Our beautiful and unusual copy of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale was published by J. M. Dent & Co. in 1907 and is a superb example of a ‘vellucent’ binding by Chivers of Bath. Cedric Chivers (1853-1929) perfected the technique of using hand-coloured illustrations with transparent vellum and patented his method in 1903 under the name ‘vellucent’, or ‘vellum made translucent’, binding. Vellucent binding was promoted as a method for preserving old leather bindings and also as a new style of cover decoration. In this type of binding the painting is on paper, rather than on the underside of the vellum itself; the paper is attached to the boards of the binding, then covered and protected by a very thin layer of vellum.
On A Christmas Carol the vellucent technique has been combined with the more traditional discipline of gilt tooling and an inlaid mother-of-pearl border, which is also protected by the vellum. Cedric Chivers exhibited vellucent binding in London and Paris and at the 1904 St Louis World Fair, where his invention took the gold medal.
The first 1,000 books of the Cardiff Rare Books Collection have now been catalogued to full rare books standard and can be found on Cardiff University Library’s Voyager catalogue.
Merry Christmas from the SCOLAR team!
During the week of 5-9th December 2011 Radio 4′s Book of the Week was “Just my type” a book about fonts by Simon Garfield (Profile Books, 2011). During the second episode they related the case of the “Drowned font”.
Doves Press was set up by T. J. Cobden Sanderson in 1900 in partnership with Emery Walker. The press had its own type face cut by Edward Prince who had worked previously for the Kelmscott Press and cut type for William Morris, including the Golden Type. Cobden Sanderson and Walker acromoniously split in 1908, with a legal agreement that stated Cobden Sanderson would own the Doves type until his death, when it would then revert to Walker.
As time passed Cobden Sanderson came to fear that the type would be used for items he would not approve of, and that would bring shame to the previous good name of the press. And so, between 1913 and 1916 he disposed of the type in the river Thames, throwing it off Hammersmith Bridge, in ‘pages’ (blocks of type), wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. He did this at night so as not to be seen, and it was only at his death that his deeds were discovered by the reading of his will which bequeathed the Doves’ type to the river: “…to and from the great sea, forever and ever.”
Emery Walker subsequently brought legal proceedings against Cobden-Sanderson’s wife Anne, and won an out of court settlement of £700.
Here at Cardiff University in the Rare Books Collection we have 44 items from the Doves Press, so you have plenty of chance to come and have a look at this special font for yourself.
[The example below is from 'The tragicall historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke' by William Shakespeare, Doves Press, 1909]
The latest set of private press books to be catalogued in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection come from the High House Press. This was a small press that was set up by a school master, James Edwin Masters, in 1924 and was located in the High Street in Shaftesbury, Dorset; taking its name from the building it was located in. All the work at the press was done by Masters, and his wife Beatrice who is credited with the type-setting in many of the books. In 1937 the press moved to Westbury-on Trym near Bristol, and work continued until Masters died in 1943. At Cardiff we have 30 publications from the High House Press, out of (an approximate) 43 that were produced, the majority dating to the Shaftesbury era. Many of these contain the High House printer’s device located under the colophon; and several items are signed by James Masters, these include: “The poem of Amriolkais : one of the seven Arabian poems or Moallaka which were suspended on the temple at Mecca” which contains 4 wood engravings by Eileen Mayo who has also signed this copy; “Three hundred & sixty-five short quotations from Horace : with modern titles and varied metrical versions in English by H. Darnley Naylor” ; and “Twenty-six sonnets of the divine poet M. Francesco Petrarca : made on Laura dead and now done into English by William J. Ibbett” these two were both also signed by their respective translators.
The output of the press seems to be a mix of contemporary poetry and reprints of much older material, such as 16th century songs and ballads. In 1932 Masters brought out a book on Shaftesbury itself which included nine engravings by John R. Biggs, and five by Masters; this was entitled “Shaftesbury: The Shaston of Thomas Hardy”; and recorded ‘picturesque spots and corners’ in an attempt to capture the flavour of the town at that period in time. Both Biggs and Masters signed this book too. An article in Dorset Life (2008) discusses the production of “Shaftesbury” and looks at High House Press in general. One of the illustrations from this book, a vignette of High House itself was subsequently used in other publications including “How a merchant did his wife betray” published in 1933. Within the town of Shaftesbury the building still remains, but sadly no longer houses a press.
On Monday 5th December 2011, Professor Robert Darnton, Director of Harvard University Library, delivered Cardiff University’s Distinguished Lecture on the subject of Jefferson’s Taper and the Future of Books; this was one of Cardiff University’s high-profile Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings eminent and influential guest speakers to the University to showcase their work to a wider audience. A leading cultural historian who is internationally recognised for his research into books, digital scholarship and French cultural history, Professor Darnton’s lecture illuminated the campaign to create a Digital Public Library of America.
Professor Robert Darnton.Copyright 2010, Brian Smith/Boston.
Before his lecture Professor Darnton visited SCOLAR to see some of our special library collections, and talked with Humanities academics who are working with some of these historical rare books sources, including Dr Melanie Bigold’s work on Restoration Drama texts, and Professor Judi Loach’s work with our 19th and 20th century Private Press collections. He was also shown some of SCOLAR’s works on the French Revolution from our Salisbury Library Welsh collections, including a 1795 description of the Revolution by a lady dentist, dedicated to the Ladies of Llangollen!
Professor Darnton’s fascinating lecture outlined the major ‘public good’ that a freely accessible library of digital texts would entail for society, without the ‘pay walls’ and other restrictions of commercial publishers and Google type book monopolies. Amongst the guests in the lecture audience were Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, and Mr Rhodri Morgan, previous First Minister/Prif Weinidog of the National Assembly for Wales.
The lecture can be viewed as a videocast here: Robert Darton, Cardiff University Distinguished Lecture, 5 Dec 2011.