Saturday, April 10, 2010

Great Ships, Great Bindings, Great Gatsbys, & Great Decorating!


April 10, 1912: The RMS Titanic leaves port in Southampton, England for her first and only voyage. "Titanic surpassed all her rivals in luxury and opulence. The First-class section had an on-board swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, Turkish bath, Electric bath and a Verandah Cafe. First-class common rooms were adorned with ornate wood panelling, expensive furniture and other decorations. In addition, the Café Parisien offered cuisine for the first-class passengers, with a sunlit veranda fitted with trellis decorations. There were libraries and barber shops in both the first and second-class. The third class general room had pine panelling and sturdy teak furniture."

Among the physical objects lost when the great ship went down was a fabulous copy of The Rubáiyát by Omar Khayyám, bound by the famous Sangorski and Sutcliffe bindery, "The book was undoubtedly the most ambitious bookbinding ever undertaken by any bookbinder at any period in history. It boasted over a thousand precious and semi-precious jewels, thousands of separate leather onlays and it took the firm two years of continuous work to finish. Finally completed in 1911, the book was on voyage to America when it was tragically lost in the Titanic disaster. A few months later its creator Francis Sangorski drowned in a bathing accident. The book and its creator have passed into bookbinding legend."

Among the arts-related figures who perished were Benjamin Guggenheim, Harry Elkins Widener, author Jacques Futrelle (above), and writer and painter Francis Davis Millet.

April 10, 1925: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published. "Set on Long Island's North Shore and in New York City during the summer of 1922 and is a critique of the American Dream. It is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. The novel chronicles the chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roaring" 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to an increase in organized crime. Although Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamor of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and the lack of morality that went with it, a kind of decadence."

April 10, 1932: Omar Sharif (born Michael Demitri Shalhoub), was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Sharif has starred in Hollywood films, most famously in Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl and Lawrence of Arabia. He has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won three Golden Globe Awards.


- Archaeologists dig up Shakespeare's 'cesspit' : Archaeologists believe they are on the cusp of shedding new light on the life of William Shakespeare – by digging up what may have been the playwright’s cesspit. Read the full story

- Ancient Indian Village in Rhode Island Pits Preservation Against Property Rights : NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — "Long before this town existed, there were Indians of that name who lived, camped, hunted, fished and grew maize in the woods and fields along the shoreline. Now, archaeological evidence of the Narragansetts’ early presence in Rhode Island has ignited a debate over private development on a site that some consider to be culturally and historically significant. The state maintains it has the regulatory authority to stop development on the site. The developer says this amounts to a taking of his land, for which he is constitutionally entitled to compensation, a claim the state denies." Read the full story


A few years after the death of its’ founder, Aldam Heaton & Co. would go on to design much of the interior of the Titanic.

"A Record of Work. Being Illustrations of Printing, Stencilling and Painting, Stained Glass, Cabinet-Work and Marquetry, Embroidery, Woven fabrics and Other Decorative Works Designed and Executed by Aldam Heaton, With Notes by the Designer"

By [John] Aldam Heaton.
Published in London by Aldam Heaton; probably about 1890.

DISCUSSION: J. Aldam Heaton [1830-1897] was a noted London designer and a leading member of the “Neo Classical Arts & Crafts Movement”. A member of William Morris’s circle, he was also a friend of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who painted Heaton’s wife. Most of his designs fall well within the style of the English Arts & Crafts movement, including his stained glass, wallpapers, textile designs, ceilings and friezes. When he designed furniture, though, he veered more toward the classic English 18th century.

This is book is in fact a trade catalog, with each item described and priced. The first 26 items are Arts & Crafts overmantels, ceilings and mantels, followed by a dozen wallpapers and carpets; there are then a half-dozen carved and decorated altar panels, wall pieces and such, followed by more than 30 stained glass window designs. The catalog is completed with marquetry panels, furniture, screens and several window draperies.

This is an interesting association copy, with the small bookplate of “Maurice B. Adams – Chiswick”. Maurice B. Adams [1849-1933] was an eclectic English architect who lived in and helped promote Bedford Park, the pioneering London ‘garden suburb’. From 1872 to 1923 he was the editor of ‘Building News’. Uncommon.



Katrina Jodie Kieffer-Wells said...

Great article - love this kind of history. We dig things up in gardens all the time - no treasure yet, but we have had old bottles, pill boxes, shoes, bits of tile and one on occassion a dog skeleton!

Tad said...

What a coincidence that all three unrelated incidents should occur on the same date – April 10. In the literary world, this day in 1925, is of special significance as it was on this day that 'The Great Gatsby' was first published. The book has often been considered a book of history as it reflects the `Roaring Twenties’ or the `Jazz Age’ as it was popularly called. It was a time of Prohibition. But the high society that Fitzgerald portrayed in this novel is not affected by it at all. The characters lead materialistic, shallow, artificial lives, full of deceit and lies. I was going through the other day and found some great insights to this novel that really changed my perspective.