Wednesday, June 30, 2021

518. Sea-Folk, A Lithograph by Charles Shannon

Charles Shannon produced lithographs from 1889 onwards, but there were years when he did not work in this medium. The first period of 54 lithographs ran until 1897 (one was published only a year later), after which he did not devote himself to lithography again until 1904. The second period lasted much shorter, from 1904 to 1909, and resulted in 29 lithographs.

The last period began during the First World War, in 1917, and ended in 1920. After twelve more lithographs, Shannon abandoned this medium. (Other lithographs were designed, by the way, but they never got beyond the trial stage. There is a lithograph from 1888, predating the first one, from which four proofs were pulled; no Shannon lithographs dated after 1920 are known to exist.)

In his catalogue, The Lithographs of Charles Shannon 1863-1937 (published 1978), Paul Delaney  only reproduced lithographs from the first period.

Charles Shannon, 'Sea-Folk' (1897)
[Image: British Museum, London: 
1899,0913.1.
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

The last lithograph from the first period is 'Sea-Folk' (1897). It is not the largest lithograph Shannon ever made, but it is the one with the most figures - I think I can count twenty-five people. In the 1902 catalogue of Shannon's lithographs (with an introduction by Ricketts) the scene is described as follows:

Groups of girls and children are playing in the wash of the sea. The background is filled with a breaking wave. Fifty-six proofs exist printed in green, in black, and in blue.
(Charles Ricketts, A Catalogue of Mr Shannon's Lithographs, no. 54, p. 31).

The British Museum owns a copy in green (illustrated here). Copies in black ink look very dark indeed, as if the scene is a nocturnal one. The British Museum has an impression in black after the cancellation of the plate.

Charles Shannon, 'Sea-Folk' (1897)
[Image: British Museum, London: 
1938,0804.30.
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]


The variety of actions and postures is maximised within a horizontal strip in the centre of the image. Above this, the foam heads of the surf are depicted. In the foreground, the low water on the coast can be seen. Some figures are sitting on the sand in the shallow water and are drawn almost entirely in white line.

Charles Shannon, 'Sea-Folk' (1897)
[Image: British Museum, London: 
1899,0913.1.
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]


Children play with a fish that they have apparently caught, raising it triumphantly to the sky. Another group of children try to catch another fish in the shallow water.


Charles Shannon, 'Sea-Folk' (1897)
[Image: British Museum, London: 
1899,0913.1.
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

One wonders, of course, if the fish would not have fled long ago in the face of this crowd of children amusing themselves so loudly; Shannon probably combined several observations at the beach.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

517. Milton's Early Poems in a Pigskin Binding

On 17 June, at Dominic Winter Auctions three lots of Vale Press books were sold, the last one being a copy of John Milton's Early Poems (1896), the first book of the Vale Press. The catalogue description states its condition: 'light toning to a couple of leaves, light spotting to endpapers, ink inscription to front endpaper, original cream blindstamped cloth gilt, gilding to spine rubbed in places'. The second part of the description incorrectly asserts that the copy was still in the original publisher's binding. I previously wrote about the variants of the publisher's binding for this book in blog 244, [more information including illustrations can be found in Binding Variants of the First Vale Press Book].

The picture in the catalogue Children’s & Illustrated Books, Private Press & Fine Bindings, Modern First Editions clearly shows a completely different binding.

John Milton, Early Poems (1896)

The provenance was based on an ink inscription: 'From the books of Arthur & Margaret Gillett, 21.4. 1962'. And, the catalogue continued: 'Probably Margaret Clark Gillett (1878-1962) botanist and social reformer, noted for advocating for women and children held in concentration camps after the Boer War.’ (Information taken from Wikipedia.)

Although her name does not appear in the index of Marianne Tidcombe's Women Bookbinders 1880-1920, it is nevertheless this essential reference work that can provide information on the name of the bookbinder.

Appendix 3 lists all Sybil Pye's bindings and the Vale Press Milton appears twice. Number 27 describes a bookbinding from 1918, made for G.E. Chatfield, and in style it is exactly what one imagines a Sybil Pye binding to be: 'White pigskin, inlaid with red and black pigskin, and gold-tooled'.

The Gillett binding has no inlays and is described as number 12. It is one of Pye's earliest commissions: 'White pigskin, blind- and gold-tooled. Bound 1909. A.B. Gillett.'

A.B. Gillett was Arthur Bevington Gillett (1875-1954), who married in 1909, the year he commissioned Pye to bind his copy of Early Poems. He married Margaret Clark (1878-1962), and they moved to North Oxford. His portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery.

Had the auction house known that this binding was by Sybil Pye, even if it was an early one, the estimate of £200-£300 would probably have been higher. However, during the auction, the price quickly rose due to a battle between two bidders and when that seemed to have ended, a third bidder stepped forward and paid the final price of £1,700 (amount without premium).

Apparently, the Pye binding had caught the eye of several interested parties.

The binding is stamped in blind and in gold with ovals, squares and leaves. The shapes in the centre suggest a portal, with a semi-circle above containing the title. The inner circle has the year of publication (1896), and the initials C (left) and R (right), referring (probably) to Charles Ricketts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

516. Keep Following Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon...

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Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon (blog 513)


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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

515. Thomas Stainton, a Vale Press Collector (2)

Thomas Stainton's collection consisted of two sections. The oldest section comprised manuscripts and printed books in remarkable bindings. The second part contained publications from the 1890s: some Oscar Wilde books and an incomplete set of The Yellow Book, but mostly private press editions. 

Barham House, Kent
(the library was located on the ground floor,
behind the two windows on the right)

Subsequent additions by the family that inherited the collection (and relocated the library to Barham House near Canterbury) are rather miscellaneous: a Cuala Press edition of Yeats's poetry; a monograph about the architect E.L. Lutyens (who remodelled Barham House); British Flowery Plants by Perrin and Boulger (1914), A History of English Furniture (1904-1908), and some facsimiles of manuscripts that fit well with the old nucleus of the collection. There was also a notable section of works by Joseph Conrad, including a dedication copy with an autograph letter from the author who lived near the Stainton family (and was buried in Canterbury in 1924).

Private presses

Evidently, in later life, Thomas Stainton became interested in the ideas of William Morris and, at the end of the nineteenth century, began collecting publications of the private presses. Only one work from the Doves Press was listed (Tacitus, 1900), the same goes for the Essex House Press (Bunyan, 1899). 

However, the Eragny Press was represented with fifteen books (lots 100-107), and the Kelmscott Press with seven books (lots 147-153).

Kelmscott Press lots 147-152
(Catalogue of a Library of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Fine Bindings.
The Property of Mrs. Evelyn Stainton, Barham House, Canterbury

London: Sotheby & Co., 26-27 February 1951)


Stainton must have taken this new branch of his collection seriously, as evidenced by the presence of a copy of the most famous private press edition from the 1890s, a paper copy of Chaucer's Works. (In 1951, this copy was purchased by Maggs for £105.) Stainton's ownership and the 1951 auction are not mentioned in The Kelmscott Chaucer. A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson (2011). The copy may have changed hands a few times since. 

Apparently, Stainton did not mark these new books with an inscription, and he did not have a bookplate made. In the manuscripts and printed books from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century, he wrote his name and the date of purchase, but the new books remained without any trace of the owner.

Vale Press

By far the largest part of his private press collection was formed by 95 volumes issued by the Vale Press. This was a nearly complete collection with only two omissions and a few duplicates. It took up lots 247 through 276 in the 1951 auction catalogue. 

Among the pre-Vale publications are copies of Daphnis and Chloe, Hero and Leander and The Sphinx. Thomas Stainton must have taken a subscription to all the works of the Vale Press; the only two volumes missing are E.B. Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese (1897) and A Catalogue of Mr. Shannon's Lithographs (1902). 

Vale Press, lots 259-276
(Catalogue of a Library of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Fine Bindings.
The Property of Mrs. Evelyn Stainton, Barham House, Canterbury

London: Sotheby & Co., 26-27 February 1951)


Two duplicate copies of three books were present: Maurice de GuĂ©rin's The Centaur. The Bacchante (1899), Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1901) and Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (1902). 

Among the star items in his Vale Press collection are two books printed on vellum (and bound to a special design by Ricketts) and another five books that, while simply printed on paper, have a goat- or pigskin leather binding to a unique design by Ricketts. It is no comparison to the extremely rich legacy of his contemporary Laurence Hodson, but it is a considerable collection on its own.

Vale Press, lot 254-256
(Catalogue of a Library of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Fine Bindings.
The Property of Mrs. Evelyn Stainton, Barham House, Canterbury

London: Sotheby & Co., 26-27 February 1951)

The early Vale Press editions were printed exclusively on paper and not bound in leather. From October 1897, copies were also printed on vellum and from a year later copies could be bound in leather to a design by Ricketts.

Thomas Stainton commissioned special bindings for some of the early editions: The Poems of Sir John Suckling (1896) was bound in (probably creme) pigskin and decorated with a blind-stamped design. A similar binding was commissioned for Vaughan's Sacred Poems (1897). These bindings are extremely rare, in most cases only one copy has survived, in some cases three copies exist.

For other editions, the collector commissioned bindings in goatskin leather to a design by Ricketts: the two volumes of Tennyson's In Memoriam and Lyric Poems (1900), for example, have been bound in green morocco, the Poems of John Keats (two volumes, 1898) were bound in red morocco tooled to a design by Ricketts - (a similar set was the subject of blog 356: Vale Press Keats Edition in a Deluxe Binding) - and a copy of Shelley's Lyrical Poems (1898) was bound in red morocco to a design by Ricketts, executed by Zaehnsdorf. 

Stainton owned a vellum copy of William Blake's Poetical Sketches (1899), bound in a vellum binding with gilt spine; Ricketts, by now, had decided to have the vellum copies bound to a standard design with front and back covers left blank. Stainton also owned a vellum copy of The Sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney (1897), bound in (quoting the catalogue) 'red morocco tooled to a design by C. Ricketts, a series of line panels, one within the other, leaves at corners and on back, g.e., bound by Riviere under the supervision of C. Ricketts and signed "H R" [Hacon and Ricketts]'. 

Michael Field, Fair Rosamund (1897)
[British Library, Davis274]


The two books printed on vellum did not fetch the highest prices: £28 (Sidney, in a special binding) and £10 (Blake, in a standard binding), indicating that the buyers were mainly interested in bookbindings. The highest bid, £36, was for the two volumes of Keats (printed on paper, but in special bindings), immediately followed by the one-volume edition of Michael Field's Fair Rosamund (1897) that was sold for £32. This was the true highlight of Staintons's Vale Press collection. It was acquired by the book- and printseller Heinrich Eisemann (1890-1972). The next owner was Max Reich, whose collection was sold in 1960. Henry Davis owned this book until 1968, when he donated his collection of bookbindings to the British Library.

Mirjam Foot described the binding in her book The Henry Davis Gift. A Collection of Bookbindings (1983) as: 'Red goatskin tooled in gold to a design of concentric panels with small solid tools, leaf tools, crowns, and R tools. The spine has five gold-tooled bands and six compartments tooled in gold; title lettered on spine. Bound by Riviere & Son (stamp).'

Michael Field, Fair Rosamund (1897) [detail]
[British Library, Davis274]

Obviously, the 'R's refer to the name of the heroine, Rosamund, and the crowns to her position as mistress of King Henry II. Some tools are not mentioned by Foot. These are the small solid heart shape and an open heart shape (love). In the four corners the two shapes are connected by double lines to form an arrow of love (Amor). The central panel contains eight stylised roses (Rosamund). Ricketts's original design drawing for this copy is in the V&A collection.

Thomas Stainton's collection had a secret existence for more than half a century, and even after that, the provenance of the books was often unclear and his nephew's widow was indicated as the (last) owner. There is no known correspondence between Ricketts and Stainton, or between the publisher or shop of Hacon & Ricketts and the collector. Why he was particularly interested in the Vale Press we may never know.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

514. Thomas Stainton, a Vale Press Collector (1)

In February 1951, Sotheby & Co in London issued a catalogue of the collection of books from the property of Mrs. Evelyn Stainton, Barham House, Canterbury: Catalogue of a Library of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Fine Bindings. Advertisements highlighted the collection of book bindings, "including a binding for Frederick, Prince of Wales, and an unpublished binding for Thomas Mahieu (Maiolus)". 

The second book was a psalter printed in Basle in 1547, and probably bound for Thomas Mahieu around 1555. This is lot 216 in the catalogue, sold to Konniche - or Konninck? (in the list of prices and buyers' names both forms of the name are listed) - for £500. 

The first book was Robert Tailfer's True and Correct Tables of Time of 1736 in a binding with the arms of Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III. This lot, number 241, was sold to Michelmore for £60. G. Michelmore's collection was sold on 14 October 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II acquired the book for the Royal Collection Trust (for £200).

Nathaniel Evelyn William Stainton (1863-1940)

The widow Harriet Wilhelmina Stainton, born Grimshaw would dispose of the contents of Barham House later that year through Phillips, Son & Neale in London: 'old-English and decorative furniture, eastern carpets, porcelain, pictures, silver and plated ware'. She moved to Sevenoaks.

From her marriage in 1912, she had lived in Canterbury in the house her husband had moved into a few years earlier. His name was Nathaniel Evelyn William Stainton. He had been born in London on 20 June 1863 and would die on 1 November 1940 in Bridge, Kent. At his death in 1940, he left a fortune of £101,863 (net personalty £45,445), which was divided between his two sons. (The couple also had two daughters.) His wife received an annuity of £4,000He must have had a considerable amount of money at his disposal before he inherited another £50,000 or so from an uncle in 1909.

Catalogue (Sotheby & Co., auction of 26-27 February 1951)

The obituaries remain silent about the book collection. However, his social functions are mentioned. He was Justice of the Peace of the County, president of the Village Hall (he had contributed 'the bulk of the money which enabled it to be built'), president of the local District Nursing Association and of the Barham Conservative Association. He was remembered as a 'keen churchman' and 'a real sportsman'. 

Evelyn Stainton was not a book collector, he had probably inherited the collection from Thomas Stainton, who collected books 'in the last forty years of the nineteenth century' (according to The Burlington Magazine, February 1951).

Thomas Stainton (1825-1910)

It is not clear how Thomas Stainton's books came to his nephew Evelyn Stainton. In his will, Thomas (who died unmarried) left an annual sum to the butler and his wife, and the 'residue' went to 'four nieces'. The latter must have been a mistake for two nieces and two nephews, the others having died. 

Stainton was born on 27 July 1825 in London, went to college in Oxford (BA 1851); he lived in London for the rest of his life. After his death, his collection of paintings and old Italian bronzes was sold at auction at Foster's, Pall Mall. The London Daily News (1 July 1910) reported that the bronzes were 'picked up for "half nothing", it is said by the late Mr. Thomas Stainton, 37, Welbeck Street', and now they realised 'striking prices'.

Emblemas morales de Don Ivan de Horozco y Couarruuias
Arcediano de Cuellaren en la fanta Yglesia de Segouia
(1589)

Books with owner inscriptions from Stainton may have been sold elsewhere. Maggs bought one of his books from Hodgson & Co in 1946, Juan Ochoa de la Salde's Primera parte de la carolea inchiridion... (1555), with the annotation 'Thomas Stainton, Jan. 28 1871'. This book did not appear in the 1951 Sotheby catalogue. A treatise now in the collection of the Folklore Society Library does not appear in that catalogue either, nor does a work now in the collection of emblemata at the University of Illinois, Emblemas morales de Don Ivan de Horozco y Couarruuias Arcediano de Cuellaren en la fanta Yglesia de Segouia (1589). It has the ownership inscription of Thomas Stainton on the title page (below the main title). It is likely, therefore, that some parts of the collection were sold on other dates and at other auction houses.

J. Calvin, La Concordance qu'on appelle harmonie (1558)
[Allard Pierson, Amsterdam]


The collection included diverse types of books: there was a large number of bindings containing manuscripts (such as books of hours), incunabula and other early printed works, often from France or Italy. An example is Calvin's La Concordance qu'on appelle harmonie (1558), no. 56 in the catalogue. It was bought by Maggs, came to the collection of John Roland Abbey, and currently is in the collection of Allard Pierson, Amsterdam. 

There was English literature (Dickens, Conrad), and books on birds, art or history, and several shelves with private press books. 

To be continued.