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 (the spur of the 'G') 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'