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.