Wednesday, April 24, 2024

664. A Vale Press Collector: Ambrose Heal

Some collections of major collectors may be preserved as a whole, for example by bequeathing them to a museum, archive or library, while others may be scattered among family members or through auctions. This is what happened to Ambrose Heal's collections. Heal (1872-1959), born into a family of furniture manufacturers, joined the family business Heal & Son in 1893, and, inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement, he designed simple and somewhat sturdy furniture that was shown at the Arts and Crafts exhibitions and reached a broad middle-class public. For an impression of his way of decorating his own home, see Cross Nelson, 'Ambrose Heal at Home' (Heal's, 19 April 2023).

His collection of trade-cards is now at the British Museum, his collection and documentation of sixteenth and seventeenth century writing masters and their copy books is now kept in the V&A. He wrote books on both subjects as well as on London history, including subjects such as furniture makers, goldsmiths and signboards. 

Signature of Ambrose Heal
in a copy of
The English Writing-Masters and Their Copy-Books, 1570-1800 (1931)
[KB, National Library, The Hague]
But his impressive library was not preserved as a whole. It was auctioned by his son Anthony S. Heal at Sotheby & Co in London in July 1964.

 Collector's mark of Ambrose Heal (4.3 x 3.2 cm)
[From Frans Lugt, Marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes online

The auction catalogue states on the title page that his collection included 'almost complete sets' of a number of private presses: Ashendene, Doves, Kelmscott and Vale Press, while he also had copies of books of other presses such as Daniel, Eragny and Essex House. This makes it a regular collection in terms of subject matter, but an exceptional one in terms of completeness.

Ambrose Heal

The magazine The Dial was not part of his collection, but two significant pre-Vale editions are present: Daphnis and Chloe (1893) and Hero and Leander (1894).Then, spread over four pages of the auction catalogue, follows a 'complete set' of the Vale Press books: lots 198 through 219.

Most books are grouped into lots with multiple books: 2 (4 lots), 3 (1 lot) and 4 (6 lots). Ten lots focus on a single title, but these are, for example, the three-volume Shelley edition or the complete series of thirty-eight Shakespeare volumes with the Marlowe included.

This was the custom at Sotheby's - and still is - for ordinary copies of private press editions. Indeed, Heal owned only a single Vale Press book printed on vellum: James I, The Kingis Quair (lot 218). He also owned a paper copy. 

The vellum Kingis Quair was unopened. Heal apparently had a preference for 'unopened' copies and possessed no fewer than fifteen volumes that were never cut open and read. These include the editions of Constable, Drayton, Sidney, Wordsworth, EcclesiastesT.S. Moore's Danaë, Shakespeare's The Passionate Pilgrim, Michael Field's plays The World at Auction and The Race of Leaves, the two-volume edition of Chatterton, the three-volume edition of Shelley's Poems.

In 1915, he acquired some volumes from the sale of the famous collection of George Dunn of Woolley Hall. Others had the bookplates of John Morgan, R.A. Walker, Francis Edwin Murray or Alice Marion Trusted and Herbert S. Squance.

Heal also owned one specially designed binding by Ricketts, for Apuleius' The Marriage of Cupide and Psyches (1897), executed in white pigskin, tooled in gilt and blind. This had the bookplate of John Morgan, whose collection was sold in 1908. The volume was acquired by Henri M. Petiet at the Heal auction and resurfaced in 1994 at the sale of his collection. This is now the Morgan-Heal-Petiet copy, although Heal's name was not mentioned in 1994, and the book probably does not have his bookplate. Current whereabouts unknown. The book was sold by in Paris Piasa in 2009 and by Sims Reed in London around 2011 when I saw it at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair. The volume contained handwritten notes by its first owner John Morgan about the costs of the special binding. The asking price in 2011 was £5,000.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

663. The Announcement of the Vale Shakespeare

The Academy. A Weekly Review of Literature and Life of 17 March 1900 published some critical notes on the announcement of the Vale Shakespaere. By this time, its editor was Charles Lewis Hind (1862-1927) who previously had been editor of The Art Journal and Pall Mall, and was a co-founder of The Studio

Cover illustration for The Academy (1900)
[KB, National Library, The Hague]

His ironic contribution (I assume he wrote these paragraphs) highlighted that the merits of the private press publications were small because of the small print runs and that the books were exploited by investors.

The Vale Press artists think that “no edition of Shakespeare’s Plays at present exists that is notable as a finely-printed book on paper whose permanence is undoubted.” So the Vale Press is going to issue its own Shakespeare, printed in a new “Avon” fount of small pica type, and adorned with borders and half-borders by Mr. Rickett[s]. Each play will be issued in a demy 8vo volume, and separate schemes of internal decoration have been arranged for the Tragedies, Comedies and Histories. Good! The world will soon have its well-printed enduring edition of Shakespeare. Scholars, book-lovers, critics – rise, welcome it in your myriads! Stay – what is this? “Only 310 sets of the Vale Shakespeare will be printed, of which 100 sets are for sale in the United States of America and 187 sets in Great Britain . . . The whole of the English edition of the Vale Shakespeare has been taken up by collectors and the trade.” Vale! 

Unfortunately these special editions are always exploited by speculators and those who have never before made a penny out of books succumb to the temptation. Only last week a gentleman having bought his right to a copy of the edition at 16s. a volume, transferred the right the next day, at a profit of 5s. a volume. The publication of the edition would have begun last year had it not been for the fire at Messrs. Ballantyne’s, which destroyed the type and the sheets of the first two volumes. (The Academy, 17 March 1900, p. 216)

The Acadamy (17 March 1900)

The notice was briefly summarised in the Dutch magazine De Kroniek of 25 March 1900. Hacon & Ricketts had announced the Shakespeare edition with a four-page prospectus (including order form) that probably appeared in the last quarter of the previous year. However, a fire at the printing firm on 9 December 1899 necessitated a delay. 

The wording of The Academy is often literally that of the prospectus - which does not refer to the fire. The magazine seems to be relying on this same prospectus, as if Hacon & Ricketts reused it as an announcement without modification. There were, however, two other notices referring to the fire either because it caused the publication programme to grind to a halt or to report which books were now still available. It is somewhat puzzling why no new announcement was made in February/March 1900. It would have been quite logical, although the books that had appeared in 1899 had all been fully subscribed. 

And there is another puzzle. When the announcement was sent out in 1899, the press did not pay any attention to it. It was only after the fire that it was reported that the Vale Press was working on this multi-volume edition to be published between 1900 and 1903.

The only solution is that it was not sent to the press at the time, but to Vale Press subscribers, dealers and collectors, and apparently, their numbers were sufficient to sell out the entire edition. That would explain why the Shakespeare was fully subscribed in advance, as one of the two later notices explained: 

Any subscribers who desire to cancel their orders on account of this postponement are requested to notify their intention at once, so that arrangements may be made for the transfer of their sets to those who were previously disappointed.

But, as The Academy, stated, in the meantime, there were subscribers who wanted to profit from it and instead of withdrawing their subscription, they sold it for high amounts to other collectors or dealers. One of those was John Lane, who from the latter half of 1900 was the sole agent for the Vale Press in America. He offered to buy back Vale Press books, only to sell them for higher prices.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

662. A Working Drawing for an Exhibition Room

Charles Shannon focused mainly on his fine art in lithography, pencil or oil. But in the early days he designed and made furniture, later, when Ricketts and he resided in the Keep of Chilham Castle, he designed fabrics for the four-poster beds. On occasion he designed a baptismal font, magisterial dressing gowns or the likes.  Although there is a catalogue of his lithographs, a survey of his paintings has never been published, and an inventory of his decorative works will probably never be made.

After his death, Christie's auctioned a four-fold screen. It is listed in Catalogue of Drawings and Paintings comprising […] Paintings by C.H. Shannon, R.A. Esq. Sold by Order of the Executors […]. London, Sotheby & Co., 29 March 1939, p. 18, no. 114, and described as 'A four-fold screen depicting various harvesting scenes by C.H. Shannon, R.A. each panel 70in. by 36in.' It was sold for £3 15s to Francis Howard.

Perhaps this was the 'decorative panel' called 'Autumn' that Shannon had exhibited in 1923 at the Royal Academy, see Exhibition of Decorative Art. Winter Exhibition Forty-Eighth Year. London, William Clowes and Sons, Printers to the Royal Academy [1923], p. [1], no. 2. 

In most cases, there are no images of such decorative works.

The British Museum holds a working drawing for a design that may have been intended as a tapestry, a folding screen, a tiled tableau, or some other type of decoration. It has no title.

Charles Shannon, Figures decorating an interior
[Location: British Museum, London: 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license
[© With permission of the executors of the Charles Ricketts estate,
Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmain O'Neil]

The drawing on paper (see the description on the British Museum website) is a brush drawing in grey ink, and graphite, squared for transfer, 34 x 43.2 cm. It is inscribed 'Shannon', and: 'Study for a Decoration'. Numbers have been written on the left-hand side.

It is an interior scene, in which ten characters engage in different activities. On the left side are tall windows, and a figure standing on a ladder arranging the curtains, aided by another on the floor.

Charles Shannon, Figures decorating an interior (detail)
[Location: British Museum, London: 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license
[© With permission of the executors of the Charles Ricketts estate,
Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmain O'Neil]

To their right, on the floor in the foreground sits a figure, apparently lifting a rug to some extent, perhaps to straighten it. 

In the corner by the window is a cabinet on legs. Paintings hang from left to right on the back wall.

Charles Shannon, Figures decorating an interior (detail)
[Location: British Museum, London: 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license
[© With permission of the executors of the Charles Ricketts estate,
Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmain O'Neil]

In the left-hand corner, a figure supports another, standing on a ladder, hand held to the top edge of a painting, presumably to hang it straight.

Next to them is a figure with a broom, while in front of this person another worker kneels on the ground, apparently with a dustpan and brush.

Charles Shannon, Figures decorating an interior (detail)
[Location: British Museum, London: 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license
[© With permission of the executors of the Charles Ricketts estate,
Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmain O'Neil]

On the right, a person is holding a painting in front of a seated figure, while in the middle behind them another figure is holding a painting diagonally. In front of the seated figure appears to be a table (perhaps the person sits in a wheelchair?).

The scene seems to be this: a room is transformed into a temporary exhibition space, or a personal gallery of paintings. The patron is then the seated figure.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

661. An American Vale Press Collector: Frederick W. Lehmann

Frederick William Lehmann (1853-1931) was an American lawyer, politician, United States Solicitor General, and rare book collector.

His parents had moved to the US from Prussia when he was two years old, his mother died young, and because of his father's strict upbringing, he ran away from home when he was ten. He roamed the Midwest, as a shepherd, farmhand or newspaper boy. When he was seventeen, he worked on the farm of Judge Epenetus Sears of Tabor, Iowa, who was so much impressed with his ability that he sent him to Tabor College. Lehmann graduated in 1873, and practised law in several cities. In 1890 he moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Active in Iowa politics, in 1910 William Howard Taft named him as United States Solicitor General. He had a remarkable, possibly photographic memory and was called 'the best educated man in St. Louis.'

F.W. Lehmann (1914)
[Wikimedia Commons]

He also manifested himself tirelessly on the cultural front, being a founder of the St. Louis Art Museum and the State Historical Society of Missouri and a president of the St. Louis Public Library. As a bibliophile, he collected works by Robert Burns and Charles Dickens and illustrations by George Cruikshank and Aubrey Beardsley.

He left a collection of autographs to the Missouri Historical Collection. The Frederick William Lehmann Papers at the Washington University St. Louis contain letters, pictures and documents of American political figures and authors including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Thackeray, and ephemera such as bookplates and calling cards.

He had the vast majority of his collection auctioned off at the Anderson Galleries in New York in 1930: A Charles Dickens Collection of Superlative Merit and Equally Fine First Editions of American and English Authors. The Library of the Honorable Frederick W. Lehmann St. Louis. MO. The catalogue [read the contents here] shows that his collection was rich in first editions of Dickens (lots 233-366), Emerson, Harte, Hawthorne, Longfellow, and others. 

Strengths, moreover, included extra-illustrated copies and bindings (such as an edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland bound by Cobden-Sanderson), and private press editions: The Cuala Press (42 books), Daniel Press (4 books),  The Doves Press (5 books), Essex House Press (5 books), Kelmscott Press (36 books  in 46 volumes [not including Chaucer], of which one printed on vellum), The Vale Press (18 volumes).

A Charles Dickens Collection of Superlative Merit and Equally Fine First Editions
of American and English Authors. The Library of the Honorable
Frederick W. Lehmann St. Louis. MO
(1930, p. 158)

The Vale Press books were offered in one lot (unlike the other private press books). A few things can be noted. 

First, the lot contains two books published not by the Vale Press, but by George Allen in London: John Ruskin's Of King's Treasures and Of Queen's Gardens. These books were printed by the Ballantyne Press, the firm where Ricketts also had his books printed, and even though the publisher's name is clearly stated in the colophon, these books were often attributed to the Vale Press. [See my earlier blog 'A Summer's Miscellany of Mistakes (1)'.]

That leaves: 18 volumes. Compared to Kelmscott Press, Lehmann owned a smaller collection of Vale Press books (still relatively large).

The incomplete set contains one pre-Vale edition: Daphnis & Chloe (but not: Hero and Leander). Lehmann did not have copies of the magazine The Dial (he did acquire copies of magazines that printed Beardsley's illustrations, such as The Savoy).

Nor does the set include the much-sought-after volumes with wood-engravings by Ricketts, such as The Parables, but it does include the last book illustrated by Ricketts: T.S. Moore's Danae that has three wood-engravings by Ricketts.

The set is made up of volumes that reprinted early English poetry by Suckling, Drayton, Campion, Constable, Chatterton, and The King's Quair. There is also prose by French author Maurice de Guérin and the memoirs of Cellini.

Of the programmatic works, he owned only Ricketts's A Defence of the Revival of Printing (1899).

Notable is John Gray's religious collection, Spiritual Poems, but particularly the four plays by Michael Field, and Lehmann thus owned all the Vale Press editions by this author. Indeed, he collected all the editions of contemporary authors in the Vale Press publishing fund.

The tentative conclusion may be that Lehmann was mainly interested in private press editions of literary texts by contemporary authors and that he found editions by more or less forgotten authors equally fascinating. He was less interested in Ricketts as a book artist.