Two Tennyson’s – Maud: A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press (1893) and In Memorium, The Vale Press (1900)

{Ed. Note: This latest article from Books and Vines contributor Neil looks at two works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, published by famous presses at the start of the modern private press movement: Maud: A Monodrama from The Kelmscott Press (1893) and In Memorium from The Vale Press (1900). What fantastic presswork, in the pictures below just look at the type, the ornamentation and the quality of the paper!}

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was born at Somersby rectory, Lincolnshire, England, the fourth son of the rector. Two of his elder brothers, Charles and Frederick, were both poets.  Tennyson attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a member of a group that included Arthur Hallam, whose early death was to be mourned in Tennyson’s great elegiac poem In Memorium.  

Tennyson’s early published poetry collections, Poems Chiefly Lyrical (1830) and Poems (1833) received negative reviews from many critics.  Tennyson spent the next nine years revising the poetry in these collections and adding new material, resulting in the publication of a poetry collection in 1842 which established his fame. His publication of In Memorium in 1850 crowned his fame.

One of the best known verses from In Memorium is:

I hold it true, what’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

In 1850 Tennyson succeeded William Wordsworth as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and married Emily Sarah Sellwood. For the rest of his life, Tennyson enjoyed the adulation of Victorian England, including the Queen. After 1850 Tennyson devoted himself to the verse novelette which had become very popular in Victorian England. In 1855 he wrote Maud; A Monodrama which he regarded as his best poem.  Part of it was turned into a popular song, Come into the Garden Maud.  Other verse novelettes were to follow including Enoch Arden in 1864, Locksley Hall Sixty Years After in 1886 and his most famous Idylls of the King, published from 1856 to 1885 as he completed each part.

The Kelmscott and Vale Presses

The Kelmscott Press was founded by William Morris in 1891.  Morris didn’t like machine-made books, feeling that standards of design, production and typography for many contemporary books had declined to lamentable standards.  Morris wanted to produce books that “would be a pleasure to look upon as pieces of printing and arrangements of type”.  He looked back to the 15th century and the typefaces of Jenson for inspiration for his roman Golden typeface and gothic lettering for his Troy black-letter typeface – both of which were cut by Edward Prince.  His paper was hand-made at Batchelor’s mill in Kent.  He also followed 15th century examples when it came to page proportions, margins and typespacing.  Morris designed decorative borders for most of the Kelmscott books and had them engraved on wood for use in the many ornate title-pages.  The Kelmscott Press produced 53 titles over eight years including Morris’s own works, medieval texts and poetry by Coleridge, Herrick, Keats, Rossetti, Shakespeare, Shelley and Tennyson.  The most famous book to come from the Kelmscott Press, and one of the finest books ever produced, was The Kelmscott Chaucer with 83 illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones (printed in the Chaucer Type, which is a reduced version of the Troy Type).

A number of private-presses were founded in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries following the example set by William Morris.  One of these was The Vale Press founded by Charles Ricketts, with the backing of William Hacon, in 1894.  Ricketts had the Vale Press books printed at the Ballantyne Press by pressmen working under his supervision on a hand-press specifically used to print Vale books.  Three typefaces were designed for use by Vale, also cut by Edward Prince; The Vale Type (used by the Eragny Press until Pissarro designed his Brook Type, The Avon Type (a smaller version of the Vale for the Shakespeare series) and The Kings Font.  The Vale Press produced 84 books (including a 39 volume Shakespeare) over 10 years.  In 1903 Ricketts threw his matrices and punches into the Thames, as would T.J. Cobden-Sanderson over a decade later with his types for his Doves Press – these early private press men do seem a bit precious!

About the Editions (pictures of each to follow)

  • Maud, A Monodrama (The Kelmscott Press)
  • Published in 1893
  • 216mm X 146mm, 69 pages
  • Golden typeface
  • Hand-made Kelmscott ‘Flower’ paper
  • Borders designed specifically for this book
  • Bound in limp vellum with ties
  • 500 copies
  • In Memorium (The Vale Press)
  • Published in 1900
  • 238mm X 156mm, 130 pages
  • Vale typeface
  • Arnold’s hand-made unbleached paper with the Vale watermark
  • Border designes by Charles Ricketts and engraved by C.E. Keates
  • Bound in white buckram (now cream!)
  • 320 copies

Pictures of Maud, A Monodrama (The Kelmscott Press)

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Cover
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Spine
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Half-Title
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Title Page
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Title Page and Start of Poem
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Start of Poem
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #1
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #2
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #3
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #4 (Macro)
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #5
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #6
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Macro of Initial Lettering
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #7
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Macro of Ornamentation
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Sample Text #8
Maud, A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press, Colophon

Pictures of In Memorium (The Vale Press)

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

In Memorium, The Vale Press, Spine
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Front Cover
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Title Page and Start of Poem
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Start of Poem
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Macro of Initial Lettering
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Sample Text #1
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Sample Text #2
In Memorium, The Vale Press, More Initial Lettering (Macro)
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Sample Text #3
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Sample Text #4
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Sample Text #5 (Macro)
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Colophon
In Memorium, The Vale Press, Ornamentation

2 thoughts on “Two Tennyson’s – Maud: A Monodrama, The Kelmscott Press (1893) and In Memorium, The Vale Press (1900)

  1. Although I can admire the dedication to excellence and the perfection of the style of the Kelmscott Press books, it is a style I do not really care for. The same is true of this example of The Vale Press, though to a lesser degree. The heavily ornamented page doesn’t appeal to me for some reason, although I’m very much a fan of the even more heavily ornamented books of William Blake.

    That said, these are both wonderful books, and two fine poems which are sadly underappreciated these days–especially “In Memorium,” which at one time was considered the high water mark of Victorian poetry.

    (Equally as famous as the “better to have loved and lost” is the great valediction at the New Year:

    “Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light;
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more,
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.

    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.”

    Truly some of the noblest lines ever written, this has become in my household a reading every New Year just as some people read “A Christmas Carol” or “A Visit from St. Nicholas” every December 25.

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