Wednesday, May 16, 2018

355. A Ricketts Coffee Mug

You travel to Reims to see the cathedral, and in the shop you see the object that you always wanted to have. The Charles Ricketts coffee mug, showing one of Ricketts's stage designs for George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.

Reims Cathedral Coffee Mug with illustration by Charles Ricketts

Or a similar mug with an anonymous image. Available in two sizes, both dishwasher and microwave safe.


Reims Cathedral mug: 'Can You any longer resist the call?'

Or not, and then, at home, you find a website that exhibits 56 Reims Cathedral Coffee Mugs. Sold by Fine Art America, and using images that can be found for free on the internet. 

Not a mug at all? One could also opt for a canvas print, poster, metal print, greeting card, phone case, duvet cover, shower curtain, beach towel, portable battery charger, yoga mat or a spiral notebook.

Anything else?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

354. Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (5)

How was it, that the sheets of the unsold copies of the 1882 reprint of Oscar Wilde's Poems (originally published in 1881) survived until they could be used for the 1892 signed and limited edition that was issued by Mathews and Lane?

How many publishers stored these sheets? Were copies bound by them and delivered to the trade? Impossible to answer. Hold on, for a long and complex bibliographical - and biographical - tour.


Wilde's bibliographer Stuart Mason (C.S. Millard) traced most of the bibliographical facts about Wilde's books that we still have to rely on. Publisher's archives of David Bogue (the original publisher) or James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. (who sold the remaining sheets to Mathews and Lane) have not survived. But there is one letter by Oscar Wilde that explains the last stage of the transfer, while other sources shed light on what went on at the beginning.


What Mason knew

Mason didn't know about the part played by Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. He suggested that the sheets were handed over to Mathews and Lane by Chatto & Windus. He based this on a reference in the English Catalogue for 1881-1889 (see his Bibliography of Oscar Wilde, 1914, p. 316). This refers to The English Catalogue of Books. Vol. IV. January 1881 to December 1889 (London, Sampson Low, Marston & Company Limited, 1891, p. 618): 

[Wilde] (Oscar) […] Poems, post 8vo, 10s 6d [...] Chatto 1881. 


The English Catalogue of Books. Vol. IV. January 1881 to December 1889 (1891)
This reference induced Mason to conclude:

In August 1882 Bogue, the publisher, became bankrupt, his stock being taken over by Messrs. Chatto & Windus of Piccadilly. In the English Catalogue for 1881-1889, vol. iv, p. 618, Chatto is given as the publisher of Wilde’s Poems, though no copy was issued with the firm’s imprint.

What Mason couldn't have known

However, a letter by Oscar Wilde, undated, but postmarked 21 November 1891, proves the involvement of another publisher, James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co., Wilde's previous publisher (for IntentionsLord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories, and A House of Pomegranates). Wilde wrote his new publisher Elkin Mathews that he would ask Osgood, McIlvaine & Co to transfer the sheets of Poems to him, after he discussed the fee that Ricketts should receive for his design ('on its completion'):

This settled, I will ask Osgood & McIlvaine to hand you over the copies, and the book could be got out after the rush of Xmas books is over.

Why Osgood & McIlvaine would have possessed these sheets is another matter. Perhaps, they acquired them on behalf of Wilde who might have considered issuing a new edition of his poems with them. However, there is no archival material to support this suggestion. 

The American publisher James R. Osgood  did some business with David Bogue in the early 1880s.

This is why scholars such as James G. Nelson (and others after him) asserted that Osgood & McIlvaine acted as 'successors of the firm of David Bogue'. Legally, and chronologically, that cannot be corroborated, as Bogue went bankrupt in 1882, James R. Osgood in 1885, and Osgood, McIlvaine & Co came into existence in 1891. There is no continuity there. Another firm must have possessed the sheets of Wilde's Poems in the meantime, but it wasn't Chatto and Windus.

Why not Chatto & Windus?

The name of Chatto & Windus in the normally trustworthy English Catalogue was based on an error, going back to the first reference of Wilde's Poems at the time of its publication in July 1881. The English Catalogue acquired its data from the reliable, contemporary source The Publishers' Circular. In the list of 'Books published in Great Britain between July 1 and 15' in The Publishers' Circular of 15 July 1881 (p. 555) the new book, published by David Bogue, was erroneously ascribed to Chatto & Windus:

Wilde (O.)-Poems. Post 8vo. pp. 240, 10s. 6d. Chatto [3170

The Publishers' Circular (15 July 1881)
This was an uncommon mistake, and one that was copied by other trade periodicals, such as The Bookseller of 4 August 1881 (p. 703):

Wilde (O.) Poems. Post 8vo, pp. 240. Chatto & Windus ... [...] 10/6

The Bookseller (4 August 1881)
The typist added the name of Windus, but didn't correct the error. In the 'Alphabetical list of the principal publications for the month of July, 1881' the misguided information was given.

The Bookseller (4 August 1881)
The name of Chatto & Windus might have been correct, if they acted as distributor for David Bogue, whose firm was a small one, located at 3, St. Martin's Place in London, near Trafalgar Square. However, both book magazines, The Bookseller and The Publishers' Circular, published David Bogue's announcements under his own name, never mentioning the other firm in any case.

David Bogue didn't correct the error, or, his notice to that effect remained unpublished.

Who was David Bogue?

David Bogue (1852-1897) was the son of David Bogue (1807/8-1856), a bookseller and publisher. Bogue senior came from Scotland to London to work for Charles Tilt (1797-1861) at 86, Fleet Street. He became his partner in Tilt and Bogue (1841-1842), and continued the shop as David Bogue (1842-1856). His major star was George Cruishank, whose works he published, although some of these failed to sell. The shop was continued for a few years after his death in 1856, but by 1862 the stock had been taken over by several other publishers. (See Robert L. Patten's biography of David Bogue in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.)

David junior was too young to have seen his father at work as a bookseller or publisher, or even the shop, and how he started life as a bookseller and publisher is not known. In 1876, he operated as a publisher under the name of Hardwicke and Bogue, located at 192 Piccadilly, W., the former shop of the artist and publisher Robert Hardwicke (1822-1875). Bogue continued this business, and a 'Hardwicke and Bogue's List' appeared in The Times of 8 February 1877. It contained popular works on disparate subjects, such as Half-Hours with English Antiquities, and The Historical Development of Art. Until 1879, books under this imprint were being published.

In 1879 Bogue moved to 3, St. Martin's Place in London. A list of his books - 'Mr. David Bogue's List (late Hardwicke and Bogue)' - was published in The Times of 26 September 1879. It advertised books on wild flowers, ferns, sleep and sleeplessness, 'common mind troubles', and the like.

Why Oscar Wilde opted for David Bogue

Why would Oscar Wilde have approached David Bogue as a publisher for his book of poems?  There were not many literary works - but still a few - that appeared with David Bogue's name on the title page. Between 1879 and 1882, Hardwicke and Bogue and David Bogue published some works by Samuel Butler (1835-1902).

After Wilde had brought his book to Bogue, the poet Walt Whitman found that Trübner and Co didn't want to publish his Leaves of Grass in London. A friend of Whitman, Josiah Child, advised Bogue to him instead (letter from Walt Whitman to Josiah Child, 8 December 1881). His American publisher at the time, James R. Osgood, agreed, and on 14 December 1881, Whitman wrote to Bogue as his 'London agency & depository'. James R. Osgood may have been one of the creditors of David Bogue after his bankruptcy, and this might explain how Osgood got hold of the sheets of Wilde's book. If that is what happened.

However, the sheets were probably not transported to Boston where James R. Osgood's firm was located. Perhaps they were stored somewhere in London, with a colleague publisher, but it may be assumed that the unbound sheets were stored at the premises of the original printer of the book, the Chiswick Press, and left in the care of the printer. Osgood's firm went bankrupt in 1885. Osgood went to work for Harper's Magazine, and, later, in 1891, started the new business with Clarence McIlvaine: James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. No continuity here, either.

Wilde's biographer Richard Ellmann, asserted that Wilde opted for David Bogue, because his Oxford friend Rennell Rodd (1848-1941) published a book of poems with Bogue:

Rodd had set him an example by publishing his first book of poems with a small house, David Bogue, and in April 1881 Wilde wrote to Bogue expressing a similar wish.
(Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (1987, p. 131).

However, Wilde's books appeared early July 1881, while Rodd's book Songs in the South was announced to be 'Just published' in an advertisement dated 23 July 1881 (The Athenaeum, 23 July 1881, p. 124). So Rodd's book was published after Wilde's book had been issued.


The Athenaeum (23 July 1881)
Rodd's book was advertised in The Times of 30 August 1881, at the top of 'Mr. David Bogue's List', and was immediately followed by:

Crown 8vo., price 10s. 6d., printed on Dutch hand-made paper and
handsomely bound in parchment.
POEMS. By OSCAR WILDE. Second Edition.

Apart from chronology, there is the one surviving letter of Oscar Wilde to David Bogue to consider. It probably dates from May 1881, and is now in the collection of Newberry Library in Chicago. The letter doesn't mention Rodd's name, or any other intermediary. Wilde writes: 'Possibly my name requires no introduction.' He doesn't say why he wants his book to be published by Bogue, only: 'I am anxious to publish a volume of poems immediately, and should like to enter into a treaty with your house about it.' (The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, 2000, p. 110).

Famously, Wilde would edit and publish a new edition of Rodd's book - now with an introduction by himself - during his American tour: Rose Leaf and Apple Leaf (October 1882).

Bogue's advertisements for Oscar Wilde's Poems

Bogue's advertisements were not published in The Publishers' Circular, that was dominated by the large firms, such as Cassell & Co., Sampson Low, Marston, and Co., George Routledge and Sons, and Macmillan & Co. The Bookseller sometimes noticed his new publications, for example, J. Mortimer Graville's How to Make the Best of Life (The Bookseller, 4 July 1881).
The Bookseller (4 July 1881)
Bogue's advertisements did appear in the London Times and in The Athenaeum (possibly in other newspapers as well), not on a regular basis as the larger firms could afford, but occasionally. In 1881, the readers of The Athenaeum, could find advertisements of 'Mr. David Bogue's publications' in the issues of 8 January, 12 February, 18 June, 2 July, and 17 December 1881. The Athenaeum was one of the first to notice Wilde's book of poems in a page-long review, published on 23 July 1881. (The Lady's Pictorial of 9 July had published the earliest review.)


Review of Oscar Wilde's Poems in The Athenaeum (23 July 1881)
Advertisements for Wilde's Poems appeared in the issues of 2 July and 17 December 1881. The first announcement was made on 2 July.

The Athenaeum (2 July 1881)
The text indicated that the book was available:

Now ready, crown 8vo, price 10s. 6d.
POEMS. By Oscar Wilde.
Printed on Dutch Hand-made Paper and Handsomely Bound in Parchment.

A similar, smaller, advertisement appeared in The Times of 7 July 1881.

Interestingly, in The Athenaeum, Wilde's first book was announced as an aesthetic object, just like the 1892 edition would be. Hand-made paper, a vellum binding, and a premium segment price. The July advertisement lists 30 books, half of which are priced between one and five shillings, and nine were priced 10 shillings and 6 pence, or higher, up to 15 shillings. Wilde's Poems wasn't a cheap book. However, it sold rather well. On 17 December 1881, another advertisement by Bogue announced the 'Fourth Edition' as 'In the press.' Another book, also printed on Dutch hand-made paper and bound in parchment, Hamilton Aidé's Songs Without Music was to be had for a mere 6 shillings. (For relevant information on the price, and the publication contract signed by Bogue and Wilde, see Ian Small's introduction to The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Volume I, Poems and Poems in Prose, 2000, pp. xiv-xv.)

The Athenaeum (17 December 1881)
Meanwhile, the third edition had been announced as 'in the press' in The Publishers' Circular of 1 November 1881 (this would be repeated in the issue of 14 January 1882), and iThe Times of 27 September 1881, while the second edition, as quoted above, had been advertised earlier in The Times of 30 August. 

The Publishers' Circular (1 November 1881)
An advertisement in The Athenaeum of 20 May 1882 listed the 'Fourth Edition' of Poems among the books that had been published. 


The Athenaeum (20 May 1882)
David Bogue in 1882 and 1883

Alas for David Bogue, the year 1882 brought him bankruptcy, and his name started to appear in The London Gazette on a regular basis. The Gazette would be quoted every week in The Bookseller, warning booksellers not to get involved with publishers or booksellers whose business was dwindling, and to stimulate alertness when it came to one's debtors.

On 28 April 1882, The London Gazette informed the public that the 'Partnership' between David Bogue and Benjamin Constant Le Moussu was dissolved on 2 March. Bogue had been in business with Le Moussu under the name Le Moussu & Co. Le Moussu was a firm of 'etchers in relief, photo engravers and photolithographers', located at 317, Strand. Not much is known about the relation of Bogue and Le Moussu. They worked together on the Dramatic Notes. An Illustrated Yearbook of the London Stage, for which, it was stated, a 'new relief etching process' was used.

From The London Gazette, we learn that Bogue lived at 21, Taviton Street near Gordon Square in London.

On 4 August 1882, the Gazette mentioned that 'in the Matter of Proceedings for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors' a 'First General Meeting of the creditors' of David Bogue was summoned to take place at the offices of Lawrence, Plews, and Baker on 31 August. On 15 September a trustee was appointed, William Slingsby Ogle: 'All persons having in their possession any of the effects of the debtor must deliver them to the trustee, and all debts due to the debtor must be paid to the trustee.'

The Times of 1 August 1882 reported what was brought before Mr Registrar Murray: 'The debts were returned at £18,600, of which about £7,400 appeared to be secured, and the assets, inclusive of securities in the hands of creditors, were estimated at £18,000.' The Bookseller was more personal and wrote on 5 August: 'Mr. David Bogue, we regret to hear, has been compelled to present a petition for liquidation [...]'. The magazine informed the readers about the next stages of the liquidation as well.

A year later, on 27 April 1883, The London Gazette published a note by the trustee, asking all those 'who have not already proved their debts' to get into contact with him, else 'they will be excluded from the benefit of the Dividend proposed to be declared'. The dividend was settled on 12 July, and published in The London Gazette of 13 July 1883: 'First and Final Dividend of 3s. 1½d. in the pound'. By then, the stock including the unbound sheets of Wilde's Poems must have been sold, but to whom we cannot ascertain.

The London Gazette would list Bogue's name and that of his new trustee (Peter Paget) in several issues (9 October 1885, 5 March 1886, 23 April 1886, and 31 May 1889). From this, we learn that Bogue had left his original address and moved (an address that is also given by Philip A.H. Brown in his London Publishers and Printers c. 1800-1870 (1982); the move was announced in The Publishers' Circular of 15 November 1884.) In fact, two addresses are mentioned, the second one being to the south west of London:

27, King William-street, Strand, Middlesex, 
and Cobham, Surrey
(1885)

In 1886 the amount per pound was settled at '3s'. In 1889 the trustee was released from his duties.

The end of David Bogue

After his bankruptcy, Bogue continued his business, under the same name, and surely under the watchful eye of the trustee, at 3, St. Martin's Place. In the winter of 1882, a new magazine was launched by him: The Theatre (announced in The Publishers' Circular of 6 December 1882). On 1 May 1883 The Publishers' Circular informed the booksellers that the Antiquarian Magazine and Bibliographer 'now published by Mr. W. Reeves, 186 Fleet Street, will be published by Mr. David Bogue, St. Martin's Place, W.C.'

In the fall of 1883, the Aberdeen Weekly Journal (28 November) reported on the 'Magazines for December', and briefly discussed The Science Monthly that 'continues the excellent features of its first number'. In May 1884 another issue was reviewed in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post. It was published by David Bogue. In 1884 an issue of The Antiquarian Magazine, published by Bogue, was mentioned in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (26 January).


Arthur Groge Hill, The Organ-Cases and Organs of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1883)
Bogue continued to issue new books as well. In 1883 a sumptuous volume on The Organ-Cases and Organs of the Middle Ages and Renaissance by Arthur George Hill was published by Bogue - the second volume was to be privately printed for the author in 1891. Another imposing publication was announced in The Publishers' Circular for 6 December 1883, the Christmas issue: 'Mr. David Bogue announces a biographical sketch of Henry Irving by Austin Brereton, with seventeen full-page portraits by well-known artists, a volume which can scarcely fail to please the numberless friends of the great actor.' Among the artists was James McNeil Whistler, and apart from the imperial octavo edition, 'A few Large Paper copies, on Hand-made Paper, with Proofs of the Illustrations on India paper' were published at four guineas. 


The Publishers' Cicrcular (6 December 1883)
In 1884 his name appeared on the title page of J.M. Farrar's Mary Anderson (see The Publishers' Circular, 1 October 1884) and of Austin Brereton's Some Famous Hamlets (see The Sunday Times, 9 November 1884). Poetry continued to be an interest of the firm. Henry Davison's Poems appeared in 1884, and in 1885, Mark André Raffalovich's Tuberose and Meadow-Sweet was published by David Bogue. It is remarkable, that among the poetry publications of David Bogue, at least three names of prominent homosexuals figure: Wilde, Whitman, and Raffalovich.

Around the time that Raffalovich's book of 'uranian' poetry was published, the name of Bogue disappeared from sight. During the early nineties, no trace of him has been found. But his life ends dramatically, as the Daily Mail reported on 28 October 1897.

In the bulletin Bogue is called a 'London journalist', who 'was on the staff of the Daily Graphic'. Bogue had been travelling to Monte Carlo, and Paris, before he went to stay at the Royal Pavilion Hotel in Folkestone. There, 'the body of a well-dressed man was found on the beach at Folkestone on Tuesday morning'. He was drowned. That was on 26 October 1897, and Bogue must have been around 45 years.

Conclusion: What do we know?

We know that the sheets that were used for the 1892 edition of Wilde's Poems were handed to the publishers by Osgood McIlvaine & Co on the request of the author, Oscar Wilde.

We know that Chatto & Windus had nothing to do with it.

We know that the assets of David Bogue, including the unbound and unsold sheets of Poems were sold before the dividend was decided upon. We don't know to whom. 

What can be assumed? 

At the time of Bogue's bankruptcy, the sheets of the remaining copies of Poems were probably stored at the printer's. David Bogue wouldn't have stored unbound sheets, no publisher did (unless he had a print shop at his own premises).

The printer was the Chiswick Press, a firm that printed more books for David Bogue, including a book about organs of which the first volume was published by Bogue after his official bankruptcy, and the second volume was privately printed by the author ten years later. Both volumes were printed at the Chiswick Press. The Chiswick Press stored hundreds of parcels of sheets for publishers.

When Oscar Wilde found a new publisher in the early 1890s, and wanted to publish several books in a short period of time, Osgood, McIlvaine & Co was obliging. 

Wilde may have traced the leaves at the Chiswick Press, or the Chiswick Press may have discovered the sheets while doing an inventory, proposing to make money from them, and sold them to Wilde's new publisher. The last option seems, to me at least, the most probable - the reason being that Wilde's position had changed dramatically after the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray

[Perhaps, a researcher could examine the papers of the Chiswick Press to find out if this can be right.]

In conclusion: the sheets were stored by the Chiswick Press, and transferred to Osgood, McIlvaine & Co, before they were used by the Bodley Head for the 1892 edition of Poems.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

353. Shaw to Ricketts

Last week, at Doyle in New York, a book from the library of Charles Ricketts was auctioned: a dedication copy of George Bernard Shaw's book with three plays Androcles and the Lion, Overruled, Pygmalion (1916). The dedication wasn't grand or eloquent. It was a simple autograph inscription:

To Charles Ricketts
from Bernard Shaw
14th July 1916

Bernard Shaw, dedication to Charles Ricketts (1916)
The estimate was a mere $300 to $500.

However, there was provenance to be considered. Ricketts hadn't been the only owner of the book, it was passed on to the collection of William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), the newspaper giant who became the inspiration for the 1941 movie Citizen Cane. During the 1930s he struggled to avoid bankruptcy, sold his animals, tapestries, paintings, and other collectables, including his books. The Shaw copy was sold in 1939 through the Parke Bernet sale of 22 November (lot 478). 

Later, the book belonged to Nancy Susan Reynolds (1910-1985). Her father owned R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. She was an editor of Washington Life magazine, and a philanthropist. Her books come on the market from time to time.

Anyway, the book was sold for the astonishing sum of $2250.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

352. Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (4)

In last week's blog - No 351 Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (3) - I have shown a scan of the lower part of the title page of Poems (1892). This page is part of a bifolium, four pages, of which only one is typeset (the half title). The last page is left blank, the second and third pages contain the limitation statement and the title page and these two have been reproduced after an original drawing by Ricketts.

Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892)
The bifolium has been pasted in at the front, before the other gatherings. 

Ricketts's hand-lettering was slightly reduced in size, as usual for relief blocks, minimizing the space between some lines in the limitation statement, and on the title page. 

The printing of the block has left traces in some copies of Poems. Next to the place name 'London', slightly to the left, a faint ink circle can be seen. This was not intended. 


Title page of Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892) (detail)
When the zinc plate was ready for use, it was mounted on wood to the height of the type, and this was done with small nails. The head should remain below the inking surface, but the faint ink circle on the title page testifies that this wasn't always properly taken care of, causing the head of the nail to catch ink and print it on the paper. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

351. Ricketts's Design of Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892) (3)

When the remaining sheets of Oscar Wilde's Poems, published in 1881-1882 (sheets of the second printing, used for the fourth and fifth 'editions') by David Bogue, were used for the new 'edition' by Elkin Mathews and John Lane | At The Sign of The Bodley Head in 1892, quire Q with the list of Bogue's publications was cut out. Also, the first two preliminary leaves were discarded. The original pages contained (1) a half-tile, (2) a blank page, (3) title-page, (4) name and address of the printer. One leaf (4 pages).



Oscar Wilde, Poems (1881): half-title inscribed in Philadelphia (1882)
[Magdalen College, University of Oxford] and
Oxford (1885) [Worlds End Bookshop, London]
Charles Ricketts was asked to design the new preliminary pages, new endpapers and a new binding. For the first four pages, he designed a title-page and a facing limitation statement. The verso of the title page is blank. The recto of the first page contains the half-title. Or, in other words: (1) half-title, (2) limitation page, (3) title-page, (4) blank. One folded leaf, pasted in at the front.

Did Ricketts actually design the half-title, as is stated by Wilde's bibliographer Stuart Mason (Christopher Sclater Millard)?

Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892): half-title
The thing is, the half-title in the 1892 edition is almost identical to the one in the first edition of Poems, and the type used seems almost the same, including the dot after Poems

Apart from this typographical similarity, it is to be noted that this is the only page for which any typesetting had to be done. The other pages are reproduced after drawings by Ricketts. The lettering of those pages is not type-set, but originally drawn by hand, and slightly reduced in size for the block, as was the custom with illustrations. Even the place name, outside the double border, has been hand-lettered. The two 'n's and 'o's in London are not identical (as can be seen with a magnifier).

Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892): title-page

Hand-lettered place name in Oscar Wilde's Poems (1892)
Using a magnifier for the word 'Poems.' on the half-title, we see a very regular type.


'E' in half-title for Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892)
Advertisements for the book mentioned that the book had been printed at the Chiswick Press, 'with decorated title-page and end-papers, the binding "The Seven Trees," in gold on Iris cloth; designed by C.S. Ricketts'. The half-title isn't mentioned by the publisher in his letters to Wilde. However, Mason simply assumed that Ricketts designed the four new pages.

My inclination is to believe otherwise. 

Firstly, had Ricketts designed the half-title, a more interesting page would have been designed for which another block would have had to be made. The artist knew that the publisher wished to produce a limited edition book without spending too much. Rickets usually was very economical and resourceful when it came to meet the needs of publishers.

Secondly, the new half-title is not hand-drawn but typeset, and thus different in approach in comparison with the other preliminary pages.

Thirdly, the new half-title so much resembles the older one, that it can be assumed that the printer was commissioned to imitate the 1881-1882 half-title, and duly did so. The printer of this new sheet was the same as the one who printed the original 1881 and 1882 sheets: the Chiswick Press. It was also a matter of custom, and it may have been a printer's initiative to include the half-title. Moreover, this was the cheapest solution. Printers and binders needed half-titles to accommodate the workflow.

For the publisher, the half-title wasn't an important page. Why bother an artist like Ricketts for a special design for such a plain page that wasn't seen as the real entrance to the book?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

350. A Drawing of Ricketts and Shannon

The two paintings of Shannon in the National Portrait Gallery - Shannon's self-portrait and his portrait of Ricketts - seem to inspire contemporary artists. I found a recent double portrait on a site called 'Deviant Art'. I couldn't contact the visual artist who posted this drawing, so I hope she doesn't mind my reproducing it here.

Pumpkin-Pasty (Rosie), portrait of Shannon and Ricketts (2017?)
The comments are about his style: 'Beautiful, delicate way of painting - transparent soft of colour. Gentle painting'.  The drawing - by an art student? - is published on the site by 'Pumpkin-Pasty', or 'Rosie', who is, according to her tags, interested in traditional painting, drawings, portraits & figures.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

349. Fifty-Eight Years Ago: Art Nouveau

Fifty-eight years ago, one of the first exhibitions on Art Nouveau was on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The catalogue Art Nouveau. Art and Design at the Turn of the Century, edited by Peter Selz and Mildred Constantine, duly mentioned that this show had been preceded by a small exhibition on Art Nouveau in the same museum as early as 1933. By 1960 scholars and collectors had accumulated enough material for a large exhibition. 


Art Nouveau at the MOMA, 1960
A photograph from 1960 shows a wall with books and prints, and one can easily recognize some Aubrey Beardsley illustrations, but also, to the left, on the second row from the bottom, two books designed by Charles Ricketts. Both books were closed, and only the front cover of these could be admired.

To the left is a copy of Hero and Leander (1894) from the collection of Mr and Mrs Leonard Baskin (Northampton, Massachusetts). To the right is Wilde's The Sphinx (1894), the Morgan Library copy.

Nice to know that illustrator, sculptor and book artist Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) and his wife nature writer Esther Tane Baskin (1925-1973) had a copy of Hero and Leander.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

348. Couples at the Rosenbach

On show at The Rosenbach in Philadelphia is the exhibition Of Two Minds: Creative Couples in Art and History

This is a collaboration with the Free Library of Philadelphia, and includes works from their collections of children's literature, prints and pictures and rare books. Represented are actors and artists, silversmiths and monarchs, journalists and ornithologists. Among the book artists who closely worked together are William and Catherine Blake, Diane and Leo Dillon, Donna and Peter Thomas, and Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon.

William Blake, Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793) [Collection of The Rosenbach, Philadelphia]
On show is the Rosenbach copy of William Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793). The role of Catherine Blake - feeding the press with paper and hand colouring the prints - is not always acknowledged, and if so, the less subtly coloured prints are attributed to her, even though details about their collaborative efforts are non-existent.

The collaboration of Ricketts and Shannon was certainly intense in their early days. However, each was an artist in his own right, and both signed their own works. Only at the early stages of their careers, one can see a few truly collaborative works, such as Hero and Leander, Daphnis and Chloe, and A House of Pomegranates.

Charles Shannon by Elliott and Fry, albumen cabinet card, c. 1900
[National Portrait Gallery London]
The collaboration on Oscar Wilde's A House of Pomegranates can also be seen as two artists working separately and following their own vocation. Ricketts designed the binding, title page, decorations, and illustrations, while Shannon produced four full page illustrations that were printed as etched relief prints by the Paris firm of Verdoux, Ducourtioux et Huillard.

Ricketts's illustrations can be found in between Wilde's words, on the same pages as the text of these fairy tales, but Shannon's prints are separately inserted.

At the Rosenbach, the beginning of the story of 'The Fisherman and His Soul' is on display. The pages show Ricketts's work only.


Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates (1891) [The Rosenbach, Philadelphia]
The Rosenbach copy is from the bequest of book artist Maurice Sendak - what would he have thought about Ricketts's and Shannon's illustrations?

[Thanks are due to Sara Davis and The Rosenbach for the illustration of the Blake and Wilde books.]

[My little series on Wilde's Poems - see blog 346 and 347 - will be continued.]