02 April 2011

In the Key of Blue...

I bought some books at a house yesterday, show biz stuff some signed and rather Ebayable and some rubbish (Jeremy Clarkson, books on Bros and Rod Hull and his Emu.) All in a day's work-- 20 boxes in the back of the battered Volvo. The seller showed me some of his own collection (this stuff had belonged to an uncle) and I took a shot of that-- a pretty stunning thematic collection of blue books. The photo does not do them justice, they had a kind of glow from the Victorian indigo-- hints of Royal Azure, Cerulean and Ultramarine. Out of shot were some Strands and Punches (sometimes seen in blue rather than red.) Impressive and quirky, self indulgent - but in a good way (and NOT FOR SALE, dammit!)

He did not have a copy of the lovely 1890s book by John Addington Symonds In the Key of Blue (1893). The interesting thing about this book is that it is normally seen in cream cloth or if you are lucky vellum with a gilt pattern of laurel and hyacinths by Charles Ricketts. The first copies were actually blue but when Ricketts saw them he protested that the colour had to be changed because the critics would otherwise be tempted to refer to the binding as "Ricketts blue." This is a reference to a very old product which was used for washing clothes -- 'Reckitt's Blue' sold by the Carbolic Soap Company. Quite a few blue copies got through but it can go for $500 + and more if limpid.
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