Wednesday, May 26, 2021

513. Dedication & Dedications

Collectors of books can vary enormously from one another, there are wolverines among them, explorers, and some collectors concentrate on a single subject, with, admittedly, some satellite subjects - too much fun to ignore. It's all a matter of dedication.

Maggs Bros Ltd devoted an initial catalogue to the collection of Philip Kent Cohen: Oscar Wilde & His Circle (catalogue 1512). In the introduction, Cohen - author of a biography of John Evelyn Barlas (1860-1914) - explains that he gained his fascination with the 1890s during lectures by James G. Nelson. This is the first catalogue in a series that will include volumes on The New Woman, The Rhymers' Club, and Book Arts.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891):
Cover design by Charles Ricketts (detail)

The chapters of most interest to this blog are those on Oscar Wilde (nos. 1-39, with an introduction to Wilde and bookselling by Ed Maggs), John Gray (nos. 177-207) and Ricketts and Shannon (nos. 279-280).

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891):
Cover design by Charles Ricketts (detail)

For example, the Wilde section contains fine copies of the earliest Ricketts-designed books, such as Intentions and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories (both 1891), but the most eye-catching book is a dedication copy of Wilde's A House of Pomegranates, with a presentation inscription by Wilde to Margot Tennant (later Margot Asquith).

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891):
Endpaper design by Charles Ricketts (detail)

The John Gray section contains some Vale Press editions edited by Gray, but here a group of five copies of Silverpoints, one of Ricketts's best known and most appreciated designs, stands out. There is a deluxe copy bound in vellum and printed on Spalding paper (but one of a series of unnumbered copies). 

There are four copies of the regular edition. 
1. a copy with a handwritten dedication to Lady Gregory;
2. a copy from Walter Pater's collection; this is one of a small number of copies of the regular edition printed on Spalding (the regular edition is printed on Van Gelder paper);
3. an ordinary numbered copy;
4. and another copy of the regular edition.
That's an impressive list.

John Gray, Silverpoints (1893):
Cover design by Charles Ricketts (detail)

The Ricketts and Shannon section is only brief and includes two items: an incomplete set of their magazine The Dial (No. 2-5) and a letter from Ricketts to the publisher regarding the design of Wilde's Poems (1892). The book was published on 26 May 1892, and this note is dated (by a third party) 4 April. Ricketts said he had made some changes to the design ('Please put the additions you require where I have indicated.'), and asked the publisher to remove the 'acorns I have scratched out'. This probably refers to the title page and the facing limitation statement.

The splendid catalogue contains descriptions of all items, dozens of illustrations and fascinating commentaries.