Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2. Recollections of Oscar Wilde

A new edition of Ricketts's Recollections of Oscar Wilde is for sale in the shop of the Victoria and Albert Museum during the exhibition The Cult of Beauty. The original edition was published in Bloomsbury by The Nonesuch Press on 21 July, 1932, set and printed by George W. Jones at the Dolphin Press in 800 copies on Van Gelder paper. It was bound in full white buckram, gilt with a geometric and figurative design by Ricketts, reminiscent of his famous design for The Sphinx. The white cloth binding was protected by a black paper wrapper. In Prospectus and Retrospectus of the Nonesuch Press 1932 it was announced as a 'tenebrous Memoir of Oscar Wilde, which he finished last year only a little before he died'. Ricketts had died on 7 October, 1931.

The new facsimile edition states that it reprints the book 'for the first time'. However, in 1969 there was an earlier one, published at Folcroft, PA, by the Folcroft Press. But as Ricketts's recollections of Wilde have been quoted over and over, the book surely merits another reprint. It is not yet listed on the website of the publisher, Pallas Athene (*), but a prospectus mentions the ISBN 978 1 84368 0710 and the price of £19.99. At the V&A the price is £12.99. The paper cover reproduces Ricketts's original binding design. (The 1932 edition is offered by book dealers for anything between £120 and £300.) The Pallas Athene edition includes a well-informed new afterword ('Ricketts and Wilde') by Matthew Sturgis, author of  Aubrey Beardsley. A Biography and of Passionate Attitudes. The English Decadence of the 1890s.

(*) See the website of Pallas.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

1. The art of the reprint

Charles Ricketts, the artist, critic, writer and collector (1866-1931), has never reached the fame of his contemporary Aubrey Beardsley. However, like Beardsley, he manages to attract new generations of book collectors, readers, art connoisseurs and scholars, and the number of studies devoted to his work is on the increase. Today, I have started this blog on the work of Charles Ricketts to give the interest in his work a home address. This blog will regularly pay attention to new studies and old findings about Ricketts.

In 'The Art of the Reprint', a paper I delivered at the conference The Book in Art and Science (the Nineteenth Annual Conference of the Society for the of History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing in Washington,  14-17 July 2011), I discussed several reprints of books that Ricketts published at his Vale Press.

His essay on typography, A Defence of the Revival of Printing, first published in 1899 (250 copies on paper, 10 on vellum), for example, was reprinted in a facsimile edition by the Battery Park Book Company in 1978 (edition of 600 copies). Earlier, in 1926, the text was published by the Italian private press Officina Bodoni. This was a translation, Dell'arte della stampa, and even the name of the author was translated into Italian: Carlo Ricketts. Only 125 copies were printed. Another edition was printed by Gilbert Beale as the fifth publication of his 'Cadenza Reprints on Typography', of which about a hundred copies were printed. 

The Officina Bodoni edition is the most expensive of these reprints, followed by the Vale Press edition (of course, a vellum copy of the Vale Press edition is more expensive and elusive). The Cadenza press edition is surprisingly difficult to find. The cheapest edition is yet another reprint, which is printed on demand by BLTM Books, distributed by Book1One in Rochester, New York. This 'edition', more of a bunch of photocopies than a book (lacking part of the decorative border on the first text page), is based on the digitized version of the Bancroft Library copy (University of California, Berkeley). The digitized version is available, for free, on the website of the Internet Archive.

A collection of private press books these days may look like this:

or like this:

Or, a combination of both... Book collectors have more choices than ever to make...