.E.) of the untraceable magazine The Ladies Field, 11 December 1898 (there is one copy preserved in the British Library), interviewed her, but does not quote her directly. 

However, two new facts emerge: that she spent several years in California and that she began her career as a colourist by colouring her own photo portrait. Below is the main part of the article (with thanks to John Aplin).

E.M.E., ‘Miss Gloria Cardew. Hand Colourist of Book Illustration’, in The Ladies Field, 11 December 1898, p. 84:

Miss Gloria Cardew, who is young and enthusiastic, produces choice work as a colourist. Not only does she possess the true feeling for colour and its [one word illegible], but she has also dexterity in the application of colour to black-and-white drawings; hence the finished results obtained by her. I have seen many beautifully illustrated books coloured by Miss Cardew with the greatest skill. […]  it may be mentioned that the Duchess of York has just accepted a volume of “Children’s Singing Games,” coloured by Miss Cardew, for her little son, Prince Edward.

Miss Cardew’s work, dainty and delicate as it is, seems specially adapted to the illustration of fairy-tales, poems, fanciful subjects, and, particularly, all kinds of books for children, to whom the educative value of good colour is of paramount importance. In examining the artistic books to which I have alluded, what impressed me more even than the colouring was the infinite fund of patience brought to bear upon the work, especially in cases where many facsimile copies of one book are required.

In the course of my visit to Miss Cardew, she showed me her first attempt at hand-colouring. It was her own photograph; and that was the simple beginning of what has now grown into an elaborate graceful art. Miss Cardew has spent some three or four years of her life in California, and I cannot help thinking that her colour-sense must have been greatly influenced, and to some extent developed, by the brilliant colour effects to be seen in that dry atmosphere. Certainly she has a rare perception of colour, as well as a marvellously delicate touch.

Messrs. Karslake and Co., 61, Charing Cross Road, who are agents for “The Guild of Women Binders,” exhibit Miss Gloria Cardew’s work, and, I believe, transact business for her. I learn from Mr. Karslake that the colouring of an illustrated book increases its value by 200 per cent. Moreover, there is a demand for these embellished volumes, chiefly, of course, among collectors and connoisseurs. The colouring is copyright, and cannot be infringed by colour-printing. Therefore, each book is practically an artist’s proof.

It appears that Miss Cardew has undertaken to colour 100 numbered copies of the “Song of Solomon”—with Mr. Granville Fell’s fifteen plates—on large Japanese paper, and twelve out of the hundred are to have a set of the large plates printed on white vellum, in addition to the impressions on Japanese paper. Besides these plates, the text of this volume contains sixteen decorative drawings.I have seen one complete specimen, and it is indeed a work of art.

Mr. Cyril Davenport, of the British Museum, is among those who are interested in this revival of hand-colouring as initiated by Miss Cardew. As may be supposed, she is kept constantly busy, and finds her occupation so absorbing and fascinating that she is prone to neglect such every-day matters as outdoor air and exercise. Fortunately, however, her friends do not permit of too close a pursuit of brush and water-colour.

I marvel exceedingly at Miss Gloria Cardew’s gift of patience.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

529. A New Catalogue: "The Vale Press of Charles Ricketts"

Sales catalogues or e-lists devoted entirely to the books of the Vale Press and Charles Ricketts are quite rare. On September 7, Blind Horse Books in DeLand, Florida, distributed online a list of 25 items: nineteen works (in twenty volumes), five related books about Ricketts, and one prospectus for a Vale Press book. Some of these works can also be found on the antiquarian bookshop's website

Screenshot of Blind Horse Books' website, September 2021

The condition of most of the books is far from perfect: there are damaged spines, sun-darkened covers, and some copies have been rebound, in one case by the American bookbinder James Tapley, who died in 2019. One of the items is the booklet we published ourselves: Charles Ricketts's Mysterious Mother that Tapley bought when it was published. The books in this catalogue are from his collection. He may have bought some books in poor condition with a view to re-binding them.

An example of Tapley's bookbindings can be found on the website of the SMU Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology: the binding he made in 2019 (the year of his death) for the Vale Press edition of Henry Vaughan's Sacred Poems. This copy is now offered for sale in the Blind Horse Books list.

Other books were acquired by Tapley out of interest in Ricketts's work, and there are two extremely interesting items here.

One of them is Ricketts's reminiscences of Oscar Wilde, published posthumously by the Nonesuch Press in 1932, Oscar Wilde. Recollections. This copy is not numbered and comes from the collection of the Nonesuch Press publisher Francis Meynell who always kept a few copies for himself before the numbers were written into the copies. A note from his nephew documents the provenance. In addition to this unnumbered copy, and the numbered copies of the edition, there are also copies 'out of series' for review.

Another exceptional book is Ricketts's Beyond the Threshold from 1929. The book should have appeared before Christmas 1928 (Ricketts wrote in a letter), but the earliest dedication copy is dated 7 March 1929. The Tapley copy contains an invoice from the publisher A.J.A. Symons/The First Editions Club for G.C. Williamson, which shows that the book cost £3 3s when published and that it was already available in February: the invoice is dated 19 February 1929.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

528. Ricketts's Grandfather in Seville

Charles Ricketts was very fond of his grandfather, Edward Woodville Ricketts (1808-1895), who lived in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and whose 'beautiful voice & diction' he later remembered with affection. There were not many family members he ever spoke about, let alone in a positive way, but his grandfather was one of his favourites. Paul Delaney, in his 1990 biography, wrote that Ricketts remembered his grandfather as 'kindness & sweetness incarnate'. (A portrait is printed opposite page 8.) A miniature portrait of Edward by Andrew Plimer appeared in The Connoisseur in 1909. The portrait was painted in 1814 when he was about six years old.

Andrew Plimer, portrait of Edward Woodville Ricketts (1814)

His house was filled with a fine collection of books and with paintings that Ricketts later remembered well. His grandfather left those paintings to a childhood friend with whom he had travelled to Italy, Lord Northesk, and when Northesk's collection was auctioned at Sotheby's in June 1915, Ricketts went to see the paintings, recognizing 'the old "Bassano," once in the Ryde dining-room', and other paintings by Masaccio and Pesellino (he thought). The emotions overwhelmed him and he fled Sotheby's rooms, almost fainting on the stairs.

But grandfather was not only an art lover. A recent discovery by one of his descendants, John Ashwell - Edward was his 'great, great, great grandfather' - shows that Edward Woodville Ricketts also sometimes manifested himself as an artist.

Edward Woodville Ricketts, etching signed E.R. 1833

The etching is signed in the lower left-hand corner: 'E.R. 1833', and a note in pencil states: 'Edward Ricketts fecit 1832'.

Pictured is Seville's famous clock tower, the Giralda, which dates back to the twelfth century and was built as a minaret.

We can deduce from this that he was not an undeserving draughtsman, and that he was a collector with a knowledge of artistic techniques. We also now know that he not only made trips to Italy, but also to the southern coast of Spain, perhaps on his way to Italy or on his way back home.

[With gratitude to John Ashwell for the scan of the etching and for his kind permission to reproduce it here.]

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

527. Charles Ricketts: A War Illustration

Of course, there is never a period without a war going on somewhere, but in recent weeks we have again been confronted with deplorable facts: terror, change of regime, violence, fear, victims and refugees.

Charles Ricketts, 'Black Agnes', as published in
Annie S. Strachan, Famous Women in Scottish History

Charles Ricketts published his first drawings in a book when he was twenty-one: they were mainly war scenes for Cassell's History of England, Volume 1: From the Roman Invasion to the Wars of the Roses. (Read more about these early illustrations in blog number 224.) One of these drawings depicted the attack on Dunbar castle that was defended by Agnes, Countess of Dunbar in 1337. The caption read: 'Black Agnes at the siege of Dunbar Castle'. Large chunks of stone fly through the air, one of the soldiers is hit by an arrow in his eye while Black Agnes watches the battle unfold.

The pen drawing (202 x 147 mm), signed C. Ricketts, illustrated the text on page 400: 

Another of the most remarkable defences of these castles was that of Dunbar by the Countess of March. She was the daughter of the renowned Thomas Randolph, first Earl of Moray, of that family so gloriously associated with Scottish history, and from her complexion was called Black Agnes. The castle of Dunbar was built on a chain of rocks running into the sea, and its only connection with the mainland was well fortified. Montague, Earl of Salisbury, besieged it, and brought forward engines to throw stones, such as were used to batter down walls before the invention of cannon. One of these, with a strong roof to defend the assailants, standing up like a hog’s back, was called the sow. When Black Agnes saw this engine advancing, she called out to the Earl of Salisbury, in derision – 'Beware Montagow, For farrow shall thy sow.' She had ordered a huge stone to be set on the wall over the castle gate, and as soon as the sow came under this was let fall, by which means the roof of the machine was crushed in, and as the English soldiers ran out, they were shot down by a flight of arrows; whereupon the Black Agnes shouted out to Salisbury, 'Behold the litter of English pigs!' As the earl brought up fresh engines, and sent ponderous stones against her battlements, Black Agnes stood there, and wiped disdainfully the fragments of the broken battlements away with her handkerchief, as a matter of no moment.

Ricketts's drawings became the property of Cassell, who sold their blocks on a large scale to other publishers. This is how, more than twenty years later, the illustration of Agnes came to J.W. Butcher publishers in London, who used it as the frontispiece in the publication Famous Women in Scottish Story (1909). It shows how little control the young artist had over the distribution of his work. Years later, when he was already reasonably well known, youthful works could turn up in books uninvited.