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.