Scope and Contents
The materials are comprised of correspondence from Dr. Woodring to other Ricketts and Shannon scholars, booksellers, museums and libraries. There is also correspondence from Ricketts and Shannon as well as those in their circle such as Laurence Binyon, Gordon Bottomley and Thomas Sturge Moore.
Biographical material such as theses, articles, essays and exhibition catalogs are included as well as photocopies of artwork by Ricketts and Shannon. Included are proofs such as "The Sleeping Methymnaeans," signed by Shannon, from Daphnis and Chloe. Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon both worked on the designs and the cutting of the wood-blocks for this Vale Press publication. Of special note are works of art by Ricketts and Shannon, including oil paintings, drawings and a large collection of Shannon’s lithographs.
Vale Press ephemera, such as notices, prospectuses, and invitations are included. A collection of Vale Press titles, including The Vale Shakespeare (1900-1904), as well as an extensive book collection on Ricketts and Shannon, are among the holdings.
Carl Woodring (1919-) was born in Texas, received his B.A. from Rice University in Houston and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. Dr. Woodring, Woodberry Professor Emeritus of Literature, Columbia University, has been accorded many distinctions including the Phi Beta Kappa award (1972) for his book on William Wordsworth, Politics in English Romantic Poetry, a Ford Foundation grant for 1955-56 and a Guggenheim Fellowship for 1958-59. Considered a renowned authority on the Romantic Period in English Literature, Woodring is the author of numerous articles and books including Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge (1961), Wordsworth (1965),Nature into Art: Cultural Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Britain (1989), (ed.) Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge for the Collected Coleridge, 2 vols. (1990), and (ed.) The Columbia History of British Poetry (1994).
Charles de Sousy Ricketts was born in Geneva, Switzerland on October 2, 1866. He was known as a book designer, theatre designer, sculptor and painter. His mother was musical; his father a painter of marine subjects. Ricketts spent his early years in Lausanne and London and his youth at Boulogne and Amiens in France. After his mother’s death, he returned to London with his father and in 1882 entered the City and Guilds Art School in Kennington, London, where he was apprenticed to Charles Roberts, a prominent wood-engraver. His father died a year later and on his sixteenth birthday he met his lifelong partner, Charles Haselwood Shannon.
Ricketts and Shannon founded an occasional art journal, The Dial (1889-1897) and the two artists also began designing and illustrating books, including Daphnis and Chloe (1893) and Hero and Leander (1894). Ricketts also worked for commercial publishers; his more famous books include John Gray’s Silverpoints (1893) and Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx (1895).
In 1894 Ricketts met Llewellyn Hacon, a wealthy barrister, enabling him to realize his dream of being a publisher and he set up the Vale Press (1896-1904). Ricketts designed three fonts and numerous decorations and illustrations. After the closing of the Vale Press in 1904, he designed books for friends such as Katherine Bradley (1946-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) (pseudonym Michael Field) and Gordon Bottomley (1874-1948).
In 1900, Ricketts took up painting and sculpture. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1922 and Royal Academician in 1928. Ricketts also produced theatrical designs and was involved in about forty productions, including George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan. He wrote several books on art and other subjects and acted as art consultant to various individuals and institutions
He and Shannon also built up their own collection of paintings, drawings, and antiquities; many are now at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and at the British Museum. Charles Shannon, falling from a ladder, became disabled; this devastated Ricketts who died of a heart attack in 1931 – six years before his friend.
Charles Haselwood Shannon was born in Lincolnshire on April 26, 1863. He attended St. John’s School, Leatherhead (1873-1881) and then studied at the City and Guilds Technical Art School, an extension of the Lambeth Art School (1881-1885). It was there he met Charles Ricketts and it was the start of a lifelong friendship. By 1888, they had devised a strategy for their joint career; Ricketts was to provide the income and Shannon perfected his abilities as a painter. In 1897, Shannon sent two paintings and some lithographs to Munich where he was awarded a gold medal. Shannon’s self-portrait, The Man in the Black Shirt was completed that year.
Ricketts was the dominant figure in the artistic and literary circle that formed around them in Chelsea (1888-1898) and then in Richmond (1898-1902). Joint activities included their magazine, The Dial (1889-1897), design and illustration of Oscar Wilde’s books and wood-engravings for editions of Daphnis and Chloe (1893) and Hero and Leander (1894). They set up the Vale Press in 1896 complemented with a shop where work by Shannon and their friends could be bought.
Shannon had his own lithographic press and he produced a number of works including A Lithograph in White Line (1891), Summer (1892), and The Shepherd in a Mist. In painting, his traditional technique, deriving from the Venetians and the English eighteenth century, were the bases of his art. His works include an early success, The Lady with a Cyclamen (1899), a favorite sitter, Kathleen Bruce (1878-1947), is seen as The Sculptress (1904) and in The Winged Hat.
In 1902 Ricketts and Shannon returned to London to live in a flat in a block in Lansdowne Road, Holland Park. Shannon became an active exhibitor, for example at the New English Art Club and the International Society. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1911 and Royal Academician in 1920.
In January 1929 Shannon suffered a fall while hanging a picture in Townshend House, Regents Park, where they had moved in 1923. He suffered brain damage and never fully recovered. Ricketts sold some works to pay for nursing expenses and more went after Rickett’s death in 1931. Charles Shannon died on March 18, 1937.
Excerpted from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2006.