Wednesday, February 23, 2022

551. A Daphnis and Chloe Provenance (3)

The final episode on the provenance of the copy of Daphnis and Chloe in the collection of Arizona State University Library deals with the older bookplate of Charles Plumtre Johnson that was pasted into the book first, and later partly covered by Sperisen's ex libris (see blog 550) and Ricketts's postcard to Walker (see blog 549).

Arthur Robertson, Bookplate for Charles Plumptre Johnson (1889)

It is a rather nineteenth-century image, dated 1889, in which various neo-styles evoke the atmosphere of a cosy spacious reading room with fireplace, an oil lamp attached to a lectern with the ex libris inscription, a seated woman, a standing child, and a relaxed girl, all handling rather large-format books. To the left and right, books stand and lie, displayed, stacked or set aside. 

The ex libris, signed with the initials 'AR', was drawn by the  artist Arthur Robertson (1850-1911). [Brian North Lee wrote an engaging article about him for The Bookplate Magazine of March 1992.]

Fortunately, the name of the book's original owner has been given the less common middle name of Plumptre. Charles Plumptre Johnson can be identified quite easily as the son of Sir George Johnson (1818-1896), Physician-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria.

Charles Plumptre Johnson (1853-1938) was a yachtsman - for his yachting career see Maritime Views. However, he was also a bibliophile, a bibliographer of note, and an author of several books on collecting first editions of Dickens and Thackeray. Educated at Marlborough and matriculated at the London University in 1872, he was admitted a solicitor in 1876. At the end of his professional career, he was a director of the Law Fire Insurance Society.

Charles Plumptre Johnson by Bassano Ltd,
whole-plate glass negative, 20 April 1921
[National Portrait Gallery: NPG x120938]
(Creative Commons License)

He was a member of the Sette of Odd Volumes as early as 1891 and inscribed copies of this bibliophile society's publications are now in the Norman Colbeck Collection. He collected modern literary works, water-colours and prints of boats, and he donated his collection of Gilbert and Sullivan, including manuscripts, to the British Museum. Given in 1935, the collection was exhibited in the King's Library in 1936.

Initially, he lived in London at 14, Cavendish-Place, but he relocated to Sevenoaks in Kent in 1911 after acquiring the Park Grange Estate where he lived until his death in 1938. He bequeathed the house and estate to the Sevenoaks School of which he had been a stern supporter for years. His fortune amounted to £340.000 of which large sums went to hospitals, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and the school.

On Monday 1 June 1942, Sotheby's organized the auction of his book collection: 'Printed Books, comprising sets of First Editions in fine Bindings of Charles Dickens, W.M. Thackeray, A. Trollope and many other famous English Authors, of the late Charles Plumptre Johnson ESO’ (Times, 19 May 1942). Newspaper reports also mentioned works by Walter Scott, Tobias Smollett, R.L. Stevenson, Thomas Hardy and J.M. Barrie: 'Some of them are accompanied by autograph letters of the novelists, as in the case of Barrie, who discloses that "in a vague sort of way Jamieson, who edited the Scottish Dictionary was the original Little Minister". There are 32 first editions in the Stevenson set, 74 volumes of Scott, 131 of Thackeray, 136 of Dickens (including 54 of Dickensiana), 51 of Hardy, and 32 of Smollett. A first edition of Sherlock Holmes, inscribed and signed by Conan Doyle is another rarity in the saleroom. It was published in 1894.' (The Scotsman, 19 May 1942).

But there must have been an earlier auction of his library. Bookseller and collector Norman Colbeck (1903-1988) remembered this in 1968:

[...] on his death I attended the sale (held by Maples) in his residence, Park Grange, Sevenoaks – a lovely manor house looking down on Knole Park. The occasion was indeed the most unforgettable event in my life as far as book sales are concerned: and though I do not suppose anybody present was more sensitive than I to condition in books of the eighteen-nineties, I am sure there are several collectors still living who recall those days as vividly as I do.
(A Bookman’s Catalogue. The Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres in the Special Collections of The University of British Columbia. Compiled with a Preface by Norman Colbeck. Edited by Tirthankar Bose, with an Introduction by William E. Fredeman. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 1987, p. xxi.)

Unfortunately, I have not seen a catalogue of these auctions, but I assume that Daphnis and Chloe, an edition from the 1890s, was auctioned at the first auction in the house of the collector Charles Plumptre Johnson.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

550. A Daphnis and Chloe Provenance (2)

In this sequel about the provenance of a copy of Daphnis and Chloe (1893) in the collection of the Arizona State University Library - see last week's blog 549. A Daphnis and Chloe Provenance (1) - I will consider the more recent bookplate pasted to the reverse of the front cover.

Daphnis and Chloe (Vale Press, 1893)
Collection ASU, Arizona State University Library:
SPEC C-1987

This is the bookplate of Albert Sperisen (1908-1999) that he used only for his collection of Vale Press books. He designed and commissioned other ex-libris as well, for example, for his collection of Eric Gill wood engravings. 

Sperison, who lived in San Francisco, enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts, and later worked as an art director and book designer, and he was associated with some private presses, including the Black Vine Press. He was an influential member of the Book Club of California since 1937, serving as librarian, and (vice-) president of the Board. 

Parts of his book collection were donated to Stanford University Library, Clark Library, University of California at Los Angeles, and the Gleeson Library in San Francisco.

His Vale Press collection is said to be at Stanford, but some Vale Press books have found their way to institutional collections elsewhere, and to private collections.

Press mark in The List of Books to Be Published
by Messrs. Hacon and Ricketts...

For these books, he used a bookplate depicting the first pressmark of the Vale Press: the initials V and P, a rose, and the letters S and R representing Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts. Its first appearance was in a pre-Vale book, Hero and Leander (1894), in which it was printed on the last page under the motto 'Inter Folia Renata Rosa'.

This press mark also adorned the first prospectuses for the Vale Press in 1896 (such as The List of Books to Be Published by Messrs. Hacon and Ricketts..., 1896), but in the first official book of the Vale Press, Milton's Early Poems (1896), it was changed: the letters S and R were replaced by H and R, the firm's business partners: Llewellyn Hacon and Charles Ricketts. Shannon was not involved in the publishing business.

Press mark in A List of Books Issued
by Messrs. Hacon & Ricketts...

Not only the initials have been changed, the whole image has been redrawn, the serifs of the V are more in keeping with the typeface Ricketts had since designed (in the earlier design these were rather thin lines), and the rose now shows all kinds of subtleties that were missing in the first design. 

It is somewhat strange that Sperisen chose the earlier variant for his bookplate, which after all did not really refer to the Vale Press period, but to the pre-Vale books, and that he thus ignored the later more beautiful version.

However, it is conceivable that he first acquired a copy of Hero and Leander and only later managed to buy Milton's Early Poems, or one of the lists of announcements, and when he noticed the differences between the two designs, his bookplate had long since been printed and put to use.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

549. A Daphnis and Chloe Provenance (1)

Some books amass a demonstrable history over the course of their existence, ranging from neglect (broken spine, holes caused by rabbit attacks) to perfect museum care. Sometimes, on the outside, nothing is discernible. But once opened, several testimonials leap into view.

Daphnis and Chloe (Vale Press, 1893)
Collection ASU, Arizona State University Library,
SPEC C-1987
[Copyright Ricketts letter:
with permission of the executors of the Charles Ricketts estate, 
Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmain O'Neil]

A copy of the pre-Vale edition of Daphnis and Chloe (1893), containing wood-engravings by Ricketts and Shannon, in the Arizona State University Library collection shows two bookplates and a postcard. Let's try to establish their chronology, but first we will look at the most exciting item: a pasted-in postcard from Charles Ricketts to R.A. Walker dated 1927 - the postmark is from May 27, 1927.  The book dates back to 1893. So there's a lot of time in between.

Rainford Armitage Walker (1886-1960), a Beardsley and Shannon connoisseur, apparently suggested to Ricketts that he reissue the 1893 pre-Vale edition of Daphnis and Chloe. Ricketts's engaging response indicates that he is at once interested and full of doubt.

I intend replacing some 4 cuts by new ones which were not originally executed &, for the moment, I hesitate to take up wood engraving or facing the fuss of an reissue, though I feel it should be done as the original is badly printed. 

Printing techniques had changed seriously in the meantime, yet this remains a surprising assessment of one of the few books that was actually a huge success at the beginning of his career.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

548. The bookplate for Gleeson White Revisited

Almost nine years ago I published a blog about the problematic dating and the different versions of a bookplate that Ricketts designed for Gleeson White: Blog 95. The Bookplate for Gleeson White. The problem arose that reference works published different versions of the design: with the title 'Igdrasil' partly in mirror image in Ricketts' script, or not in mirror image and in a different handwriting; with or without dating under the image, and with or without the inscription 'Ex libris Gleeson White'.

By now, thanks to images available online, I think the riddle has finally been solved. No less than four versions of the bookplate exist.

Version 1

Charles Ricketts, 'Igdrasil' (1890)
[British Museum, 1962,0809.12]
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International 
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

153x152 mm. 
No inscription. 
No date.
Monogram in reverse. 
Title ‘IGDRASIL’: letters ‘DR’ are in reverse, the extended leg of ‘R’ points to the left. 
Location: British Museum.

Version 2

Charles Ricketts, 'Igdrasil' (1890)
[British Museum, 1912,0819.6]
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International 
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

175x150 mm. 
Includes inscription: “Ex Libris Gleeson White”. 
No date.
Monogram in reverse. 
Title ‘IGDRASIL’: letters ‘DR’ are in reverse, the extended leg of ‘R’ points to the left. 
Locations: British Museum: 1912,0819.6; Bodleian Library: John Johnson Collection; V&A: EW 149. E.2559-1929.

Version 3

Charles Ricketts, 'Igdrasil' (1890)

78x76 mm (image), 85x80 mm (including inscription “Ex Libris Gleeson White”] [leaf: 109x99 mm].
Includes inscription: "Ex Libris Gleeson White". 
No date.
Monogram in reverse.
Title ‘IGDRASIL’: Letters ‘DR’ are in reverse, the extended leg of ‘R’ points to the left.
Location: Private collection.

Version 4

Charles Ricketts, 'Igdrasil' (1890)

79x69 cm.
Includes inscription: “Ex Libris Gleeson White”.
Dated: 'MDCCCXC'.
Monogram in reverse. 
Title ‘IGDRASIL’: inscription has been redrawn; ‘IGDRASIL not written in CR’s script; letters are not in reverse, the leg of the R is not extended.
Location: Private collection, pasted in a book from the library of Gleeson White.

This was the version Gleeson White himself used in some of his books. The year has been added and the title corrected so that it is easy to read, although some of Charles Ricketts's distinctive script is sacrificed in the process.