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.