Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pamela Colman Smith and The Green Sheaf Press

Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) is most famous, perhaps without the general public being aware of it, for the illustrations she did for the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck in 1909. I wrote about her a bit in this post, but at the time I did not have much information about her publishing venture: The Green Sheaf Press. Since I was going to the San Francisco Public Library to do some research and they have a huge collection in the Book Arts and Special Collections Department, I thought I'd look her up. And, yes! They had a slim publication from 1905, a book of "Annuncy Tales" (also known elsewhere as "Anansi") from Jamaica, where Colman Smith lived for a few years. She started The Green Sheaf Press in 1904, and by 1906 she had published ten books. From what I could find, it doesn't appear that she was a letterpress printer, but she did hand color the illustrations. She even taught classes in hand coloring and did hand coloring for hire, as evidenced in a note at the back of the book. More biographic info may be found in a catalogue from a show in 1975 at the Delaware Art Museum and at Princeton, To All Believers: The Art of Pamela Colman Smith. The SFPL library info for it is here. I was able to take some pictures of Chim-Chim: Folk Stories from Jamaica. Each story begins, "Once in a long before time, before Queen Victoria came to reign over we…"


The colors are much brighter than I would have expected.
But it is possible that no one has asked for this book
for a long time and it has certainly been kept in the dark.

The thread is fragile. Well, you would be, too, if you were 109.
"Introduction
Chim-Chim
Ticky-Picky Boom Boom
Turkle and Pigeon
Toad
Annuncy and Death
Kisander
Gingy Fly
The Five Yam Hill"

In "Toad" we find out how the dashing two-legged Toad
ended up having to hop on four legs.

The book wouldn't stay open to this page so the librarians
gave me a weighted string to help.



The book was printed on a bigger sheet, folded down, sewn, and
then the pages had to be split. You can see the torn top edge near the spine.








"These and other Annancy Stories are told by
the Author at Children's Parties, At Homes,
Receptions, Bazaars, &c. with Toys of the
characters.
For terms apply to The Green Sheaf, 3 Park
Mansions Arcade, Knightsbridge, London, S.W.
Orders now taken for Private Christmas and
Greeting Cards. Designs on approval."

In each of the pictures, you might have noticed the mark of her monogram,
PCS.


One of the librarians asked if Colman Smith's tarot deck was "the one we all loved in the '60s?" Apparently it was.

4 comments:

Susan Christensen said...

Fascinating. Thank you for this well-written post.
-sus

Velma Bolyard said...

book sleuth at work. such a wonderful, interesting story, alisa. thank you!

Paper Chipmunk (aka Ellen) said...

Thanks so much for this! What little I know about Pamela Colman Smith fascinates me. How wonderful to see pictures of this book and to know about the Princeton exhibition catalogue. Thanks for sharing your research about her.

North Coast BBQ said...

Pamela's contribution to the A.E. Waite Tarot deck is a great read in itself, as is her biography. She is reputed to have been a member of The Order Of The Golden Dawn, which placed her among some of the most well-known mystics of the 19th and 20th century. She had the name "pixie" and was apparently beloved by all who knew her. Alas, she never acquired wealth enough to fund all her chosen projects and died in near, if not actual, abject poverty. How I wish I could have known her personally.