Wednesday, December 27, 2017

335. The 2017 Alphabet: Q

Q is for Quite.

Quite spent with thoughts I left my Cell, and lay
Where a shrill spring tun'd to the early day.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'Q' in The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan Silurist (1897)

The initial 'Q' appears in the 1897 Vale Press edition of the sacred poems of Henry Vaughan (1621-1695). Edited by Charles Ricketts, this collection of poems by one of the metaphysical poets appeared in October 1897. There is no (modern) title page, and the titles on the label on the front cover, the spine, the opening page, and the colophon are all different: (1) The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan Silurist, (2) The Sacred Poems of H. Vaughan, (3) Vaughan's Sacred Poems Being a Selection, and (4) Sacred Poems Chosen From The Works of Henry Vaughan Silurist

The word 'silurist' refers to Vaughan's native Wales, and to a Celtic tribe.

The poem 'Vanity of Spirit' is about the child-like question: Who made the world? A thorough analysis of this poem can be found online in Thomas Healy's essay 'Performing the Self: Reformation History and the English Renaissance Lyric'. He argues that the apparent naiveté conceals a darker layer of a satanesque questioning of knowledge: 'Imagining himself on a heroic quest for the heavenly, the narrator is unsuspectingly confirming a hellish identity to the observant reader.'

The initial 'Q' only appears once in this publication of the Vale Press, and the design has not been used since. Ricketts had no use for a second 'Q'. However, he drew another initial 'Q' that probably was never cut in the wood. This second 'Q' was reproduced to illustrate an essay by Gleeson White: 'At the Sign of The Dial. Mr. Ricketts as a Book-Builder', published in The Magazine of Art of April 1897. 

Charles Ricketts, initial 'Q' (in The Magazine of Art, April 1897)
This initial seemed to be intended for an series of letters with laurel decorations - there is not a complete alphabet of these: A, E, I, O, T and W occur in several books. A drawing for three similar letters, 'Q', 'T' and 'R', is in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (reproduced in Maureen Watry, The Vale Press, 2004, p. 223). These initials are approximately 48x55 mm.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'Q' in The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan Silurist (1897)
The only initial 'Q' used by Ricketts appeared in the Vaughan edition (page xxx), and measures 25x30 mm.

This series will be continued as The 2018 Alphabet.