Reprints of Privately Printed Books, 1897 – 1902

Note: The following catalogue list, with minor alterations, is taken from Vilain and Bishop’s Thomas Bird Mosher and the Art of the Book (Philadelphia: F. A Davis, 1992), pp. 11-54, with the kind permission of the publisher. Cross references to the illustrations which appear in the book have been eliminated.

The goal of this series was to introduce a larger public to works printed in very limited quantity in England. When the original was aesthetically satisfying, Mosher issued a facsimile, but when this was not the case he did “improve the format of the original edition.” Twelve titles were published, with additional editions bringing the total volumes to sixteen. (Pater’s Essays had two editions, and there are four editions of The Poems of Master François Villon).

In his introductory comments on the Series in the 1911 catalogue, Mosher said: “When asked what I consider the most characteristic volumes bearing my imprint I reply that all my efforts are different from the merely commercial format of what is considered successful publishing… and point to these Reprints of Privately Printed Books and to those grouped under the heading Miscellaneous as specimens of what I take to be my finest work.” It is hard to disagree with him on this point.

Each volume is printed on Kelmscott or Van Gelder paper. Format and print runs vary.

    235 mm x 155 mm, 224 pp., Reprints 3, Hatch 78. 450 copies were printed on Van Gelder paper; 50 numbered and signed copies were printed on Japan vellum, of which 25 were reserved for sale in America; 4 copies on pure Roman vellum. All copies had Japan vellum wrappers.

    The Germ, the organ of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was short-lived, and its authors had yet to become famous, but the ideals it embodied lived on in its creators—Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Coventry Patmore, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais are among the better-known—and in many artists and intellectuals during the second half of the nineteenth century; Pater’s Renaissance Studies and Morris’s Defence of Guinevere are its direct descendants.

    In 1898 Mosher published a one-volume edition of the entire contents of the four issues (not including the covers and the advertisements). The page make-up is similar to that of the magazines, but Mosher improved on the original with added initials and or naments taken from the Chiswick edition of Gray’s Poems. The wrapper of Japan vellum is printed in red and black; the text is surrounded by a woodcut border of honeysuckle designed by Ricketts for The Poems of Sir John Suckling published by the Vale Press in 1896 (Mosher also used this border in the 1914 catalogue). A printed insert acknowledges the borrowing (see entry 26, Wine Women and Song). In his 1908 Hound of Heaven, Mosher uses a cover border also designed by Ricketts for his Poems of John Keats, (1898). The title page initial, however, is by Lawrence Housman.

    The entire print run was exhausted (450 copies at $8.00 and 25 copies at $20.00) by the time Mosher acquired (in 1901) the distribution rights for the exact facsimile, published by Stock in England.1 The facsimile consisted of the four original issues, including covers and advertisements, with the addition of a long introduction by W.M. Rossetti, printed in the same format. The price was $4.00, raised in 1903 to $5.00; by 1903 the facsimile was sold out.

  2. FANCY’S FOLLOWING, Anodos [Mary Elizabeth Coleridge]. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, MDCCCC.
    195 mm x 115 mm, 57 pp., Reprints 7, Hatch 154. 450 copies on Kelmscott paper, 50 numbered copies on Japan vellum, and 4 copies on pure Roman vellum.

    Mosher admired the work of the Reverend Daniel, provost of Oxford University, and owned twenty-nine of the books published by him. He reprinted three of these books: The Growth of Love in 1894, The Garland of Rachel in 1902 (containing a checklist of the Daniel Press Publications, compiled by Henry W. Poor), and Fancy’s Following. Mosher’s page setting is reminiscent of the Daniel volume, but he departed from the reticent model in his cover. Daniel’s cover is quiet and unassuming, a far cry from Mosher’s flamboyant and undulating design of stylized tulips printed in red and green. The design has not been attributed, but the artist obviously saw the covers Ricketts designed for the Bodley Head. As with Fragilia Labilia, the title page is decorated with a single flower, set simply within a rectangular box.

    This copy is unusual on many counts. Although printed on Japan vellum, it is not numbered and it is bound in the blue-paper wrap boards decorated with red flowers and green leaves of the Van Gelder paper copies. It has also a dust jacket of Japan vellum with the same tulip decoration. This is the only recorded instance of a Mosher book with a decorated dust jacket.

  3. FRAGILIA LABILIA, John Addington Symonds. Portland, Maine, Thomas B Mosher, MDCCCCIJ.
    195 mm x 115 mm, 45 pp., Reprints 10, Hatch 224. 450 copies on Kelmscott paper, 50 numbered copies on Japan vellum (of which this is number 11); in addition five copies were printed on pure Roman vellum and issued in sheets.

    The first edition of this volume was so limited (25 copies) that there was no bibliographic mention of it anywhere until Mosher reprinted it. As with many of the books in the series, a great part of the charm of this slender volume resides in the cover design in dark green and orange on old-style gray wrappers. The design consists of a symmetric arrangement of slender green stems rising from a stylized ornate poppy flower and blooming into three equally stylized poppy flowers. The title page is decorated with a single poppy in vibrant green and orange.

  1. THE GERM THOUGHTS TOWARDS NATURE IN POETRY, LITERATURE, AND ART. MDCCCXVIII, Being a Facsimile Reprint of the Literary Organ of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Published in 1851, Preface by William Michael Rossetti, London, Elliot Stock, 1900. 225 mm x 144 mm, 222 pp. (5 booklets—Preface, 30 pp. and each of the four facsimile reproductions 48 pp.) On the recto of the half-title of the Preface appears the following “250 copies have been printed for sale in the United States and have been acquired by Mr. Thomas B. Mosher.” Boxed in gray boards, decorated with the initials of the Brotherhood, PRB, designed by D. G. Rossetti, with white spine. Mosher listed this volume in his Reprint of Privately Printed Books; Hatch did not assign it a number.