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Preparatory sketches

Preparatory sketches exist for a number of Ricketts’s designs for The Sphinx . Two of these are to be found in an album of “scrawls and scraps” given by Ricketts near the end of his life to his good friend Gordon Bottomley, now housed at the Tully House Museum in Carlisle (CALMG 1971.85.35). Three sketches – all prototypes for the eventual title-page and cover designs -- survive attached to a holograph manuscript of the poem, in Wilde’s handwriting, now housed at the British Library (Add MS 37942). That these date from as early as 1891, and certainly no later than the spring of 1892, seems certain from the fact that this document also includes an early version of Ricketts’s front cover design for Wilde’s Poems (Mathews and Lane, May 1892).

All images are reproduced by kind permission of Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmian O’Neil, heirs to the Charles Ricketts estate.

Early design for title-page (?), attached to Wilde’s autograph draft. British Library Add. MS. 37942.

Design for front cover, attached to Wilde’s autograph draft. British Library Add. MS. 37942.

Preparatory sketch for untitled illustration facing Wilde’s lines “Who were your lovers ? Who were they who wrestled…”. Pen and ink, with whitening, on card-mounted paper. 20.6cm x 16.3cm. Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle. CALMG1971.85.35A.4

Preparatory sketch for untitled illustration facing Wilde’s lines “couching by the marge/ You… lapped the stream and fed your drouth.” Pen and ink, with whitening, on card-mounted paper. 20.6cm x 16.3cm. Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle. CALMG1971.85.35A.4

Finished drawings

Finished drawings survive for eight of the ten pictorial designs that were included within the 1894 edition. Because they were eventually printed by photomechanical means, these original drawings “have an even greater nervous quality of line” than the printed illustrations, writes Stephen Calloway ( Charles Ricketts: Subtle and Fantastic Decorator [Thames and Hudson, 1977], p. 16). No finished drawings are known to exist for the illustrations printed facing Wilde’s lines “Get hence, you loathsome mystery ! Hideous animal, get hence !” and “Foul snake and speckled adder with their young ones crawl from stone to stone/ For ruined is the house and prone the great rose-marble monolith !”

All images are reproduced by kind permission of Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmian O’Neil, heirs to the Charles Ricketts estate.

“Crouching by the marge,” sepia ink on pink prepared paper, 8 x 6 ½ inches. Ashmolean Museum Oxford.

“The labyrinth in which the twy-formed bull was stalled.” Sepia ink on pink prepared paper. 7 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

“Christ Crucified.” Ink on pink prepared paper. Manchester City Galleries, Rutherston Collection.

“Memnon.” Ink on pink prepared paper. Manchester City Galleries, Rutherston Collection.

“The Diver.” Ink on pink prepared paper. Manchester City Galleries, Rutherston Collection.

“The reedy banks.” Ink on Paper. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles.

“The moon-horned Io.” Ink on pink prepared paper. Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library.

[blank image]

“Melancholia, drawing for pictorial title of The Sphinx .” Pen and ink on pink paper. 7 5/8 x 5 ½ inches. Present whereabouts unknown. A reproduction of this drawing, which was previously in the collection of Mary Hyde, Viscountess Eccles, was reproduced in The Turn of A Century 1885-1910: Art Nouveau – Jugendstil Books (Houghton Library, Harvard University, 1970), p. 18 It is likely that the drawing is currently uncatalogued at the British Library, where the bulk of Lady Eccles’s library went following her death in 2001.

Variant design features of the 1894 large-paper issue

25 copies of The Sphinx were published, some months after the ordinary issue, printed on larger sheets of paper. Owing to the larger format, Ricketts redesigned the book’s binding for these copies, extending the cover designs vertically by approximately one inch through the incorporation of new decorative motifs near the foot. He also printed a new title-page for these copies, acknowledging the role of Copeland and Day as the book’s American publishers.

Reproductions are courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles.

Revised title-page, showing Copeland’s and Day’s imprint. Large paper issue of The Sphinx (1894). 10 x 7 ½ inches.

Revised front-cover design. Large paper issue of The Sphinx (1894). 10 x 7 ½ inches. As with the standard issue, the monogram of the book’s designer, Charles Ricketts, is visible near the bottom left corner.

Revised back cover design. Large paper issue of The Sphinx (1894). 10 x 7 ½ inches. As with the standard issue, the monogram of the book’s binder, Henry Leighton, is visible near the bottom left corner.

Publishers’ prospectus

This publishers’ prospectus almost certainly dates from early 1894. Reproduction courtesy of Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library.

Unsigned parody of the sphinx [by ada leverson and e. t. reed], published in punch

An unsigned verbal parody of The Sphinx (discussed in the Afterword) by Wilde’s friend Ada Leverson, accompanied by an unsigned caricature of Ricketts’s illustrations by E. T. Reed, published in Punch; or The London Charivari , 21 July 1894, (107), 33.

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Source:  OpenStax, The sphinx. OpenStax CNX. Apr 11, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11196/1.2
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