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.