Wednesday, October 30, 2013

118. Prices realized or unrealized

Auctioned, yesterday, at Christie's in New York, were two Ricketts and Shannon related items from the collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow. One was a deluxe version of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx (1894) for which a price of $25.000 was realized. The other item was only a proof, printed however in gold, for Lucien Pissarro's Twelve Woodcuts which was published by Shannon & Ricketts. This item did not realize the estimate of $800-$1200. It was a single leaf for the cover, signed in pencil by Pissarro underneath his note 'épreuve d'essai'.

The collection of Arthur (1922-2012) and Charlotte (1924-2000) Vershbow was sold in four parts of which this was the final one. Highlights from the earlier sales included a complete first edition of Francisco Goya's La Tauromaquia , Piranesi's Invenzioni Capric di Carceri, and several manuscripts.

Title page for Lucien Pissarro, Twelve Woodcuts (part)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

117: A Vale Press publisher's contract

Most texts that were issued by private press publishers during the 1890s and 1900s were written long ago and needed no copyright protection, but in a few cases contracts were drawn up. For Michael Field's The World at Auction a draft for the publisher's agreement is dated January 7, 1897. It is kept in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian Library, MS.Eng. letters d. 121, fol. 26).

The book was announced in 1898; there were to be 210 copies, of which 200 copies on paper and ten on vellum. The price was to be fifteen shillings net. for a paper copy. A letter of appreciation by the poets, Katherine Bradley and Emma Cooper, who adopted the name Michael Field as their joint pseudonym, was written on 24 May 1898. The British Library copy is date-stamped on 22 August 1898.

Michael Field, The World at Auction (1898), page lxxxiv-lxxxv
The draft for the agreement, in black ink, is on Hacon and Ricketts's writing paper with the address No. 52 Warwick Street, Near Piccadilly Circus: 'Memorandum of agreement between Messrs. Hacon & Ricketts Publishers of 52 Warwick St London, W., & Michael Field [crossed out is: 'the misses Bradley' and underneath is written ' M.F.'] at the Durdans Reigate, writing as Michael Field'. There were four stipulations:

'Hacon & Ricketts shall be the first publishers of "The World at Auction" of which "Michael" Field is the author & shall hold the copyright of that book for one year from the date of such publication & shall offer for sale an edition of the book not exceeding two hundred copies'.

'In consideration of this Hacon & Ricketts shall pay "Michael Field" the sum of Five Pounds on the day of the publication of "The World at Auction", & after one hundred copies of the work have been sold by them in the ordinary course of Trade, they shall pay a royalty of 20 per cent on the published of all remaining copies sold by them before the day of the republication of the play by "Michael Field" as provided for by clause iii. Hacon & Ricketts shall render accounts half yearly in January & July.'

'At the expiration of one year from the day of first publication "Michael Field" shall be free to republish "The World at Auction" as the second number of a Trilogy & shall acquire the right of publication as such, together with all acting rights, and all profits arising from such rights.'

'Such republication & transfer of rights shall not interfere in any way with the right of Hacon & Ricketts to continue to offer for sale any copies of their edition that may remain unsold at the time of such republication.' 

The Vale Press publication of The World at Auction was not reprinted by another firm. C.J. Holmes, who acted as manager to the firm of Hacon & Ricketts, wrote to the authors on 21 June 1898 that the book had been sent out the day before, 'so that June 20th may be taken as the date of its formal publication'.

Holmes send them 'the twelve prospectus as you request, also three presentation copies making four with the one we previously sent. This was the number which you had of "Fair Rosamund" so I suppose it is right.' 

The agreement did not mention the number of presentation copies that the authors should receive. The £5 (mentioned in the second part of the agreement) was enclosed by Holmes in the form of a cheque', and as he was busy these warm days of June, he added 'In haste (+ HEAT)'.

Michael Field, The World at Auction (1898), page  v with decorations by Charles Ricketts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

116. Reading Ricketts

Recent book historical research has come up with new tools that can be of use to researchers in many other fields. A fine example of this is the Reading Experience Database (RED) about reading in Britain from 1450 to 1945. This open-access database, launched in 1996, is housed at The Open University and contains over 30,000 records drawn from published and unpublished sources, such as diaries, memoirs, surveys and court records.

UK Red logo
Searching for Ricketts yields four entries, all about one reading experience. The quote is based on The Diary of Virginia Woolf, volume V, 1984, p. 252. 

On Sunday 17 December 1939 she wrote: 'We ate too much hare pie last night; & I read Freud on Groups [...] I'm reading Ricketts['s] diary -- all about the war the last war; & the Herbert diaries & ... yes, Dadie's Shakespeare, & notes overflow into my 2 books.'

Woolf was reading Self Portrait, Taken from the Letters & Journals of Charles Ricketts, RA that had been published only a fortnight earlier on 7 December 1939.

The database has separate entries for each book mentioned by Woolf, and they contain details about the reading experience, the reader, the book (not including the date of publication) and the source information. One can browse by reader, author and reading group. Ricketts as a reader has not yet been processed. His diaries are the perfect source for this. Woolf is not mentioned in Ricketts's published diary notes that were selected by Thomas Sturge Moore for Self Portrait.

This is the UK RED; other REDs are in preparation for Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, and New Zealand. Obviously, a lot of work is involved in gathering the data, so volunteers are requested to come forward. 

The introduction tells you how to contribute to RED UK, and specifically says: 'Anyone interested in working on a particular individual who lived in or visited Britain during the period 1450-1945 and who left letters, diaries, annotated books, autobiographies etc. which contain references to their reading should get in touch with one of the RED directors listed below. Follow this link for a list of famous readers whose experiences have not yet been entered into the database'. RED is looking for volunteers to work their way systematically through such materials in order to record evidence of reading.'

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

115. A Charles Shannon dedication

A dedication copy of a book about Charles Shannon can be seen on YouTube. The book is inscribed by the artist to the Princess of Monaco, 'with the kindest good wishes from the artist'. 

The commentary says that it is of course 'unusual, an artist giving a book about himself to somebody there'. 

The monograph, Charles Shannon, was published in 1924 by Ernest Benn, Ltd., London, in the series about 'Contemporary British Artists'. It was simultaneously published by Smalley's in McPherson, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Dedication copy of Charles Shannon (1924)
This particular dedication copy was on sale on e-Bay, but has now been removed.

The Princess was born as Alice Heine in Louisiana in 1858. In 1875 she married the Duke of Richelieu, and became the 'Duchesse de Richelieu'. The duke died in 1880, and in 1889 she married Albert I of Monaco, thus becoming Alice Princess of Monaco. She died in December 1925.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

114. Charles Ricketts's birthday in 1900, 1914, and 1916

On 2 October 1866 Charles Ricketts was born in Geneva. On his 34th birthday, in 1900, he wrote in his diary:

We are about to offer a hundred pounds for the Stevens ceiling in the Crystal Palace.

The ceiling could not be removed, as it was painted on the plaster, and Ricketts was told that it was to be incorporated in the Crystal Club premises. Jan Piggott's The Palace of the People (2004) describes the Italian Court of the Crystal Palace for which the painter Alfred Stevens had designed a copy of Raphael's ceiling in the Camera della Segnatura in the Vatican. The court was an homage to the painters of the Renaissance, Raphael and Michelangelo. The ceiling was destroyed in the Crystal Palace fire of 1936. 

On 2 October 1914 - Ricketts's 48th birthday - his diary entry is longer:

Poor [Emile] Verhaeren came to dinner with [Laurence] Binyon. We had not met for fifteen or twenty years, when he called at Beaufort Street together with Toulouse Lautrec. He looks older than his years, and now slightly resembles Mallarmé. He met Dostoieffsky's daughter - or sister - (I forget) in Paris. She, it seems, is quite commonplace, but full of reminiscences of Dostoieffsky and his faltering sanity before he actually became insane. Dostoieffsky had sinned in his own estimation, and felt the need of confession and punishment for his sin. What should he do? Confess his action to his greatest enemy. Who was his greatest enemy? The Latinized and European Turgeniev. He must confess to Turgeniev. He calls, is announced, etc.; Turgeniev is astonished, courteous, slightly embarrassed, he invites Dostoieffsky to sit next to him, who then says: "I have called to confess to you this abominable act of mine." He confesses it. Turgeniev says nothing. Pause. Dostoieffsky rises, wild with grief and anger. "I thought you would have kissed me after what I have told you. Never have I despised you as much as I despise you at this moment!"

The story about Turgenev and Dostoyevsky is probably apocryphal. Emile Verhaeren had been a contributor to the final number of The Dial in 1897. He might have visited them at the time in Beaufort Street where Ricketts and Shannon lived between October 1894 and March 1898.

On 2 October 1916, Ricketts wrote a letter to Gordon Bottomley:

Your books are packed at last and leave to-morrow. Therewith is a paper Javanese doll, as backshish for patience, and also because to-day is my fiftieth birthday and the thirty-fourth anniversary of my first meeting with Shannon at Kennington Park Road, which was bombed on Monday last. It is an Oriental custom for the birthday patient to give gifts to friends, hence paper doll. [...] To celebrate my birthday I have ordered in a pianola and spent pounds on Chopin's Preludes, Scherzos, Ballades, Schumann's Carnaval, Fantasia, Quintet, and Le Coq d'Or. Nearly all Schumann is cut; not so Wagner: of Tristan, for instance, there is only the "Liebestod." This is amazing! Yet new things, Scriabine's early works for instance, are cut, and other Russian music in course: Moussorgsky's Pictures, and other unexpected things. I look forward to getting drunk on sound, just as a sailor determines to get drunk on beer. Dulac has Schéhérazade, I shall probably get it out of him later.'

Frédéric Chopin, Fantasie Impromptu, pianola performance by Awardaudio on You Tube
Edmund Dulac had made him familiar with the sound of the pianola at the end of 1914, and Ricketts had wanted to buy one, which became possible after 'Michael Field' left him an inheritance. The pianola arrived four days later, on 6 October, and the following days Ricketts listened to the music. 'This has made me feel years younger.'

Frédéric Chopin, Fantasie Impromptu, pianola performance by Awardaudio on You Tube
On later birthdays, Ricketts wrote in his diary (about the death of Edgar Degas, 1917), or he corresponded with friends (Gordon Bottomley, 1918; Cecil Lewis, 1928), without mentioning gifts or festivities.