Wednesday, February 28, 2024

656. Where Are All These Copies Now?

The edition of the Vale Press publications varied between 150 and 320 copies. So at most 150 complete collections may exist, but many public collections contain only a few volumes, although some are more complete or even exhaustive.

Where did copies of an arbitrary Vale Press book end up, for example, Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson - alternative title on the spine and in the colophon: Lyric Poems. The book was published in 1900. This is certainly not one of the most desirable volumes of Ricketts's publications - the volume is not illustrated with wood-engravings and - even in 1900 - there were so many other editions of Tennyson's work for sale. The same goes for its companion volume In Memoriam.

Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson, decoration by Charles Ricketts
(Vale Press, 1900) 

Distribution of the edition has been largely limited to the English-speaking world. Many copies of Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson remained in the country of production, which is little wonder: there are thirteen copies on paper and (at least) one on vellum in British libraries and museums.

However, most copies of this edition are in the United States where, based on online catalogues, as many as twenty-five copies can be counted. In addition, three copies are in Australian libraries and only one copy is kept in Irish libraries, which is also true of Canadian libraries.

Perhaps there are also copies in Asian, African or South American libraries, but I have not been able to ascertain that. Nor does the European continent abound in Vale Press editions. I have only found two copies of this edition in Dutch institutional collections, where there is a copy on paper (Leiden University Library) and a copy on vellum (National Library The Hague).

Prospectus for the Vale Press Tennyson edition (1900)

In all, only 46 copies of the edition of 320 copies have now been located.

There are Vale Press books in German, Belgian and French libraries (not this edition), but I have not yet discovered them in northern European libraries (Scandinavia) or southern European countries (Italy, Spain). 

Apparently, they were collected only in countries where the Private Press movement exerted some influence around 1900.

Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson, initial by Charles Ricketts
(Vale Press, 1900) 

It is impossible to get a complete picture of the copies on private bookshelves. However, we can see where copies are for sale.

Four copies are currently offered online by antiquarian bookshops in Seattle (USA), Adelaide (Australia), Zurich (Switzerland) and Glasgow (Great Britain). 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

655. The Programme for T.S. Moore's Aphrodite Against Artemis (1906)

Ricketts's yellow was the prevailing colour of the first performance of the Literary Stage Society - a group including Thomas Sturge Moore, Laurence Binyon, William Pye, R.C. Trevelyan, Ricketts & Shannon, Gwendolyn Bishop and Florence Farr. The play was by T.S. Moore, Aphrodite Against Artemis, and Ricketts was the designer.

'The scenery and costumes', according to the programme, 'have been carried out after designs by Mr. C.S. Ricketts as closely as circumstances permitted.' Sounds like a warning.

There were weak parts in the play, there was some 'atrocious acting', and the day after, a highly critical review offended the author.

Images of the rare programme, like the Salome programme in last week's blog, were kindly provided by Steven Halliwell.

Programme for T.S. Moore's Aphrodite Against Artemis (1906)


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

654. The Programme for Wilde's Salome (1906)

On 10 June 1906, a first performance of Oscar Wilde's play Salome took place at the King's Hall in London. The omens were not positive: some actresses refused to play the role, Wilde's name was still linked to scandal, funders were shy, costumes went missing, and newspapers returned their tickets for the first performance and refused to publish photos. But the audience - including W.B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, G.B. Shaw, Max Beerbohm, Eleanore Duse - responded enthusiastically, and Ricketts's stage designs 'surpassed belief'.

Charles Ricketts, stage design for Salome (1906)

Few copies of the printed programme have survived, as is often the case with ephemeral publications of this type. It is therefore with pleasure that we can publish the programme here in full. Collector Steven Halliwell provided the images below. Page 2 is blank - only pages 1 and 3-4 contain text.

Programme for Salome and A Florentine Tragedy, London, 10 June 1906

(With thanks to Steven Halliwell.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

653. Charles Shannon's Design of Pan Surrounded by Nymphs

One of Ricketts's and Shannon's most comprehensive projects in the early 1890s was an illustrated edition of the classic story of Daphnis and Chloe. Shannon had found an early English translation which they thought was much better than Amyot's French version and they decided to illustrate the story with wood-engravings and publish it themselves. However, halfway through - almost a year was needed just to cut the thirty-seven engravings - they agreed with Elkin Mathews and John Lane that The Bodley Head would distribute the book. 

Vignette for the colophon of Daphnis and Chloe (1893):
trial proof, signed 'C Ricketts'
[British Museum, 1913,0814.31]
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

The wood-engravings were designed by Ricketts and Shannon, drawn on the wood by Ricketts, and engraved by both. Trial proofs of many of the illustrations exist, printed in black but also in ochre, red and reddish brown, and a large proportion of the separate prints were signed by Shannon or Ricketts (on these their signatures never appear together).

Although they had both become accustomed to signing their work - Ricketts's illustrations in magazines or Shannon's lithographs, for example - the wood-engravings in the book were not signed. However, there is remarkably a single exception.

Wood-engraving of Pan and nymphs for Daphnis and Chloe (1893)
Trial proof, signed 'Charles Shannon'
[British Museum, 
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

In the book, on page 45, Shannon illustrated a scene in an orchard or wood, depicting Pan surrounded by nymphs. Each of them holds or has an apple. In the lower left hand corner Shannon engraved his initials 'CHS'.

Wood-engraving of Pan and nymphs for Daphnis and Chloe (1893)
Trial proof, signed 'Charles Shannon': detail
[British Museum, 
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

But why does this wood-engraving bear Shannon's initials? Why were they not omitted as in the other illustrations? This authorship issue removes the uniformity of their collaboration. 

Why did Shannon want to claim precisely this illustration? We cannot assume that Ricketts disagreed with this representation and that it was therefore left to Shannon. Or is this one of the first blocks to be cut and does their decision to anonymise the illustrations - or rather see them as the work of both artists - date from later?

The initials could somehow have been removed or covered up at a later stage, but this was not done, even though work was done on the block after the trial proof was printed. 

Wood-engraving of Pan and nymphs for Daphnis and Chloe (1893)
Trial proof, signed 'Charles Shannon': detail
[British Museum, 
[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

The reclining nymph on the bottom right is wearing a dress with a fold that extends from her waist to the level of her knee in the trial proof. In the book, this black curve has been removed, creating a white space that is in line with the lightness of the other figures in the lower quarter of the image, in contrast to the darkness of the trees in the upper part.

Charles Shannon, wood-engraving of Pan and nymphs
Daphnis and Chloe (1893): detail