Wednesday, April 26, 2023

612. Michael Field in a Collection of Books by New Women

The New Woman. With some fellow travellers and a few antagonists is the title of the second part of Phil Cohen's collection that Maggs Bros in London has issued (Catalogue 1517). The number of names unknown to me in this catalogue compiled by Alice Rowell - 490 pages - is large - it is a real treasure trove. Alice Rowell characterises the research into this collection as 'a highpoint' of her 'Maggs career thus far'.
The New Woman (Maggs Bros, catalogue 1517)

The majority of the collection was sold en bloc 'to an institution' (email from Alice Rowell, accompanying the e-catalogue, 19 April 2023). 

About sixty books are for sale, however, and these include a number of books by 'Michael Field': Edith Cooper and Katharine Bradley.

More than twenty pages in the catalogue are devoted to Michael Field's work, covering numbers 249 to 303, and including Bradley's first book The New Minnesinger and Other Poems (1875). There is (among the autographs) an early letter giving permission to publish one of the poems, a translation from Heine's 'The Fisher Maiden', 'with music'.

Multiple copies and multiple editions of many works are present, including deluxe and presentation copies, the whole forming a complete Michael Field collection.

The New Woman (Maggs Bros, catalogue 1517, nos. 270-280)

The four plays published by the Vale Press are all present. There is a copy of Fair Rosamund in the so-called 'flame binding' (survivor of a fire in 1899). The prospectus for this edition is also present - the prospectuses of the other three Vale Press books are absent.

The series of plays for which Ricketts designed some 'devices' is - exceptionally - complete, from Borgia (1905) to In the Name of Time (1919). 

The late poetry collections for which Ricketts designed the bookbindings are present as well: from Wild Honey (1908) to Dedicated (1914). 

The New Woman (Maggs Bros, catalogue 1517, no. 295)

There is a copy of Dedicated in the extremely rare (plain) dust jacket.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

611. Silverpoints on an American Shelf

Only a minority of book collectors write about their collection, but some collectors actually enjoy writing about the books they surround themselves with.

One such collector and author was Lawrence Clark Powell (1906-2001), a bookseller turned University Librarian on the Los Angeles campus of the University of California and Director of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Lawrence Clark Powell, Books in My Baggage (1960) [cover]

In May 1949, he published an essay titled "Nine by Nine" in Hoja Volante, the magazine of the Zamorano Club. (He was a member of all the significant bibliophile societies in the USA.) The essay was later published in Books in My Baggage (1960). [I am indebted to antiquarian Nick ter Wal (Artistiek Bureau) who drew my attention to this essay.]

In this essay, Powell describes the books in his study, which housed half of his collection: 1,000 books. The room measured nine by nine feet.

This compels me to discipline my tastes and to choose for roommates only those volumes which I feel I must see every day.
Note that I said "see" every day, not necessarily read. For next best to reading books is to sit at slippered ease and look at their backs.

For example, there are childhood books, little books, a collection of Greek lyric and pastoral poetry, Chinese poetry in translation and the works of Peter Lum Quince (Ward Ritchie).

Close by is my favorite book of the 1890s - John Gray's Silverpoints, exquisitely designed by Charles Ricketts as a tall, narrow octavo.

Lawrence Clark Powell, Books in My Baggage (1960) [page 21]

This copy is now at Occidental College Library, Los Angles, California, Mary Norton Clapp Library: Special Collections & College Archives: Fine Printing 821.89 G779s 1893, as 'Gift of Lawrence Clark Powell'.

He eventually relinquished it, after years of watching its back from his easy chair. Incidentally: an unremarkable back: green and slender, but undecorated!

You have to know the book well to think of the fantastically vivid design of the covers when looking at its spine.

John Gray,

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

610. Ricketts and Shannon in a Limerick

As they gradually became famous personalities in the art world - exhibitions, articles and opinions on museums and art purchases made them more familiar - Ricketts's and Shannon's names popped up in unexpected quarters.

R.D. [Randall Davies], A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense (1912, cover)

John Aplin found a reference to a limerick in a letter from Charles Ricketts to Sydney Cockerell, dated 10 May 1912. Ricketts quoted the limerick, which he found 'charming' (BL Add MS 52746, f 66).

R.D. [Randall Davies], A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense (1912, title page)

The poem was published in an edition whose author hid behind the initials R.D., but Ricketts knew they stood for Randall Davies and presumably he received A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense as a gift from the author. Randall Robert Henry Davies (1866-1946) was a major collector of old masters, drawings and English watercolours, who as a young man befriended Herbert Horne, became his executor, and edited the catalogue of Horne's art collection. He wrote several books about artists, Chelsea architecture, caricatures, and watercolours. Portraits of Davies were painted by James Kerr-Lawson and Glyn Philpot (who had also portrayed the artist Gladys Miles, who later married Davies) and, additionally, there is a bronze buste by Romano Romanelli. In 1930, Davies was selected by the Trustees of the Melbourne National Gallery to buy paintings in London. 

James Kerr-Lawson, portrait of Randall Davies
[Chelsea Library, London]

The manager of the Vale Press, Charles Holmes, knew Davies, and Ricketts may have known Davies as well.

R.D. [Randall Davies], A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense (1912, page 139)

A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense was published in 1912 by Macmillan & Co. Ltd. The old-fashioned spelling of the title was chosen to match the woodcuts collected by the author, which were about four hundred years old at the time.

R.D. [Randall Davies], A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense (1912, poem on page 138)

Most limericks are about 'an old fellow called Cox', 'a young housemaid at Ashdown' and 'a young lady called Mabel'. Only three actual persons appear in it. The third (page 138) is a sportsman mentioned in a limerick about an amateur golfer who fears he shall 'never beat Vardon'. Henry Vardon (1870-1937) was a famous golfer from Jersey. 

Two persons more familiar to us are mentioned on page 126:

There was a young Lady of Annan,
Whose father-in-law was a Canon;
        But she gave up the Church
        For artistic research,
And consorted with Ricketts and Shannon.

R.D. [Randall Davies], A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense (1912, poem on page 126)

The woodcut that inspired these lines explains why it made Davies think of Ricketts and Shannon. The centaur on the left does resemble Ricketts - who, by 1912, had exhibited some bronzes of a centaur. 

R.D. [Randall Davies], A Lyttel Booke of Nonsense (1912, page 127)

The centaur on the right bears little resemblance to Shannon, but then: where one saw Ricketts one expected to see Shannon.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

609. "The Property of J.G. Paul Delaney"

On 30 March 2023, Forum Auctions' Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper included a 'Private Press & Limited Editions' section, the first part of which was presented as 'The Property of J.[G.] Paul Delaney, author of a biography and other books on Charles Ricketts'. These lots, numbered 471 to 479, do not comprise the complete collection of Delaney, who returned to his native Canada years ago after a long stint in London - previously he sold exceptional items from his collection, such as letters from Ricketts and Shannon.

The books did remarkably well at this auction and easily reached the highest estimates, with the exception of the last lot that contained a single book: The Parables from the Gospels (1903); hammer price was £300 - against an estimate of £400-£600. Recent hammer prices for this book were £350 (2020), £460 (2021), €650 (2022), £320 (2022), and prices ranged between US$2,400 (2020), £1,475 (2021), £2,000 (2022). Delaney's copy went for a low price.

Marlowe, Hero and Leander
(wood engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon)

The only other lot containing one work was lot 474: Marlowe's Hero and Leander with wood-engravings by Ricketts and Shannon (1894). Hammer price was the highest estimate: £1,000.

The remaining seven lots in this auction were composed around particular authors, such as Gordon Bottomley and Oscar Wilde, while other lots included small collections of editions by Ricketts or the Vale Press.

An interesting stowaway aboard lot 473 was a book from Ricketts's own library - Ricketts, by the way, was not a neat librarian; many of his books show that his books were there for his daily use, not for his aesthetic pleasure. In this case, it was a monograph on furniture: Wilhelm Bode's Die Italienischen Hausm̦bel der Renaissance (Leipzig, 1907). The lot contained thirty-four other works and the hammer price wasʣ1,000.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

Most lots fetched around £1,000, but there was an upward exception. The second lot in this section of the auction consisted of four books by Oscar Wilde: a first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, a copy of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime & Other Stories, a second edition of Intentions and a copy of the play A Woman of No Importance. None of these books was in ideal condition. Terms such as 'rubbed', 'foxed', 'soiled', 'rather rubbed and soiled' applied to all four, but for Wilde's novel it applied in extenso: the spine was damaged at the top, had a transverse tear halfway down the spine and the spine was almost detached from the covers. 

The upside was that no restoration attempts had been made and all parts were original. Perhaps this was appreciated. Anyway, initial bids immediately exceeded estimates of £1,000 to £1,500 and the hammer price was £3,800.