Wednesday, August 24, 2016

265. A Wilde Book from the Woodring Collection

The Carl Woodring collection is at the Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, TX, and contains his excellent collection of Ricketts and Shannon material. A photo of his copy of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1891) was published online.

Oscar Wilde, Poems (1891) [Rice University]
The 'What's in Woodson'  blog that  highlights new and interesting collections, records, memorabilia, and rare books located at the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library,  wrote about the collection.

The lower right corner of the front cover has been bumped, and the spine at the top seems to have been damaged as well. Good copies of this binding have survived, but they are quite rare. The colour is vulnerable to light, the corners are fragile, the gold may darken or disappear.

This is No. 91 of 200 copies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

264. A Commemorative Exhibition of Charles Ricketts

As I announced in May (blog 250), we will publish a small book about Ricketts's mother written by J.G.P. Delaney and Corine Verney: Charles Ricketts's Mysterious Mother. The date of publication for this moving and surprising story is 2 October 2016. That day, we will celebrate Ricketts's birthday, 150 years ago, in 1866.

There is more.

The same day, the Museum of the Book (Museum Meermanno) in The Hague will be the venue for the opening of a small exhibition about Charles Ricketts as an illustrator of the Parables and of the poems in prose of Oscar Wilde.

Charles Ricketts, 'The Good Samaritan' (wood engraving) in a vellum copy of the Vale Press edition
of The Parables from Our Lord (1903)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

263. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (6): The Pageant


In November 1895 a first issue of the new magazine The Pageant was published. Apart from a limited edition (large paper format, 150 copies), there was an ordinary edition. The books were not issued in a dust-wrapper (as far as we know). 

However, a year later, the ordinary copies of the second issue for 1897 were provided with a remarkable dust-jacket. It has been the subject for an earlier blog: 77. A Paper Wrapper for A Pageant.

Gleeson White,
design for
The Pageantfor 1897
(spine)

In his new book on dust-jackets, Mark R. Godburn doesn't mention this dust-jacket, and he doesn't mention other dust-jackets printed in colour before 1900. G. Thomas Tanselle, in his Book-Jackets, Their History, Forms and Use (2011) had selected this dust-jacket for a comment on the name of the designer. He argued that it was uncommon to mention the name of the designer of the jacket in the book, and that up till then, there had been no reason to mention names of designers, as the jackets did not bear traces of the work of a designer: ‘Nineteenth-century jackets are not normally associated with specific designers (understandably, given their generally sparse layout), but sometimes the designer can be identified: for example, The Pageant of 1897 (published by Henry & Co. of London) notes on the leaf following the title-leaf, “The outer wrapper is designed by Gleeson White.”' (p. 57).


The other reason to discuss this particular dust-jacket was the terminology used in the book and in advertisements: 'The term for what we now call a “jacket” was not yet settled by the 1890s. An advertisement for a boxed series in Publishers’ Weekly, 43 (28 January 1893), 207 [...] was said to be available in “cloth slip wrappers, each book in a cloth box.” “Outer wrapper,” rather than “slip wrapper,” was used in The Pageant of 1897’ [...].’ (p. 76, note 99).

Godburn and Tanselle do not single out the dust-jacket for its remarkable coloured design. Most illustrated dust-jacket before this one, had an illustration from the book printed in black on the front, and sometimes the paper wrapper itself was of a coloured paper.

In this case of The Pageant, the design had been printed in red, white and green on brown paper, after a design by Gleeson White. A note to the Foreword attested to this. The wrapper had been printed by Edmund Evans, as the foreword itself noticed. Evans (1826-1905) was the foremost colour printer of the latter half of the nineteenth century, working with Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott.

By 1896/1897, when the jacket for The Pageant was being produced, he had retired, leaving the company to his sons, and moved to the Isle of Wight, but he continued to work together with some artists, making wood-engravings for their work. There is no mark of the engraver on the dust-jacket of The Pageant.

Gleeson White,
design for
The Pageant for 1897
(front cover)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

262. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (5): Poems Dramatic and Lyrical, Second series

In last week's blog a copy of Lord de Tabley's Poems Dramatic and Lyrical (1893) and its dust-jacket were shown. De Tabley's book was such a success (reprinted twice) that a second series of poems was published with the same title, Poems Dramatic and Lyrical. Second Series (February 1895). The book was advertised as being 'Uniform in binding with the first series'.

For this copy another dust-jacket was used than for copies of the first series. (By the way, whether there were any dust-jackets for the second and third editions of the first series has not been determined.) The dust-jacket was a plain semi transparent paper wrapper.


Dust-jacket for Lord De Tabley's Poems Dramatic and Lyrical. Second Series (1895)
Parts of the dust-jacket were cut out to show the title and author's name. This was regular practice in bookshops. The binding was (largely) protected, and the green cloth was not affected by light, and still the buyers could easily recognize the book.

Examples of torn and cut jackets can be found in Mark R. Godburn's recent book Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets (2016) (see pp. 118-121). In some cases jackets were torn in the bindery to assist packing of multi volume sets of books, in other cases it was done by sales assistants.


Dust-jacket for Lord De Tabley's Poems Dramatic and Lyrical. Second Series (1895) [detail]


The jacket for the second series of poems by De Tabley is an example of the second type, that was cut in the shop. A copy is now in a private collection. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

261. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (4): Poems Dramatic and Lyrical

The dust-jackets on books designed by Charles Ricketts come in different styles: plain wrappers, wrappers with spine titles, and printed wrappers repeating Ricketts's binding design.

In March 1893 Elkin Mathews and John Lane co-published a book with Macmillan and Company in New York: Poems Dramatic and Lyrical By John Leicester Warren, Lord de Tabley. The book was issued in a dust-jacket with the spine printed in blue.

John Leicester Warren Lord de Tabley, Poems Dramatic and Lyrical (1893):
copy with dust-jacket (showing difference between binding and jacket design)
The jacket was printed in blue, and the paper originally was blue as well, but has darkened to brownish grey.

Ricketts's design has not been repeated on the spine, instead the title, author's name, price and names of the English publishers appear on the spine in a typeface that was not used for the text of the book.

POEMS | DRAMATIC | AND | LYRICAL || LORD | DE TABLAY || 7/6 | NETT || ELKIN MATHEWS | AND | JOHN LANE

The author's name in misspelled Lord de Tablay (read: Tabley).

The Bodleian Library (Oxford) holds a copy that has part of the spine of the jacket pasted in.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

260. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (3): In the Key of Blue

In Mark R. Godburn's recently published Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets, examples of dust-jackets in many varieties are given, and the most compelling evidence for their widespread existence after 1850 is found in the collection of file copies of John Murray Ltd. (incorporating Smith, Elder & Co.), a collection that is housed at the Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Mark R. Godburn, Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets (2016, pp. 168-169)
The list of more than 200 jacketed titles in the archive from 1858 to 1900 shows the increasing usage of dust-jackets: 1 from the 1850s, 4 from the 1860s, 11 from the 1870, 44 from the 1880s, the rest dates from the 1890s.

The list contains plain waxed paper jackets, illustrated jackets with advertising, printed jackets, plain semi-transparent jackets, printed jackets with price on spine, plain jackets, decorated jackets, blue printed jackets, jackets printed on spine, and printed jackets repeating binding design. 

There are also publishers who printed advertisements on the flaps, for example with information about other books in the same series.

There was a great variety of styles of printing on the jackets, including colour, but even after the initial use of the wrapper as a marketing tool, many jackets still were plain without any form of decoration.

John Addington Symonds's In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays, published in the week of 7 January 1893 by Elkin Mathews & John Lane in London and Macmillan & Company in New York, was issued in a plain jacket.


John Addington Symonds, In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays (1893):
back cover, spine and front cover (copy without a dust-jacket)
No image of this dust-jacket is known to me, and only one copy seems to have survived. It was mentioned in a catalogue issued by John Updike Rare Books in Edinburgh in August 2000: The Eighteen Nineties. Listed on page 40, no. 224, was a copy of the first edition of this book in the cream cloth binding designed by Charles Ricketts.

The 'elaborate gilt-stamped design of curvaceous laurel and hyacinth by Charles Ricketts is still bright', the catalogue mentioned, and this may partly have been the case because of its protective paper wrapper: 'original plain paper dust jacket just a little edge-worn'.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

259. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (2): A House of Pomegranates

Last week I wrote about the earliest known Ricketts dust-jacket, for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Several copies of the original edition in the paper wrapper with Ricketts's design exist, both of the ordinary and the deluxe edition of Oscar Wilde's novel.

For the next Ricketts related dust-jacket, there is only one known copy, and I have never seen an image of it. This dust-jacket appeared on the next cooperation between Ricketts and Wilde, including four plates by Charles Shannon, published later the same year by James R. Osgood McIlvaine: Oscar Wilde's A House of Pomegranates

This collection of stories was published at the end of November 1891, and originally all copies must have been delivered in a paper jacket.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891): cover design by Charles Ricketts
Ricketts not only designed the cover that came to be harshly criticized - and subsequently ardently defended by Wilde - he also designed 12 illustrations (one including a large letter T), 2 initials (1 repeated), and 17 decorations (1 repeated 10 times, 1 repeated 17 times, 1 repeated 3 times). Wilde came to the defence in a letter to The Speaker (December 1891) (see The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, 2000, p. 501): 

Indeed, it is to Mr. Ricketts that the entire decorative design of the book is due, from the selection of the type and the placing of the ornamentation, to the completely beautiful cover that encloses the whole.

Wilde mentioned the cover, but not a wrapper of any sort. The reviewer for The Speaker had also spoken about its 'cover'. Wilde went on to mention 'the overlapping band of moss-green cloth that holds the book together'. 

Obviously, Wilde had immediately discarded of the wrapper - if he received a copy having one in the first place of course.

Anyhow, there was a wrapper. A copy of the book in its original wrapper was offered for sale in 1989 by Bernard J. Shapero in London. The firm's catalogue Oscar Wilde. A Collection listed as No. 25 a copy in its original binding and ‘in original paper wrappers in original box’.

Not only was there a copy of the dust-jacket, and not only was it in its original box, the dust-jacket was not just a plain wrapper: ‘To find a copy in its original dust wrapper designed by Ricketts and in an original box not even mentioned by Mason is extremely rare, thus this copy is a highly prized item’.

Ricketts's design was printed on the dust-jacket. But which design? The drawing for the title page? The elaborate design of the front cover, or the spine design?

And more importantly, where is this copy now?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

258. Dust-Jackets on Ricketts's books (1): The Picture of Dorian Gray

Recently, the Private Libraries Association and Oak Knoll Press published Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets by Mark R. Godburn, an American bookseller and collector. The book traces the use of dust-jackets in Great Britain and America. From his research it becomes quite clear that the use of dust-jackets started in Germany in the early 1820s, then spread to England during the early 1830s, and by the time that Charles Ricketts's design for Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was reproduced on the dust-jacket (1891), these jackets were quite common, although only a fraction of them have survived.

They were not seen as part of the book, but as a much-needed protection until the moment of sale, and it is only around the time of the First World War that collectors, and later bibliographers, came to see them as part of the published book.


Dust-jacket for the ordinary edition of Oscar Wilde's
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
Interpretations of the importance and meaning of the dust-jacket for Oscar Wilde's novel have focussed on Wilde's own vision of the book. Nicholas Frankel, for example, has asked: 'What does the book's cover say about how we might read Wilde's novel itself?'. Wilde wrote about book ornamentation and bookbindings in this novel, and according to Frankel, 'it is the details of the book in question [Gautier's Émaux et Camées] that connote the meanings Wilde wants to suggest (rarity, luxury, self-conscious artfulness and so forth).' 

About the dust-jacket for Wilde's own novel Frankel wrote:

As a book, the novel was originally issued in buff-colored outer wrappers, which we would now term a dust-jacket, with the designs and lettering printed in brown. G. Thomas Tanselle records just thirty-two instances of such wrappers in England prior to 1890, from which we infer that the book jacket wrapping of the 1891 edition of Wilde's novel must have represented a dramatic departure from normal publishing practice. More than anything else in the edition's design, it calls our attention to, as much as it protects, the book as a significant entity in its own right.

and:

Whether Wilde intended his binding to "reflect" those changes or not, his book's binding is composite with them by virtue of the fact that no text can wholly escape the actual mode of its existence.

Now that we know that dust-jackets were far more common than previously surmised on the basis of the small number of surviving jackets, we should reconsider the meaning of the dust-jacket, the involvement of Wilde in its appearance and in its existence in the first place. Most jackets were simply used for protection, and for that they didn't need to have text or images on them. Most jackets were plain (blank, unprinted) paper folders. Some had attractive borders, and coloured paper or ink were used for others.

By the 1860s dust-jackets had become quite common and their use had changed. Publishers had begun to see their promotional value, and started to print advertisements on them, or reproductions of the title-pages, and many large publishing houses were doing this: Blackie & Son, Chapman & Hall, George Bell & Sons, Macmillan & Co, George Routledge, and many others. The jacket had become a marketing tool as early as the 1860s.

The binders delivered the books in a jacket, and the publishers decided what was to be printed on them. The reproduction of the binding's design by Ricketts on the dust-jacket of his novel was probably the result of a normal procedure at the publishers. There is no reason to assume that Wilde was the instigator of the dust-jacket. Even Ricketts - who liked to interfere - may not have been aware that a dust-jacket echoing his design would be printed. 

And Wilde will have disposed of the dust-jacket almost immediately, as did most readers, and as did Ricketts himself, in all probability.

The large-paper edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray - different format, more elaborate design - was also issued in a dust-jacket. 

We shouldn't read too much into it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

257. Brexit and Charles Ricketts's political ideas

The Brexit votes in Great Britain have won: 52% of the population voted for leaving the European Union; 48% voted for remaining, but lost. The British Isles are a divided country, but the votes are similar to those that would have been expected in other countries had there been a referendum - for example in France, Denmark and the Netherlands. Nationalism on the one side, mercantile reasoning on the other - the debate about borders is not likely to fade away. 

What Charles Ricketts would have thought about the referendum is impossible to say. As an artist, he hated the bureaucracy that came with borders, and art works themselves were not seen by him as the work of a country, a people, or a national character; they were the expression of an individual. Still, he believed that the English were different from the Germans, and the Italians. The English hated artists, German paintings did not have a sense of beauty.

His political ideas were conservative, and driven by his concerns about art. But after visiting Canada and the United States, the English seemed indifferent and apathetic, and he missed the vitality of the other continent. As Paul Delaney noted: 'Among the European countries he had visited, only Italy under Mussolini showed at the time the same wish to advance'. 

Ricketts wasn't a propagator for democracy - it would undoubtedly harm the arts - and he looked for order, duty, a sense of real values, and 'a return to construction and veneration for firm things'. He wrote these words in a letter to the poet W.B. Yeats in 1922, the year that Mussolini marched on Rome, and became prime minister of Italy; and two years before the socialist Giacomo Matteotti was murdered by fascist militia.

Ricketts died in 1931, and probably never changed his thoughts on Mussolini.

[J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A Biography (1990), p. 365; Self-Portrait Taken from the Letters & Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A. (1939), pp. 342-343.] 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

256. A Rough Advance Proof for Hamlet (2)

Last week, I described an advance proof for Hamlet dating from 1899 - the book was published in 1900. It displayed several deviations from the final text. I left one remarkable feature unmentioned. Between the proof and the publication of the Vale Press book, Ricketts decided to change the letter 'G' of his newly designed Avon Type.

The Avon was an adaptation of his Vale Type, and for the title pages the letters were enlarged to two larger sizes. We see combinations of these sizes on most of the title pages, where the smaller types are occasionally piled up.


The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (1900)
The capitals do not protrude below the lines. However, originally, the down-stroke of the letter 'G' did reach lower, which we can see in the advance proof for Hamlet. It is only a slight difference, that did not occur in the normal size of the Avon. We only see it in the enlarged capital letter 'G' in this proof. The normal size types were individually cut by punchcutter Edward Prince; the enlarged ones were produced by an engraving machine.

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof, 1899)
The final down-stroke looks a bit blunt in comparison.


The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (1900)
As the letter 'G' appeared in many titles, it is no wonder that Ricketts took a good look at the final design of it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

255. A Rough Advance Proof for Hamlet (1)

A fire at The Ballantyne Press at the end of 1899 jeopardized the imminent publication of the first two volumes of The Vale Shakespeare: Hamlet and Othello. Hamlet had been printed, while Othello was in the press. Both volumes had to be set and printed anew.

There is a proof for the Hamlet volume marked 'Rough Advance Proof' in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. Of this proof several copies are in existence, and all show small deviations from the final pages.

The title page of the final edition has an ornament placed between (or after) some of the words in the title.


The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (1900)
The advance proof looked a bit different by the addition of another ornament at the end of line four. It formed a line with those in the line before and after, and that must have been the reason for Ricketts to delete that ornament. What we do not know, is when he took that decision. The proof may have dated from well before the fire (9 December), and have been followed by another proof that has not survived.


The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof, 1899)
The page facing the opening page of the play mentioned the year of 1899, while the definitive text had 1900.


The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof 1899)
There were several textual changes as well. On page vi Marcellus's 'O' later became 'Oh', the spelling of 'relieved' was changed to 'reliev'd', and there were similar changes in spelling and punctuation on the next few pages.




The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof 1899) and final text (1900, below)

In the final text the opening page displays a slight difference between the words Act I in the left margin and the first text line with the words 'SCENE I.' The marginal note is placed somewhat higher than the line of the text.

In the proof they were lining and placed exactly on the same height. Apparently, Ricketts was not pleased with this, and after correcting this, every opening page of The Vale Shakespeare (39 volumes) would display the same slight line difference.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

254. Two of Ricketts's Legros Engravings For Sale

In 1898 Ricketts and Shannon exhibited wood-engravings of the younger generation to which they belonged in a show called 'The first exhibition of original wood engraving'. Some items, however, expressed their admiration for some older artists. Three wood-engravings were designed by Alphonse Legros and engraved by Ricketts. I wrote about these in October 2012 - see my blog 63 Alphonse Legros (2).

Two of these engravings have come up for auction in Italy: 'Death the Wooer' (or 'Death the Persuader') and 'Young Girl and Death' (or 'Jeune Fille et la Mort').

Alphonse Legros (engraved by Charles Ricketts), 'Death the Wooer'
The first one has a starting bid of €500, bidding for the second one starts at €400. Estimates are €500-600 and €400-500.

Alphonse Legros (engraved by Charles Ricketts), 'Young Girl and Death'
Philobiblon Auctions lists these engravings in their 'Modern and Contemporary Art' sale, which will take place today in Rome.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

253. Internally Clean Copies Currently For Sale

Copies of Vale Press books in their original paper covers or buckram bindings have often lost their original freshness and copies without any kind of damage to the corners or the upper and lower part of the spines have become rare. It is, however, still possible to find Vale Press books that show no signs of aging. 

Today, this blog presents a series of defects.

The antiquarian dealer's descriptions of Vale Press books today usually mention defects such as: 'some chipping to spine', 'worn at foot of spine, corners and hinges', 'browned', 'some marking and rubbing to corners and top', 'some sunning', 'offsetting at the endpapers', 'some wear and discolouration to paper over boards', 'two splits to the paper along the rear hinge which have been repaired with glue', 'cover slightly rubbed at the edges', 'binding darkened and soiled', 'spine ends slightly frayed', 'spine very slightly dulled', 'some finger soiling to covers', 'rear free endpaper mostly torn away', 'mild shelf wear', 'spine age-toned', 'showing some brown stains', 'slight nick to corners', 'unfortunate dampstain along bottom edge', 'minor bubbling to cloth'.

Notwithstanding all these defects, most dealers conclude their description with the phrase: 'an internally very clean and an overall good copy', or at least 'none-the-less quite a decent copy', and some dealers simply ignore the defects, and present the book as 'a very good copy'.


'worn at foot of spine, corners and hinges'
'unfortunate dampstain along bottom edge'
'minor bubbling to cloth'
'binding darkened and soiled'


'some marking and rubbing to corners and top'
'Very good'



'spine darkened'