Auctions | November 5, 2014

Edward Gordon Craig Collection Coming Up at Bloomsbury Auctions

London—A collection of rare Edward Gordon Craig works from the property of an American gentleman will be offered in Bloomsbury Auctions’ Important Books and Works on Paper sale on Thursday 13th November at their Mayfair saleroom. The 253 lot collection spanning inscribed books, letters, proofs and prints, some relating to Craig’s mother Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, represents a lifetime dedicated to collecting works by and relating to the artist, author and theatre designer.

Leading the collection is a desirable group of 15 proofs by Craig for the celebrated Cranach Press Hamlet, including one unpublished proof of Gravediggers. [Lot 122, est. £3,000-5,000].

Collectors looking to add single proof plates from the rare Hamlet series to their collections will appreciate Lots 128-136, all of which are printed either on vellum or silk with prices ranging from £300-1,500. Also available are a number of other groups and single proofs for the Cranach Press Hamlet and two collections of proofs for the unrealised Cranach Press Robinson Crusoe [Lots 200 and 201], the latter being Craig’s own portfolio with progressive states. 

Unique works in the collection include this figure of Ophelia. Although this example would have been made for his model theatre, Craig used similar carved wooden silhouettes as printing blocks. They were his "black figures" and were used to extraordinary effect in the Cranach Press Hamlet. This simple figure is an early example and is very unusually painted white. It is inscribed by Craig in pencil “Ophelia Act 1 Scene 3”. According to the Craig family Isadora Duncan, Craig’s lover from 1904, was the model for the figure.

A rooftop sketch on printed stationery drawn from Isadora Duncan’s apartment in Harbenbergstrasse, Charlottenberg, Berlin, 1905, by Craig, titled At Berlin, is among the other unusual and fascinating works elsewhere in the collection. Craig met Isadora Duncan in Berlin in December, 1904, when she invited him to one of her performances and they became lovers [Lot 48, est. £1,00-1,500].

After settling in Florence in 1907, English-born Craig began a very productive period of his life, he wrote an impressive body of theatrical design works that included the first international theatre magazine The Mask, a monthly Journal of the Art of the Theatre, which he continued to publish for over 20 years.   

This collection includes a complete set of The Mask, 1908-1929, all 87 issues bound as 71 parts in 15 volumes. The journal contained numerous contributions by Craig on stage design, masks, puppets and other theatrical topics [Lot 65, est. £3,000-5,000].

Offering an insight into Craig’s psyche, and of particular interest to collectors, is Craig’s own copy of Scene, 1923. Extensively annotated by him throughout his life, the book was given after his death to his cousin John Gielgud.  Loosely inserted into the work is a note from Craig’s daughter Nelly to Gielgud that reads, “This copy was Father’s & it was always in use, he wanted to rebind it in vellum - but it never left him. Father was looking at this a week before he died.” Craig's notes are fascinating and, as is clear from Nelly's note to Gielgud, he constantly re-read it and made comments in the margins, dating his progression of thoughts. On p.14 he remarks, "1947! 25 years lost to England - but gained by me" adding "now 32 years lost (1954)" and "now 40 years lost (1962)" [Lot 235, est. £600-800].

Elsewhere in the collection is a first edition of Craig’s first book, Gordon Craig’s Books of Penny Toys, 1899 inscribed by Craig to his daughter Nelly, the inscription reads, “NGC from EGC xPx”. This example is number 179 of 550 copies, however as noted in ink on the rear cover, 250 of these copies were burnt by Craig when they failed to sell, another 50 were left uncoloured and the remaining 250 copies were sold or given away [Lot 20, est. £5,000-7,000].

The collection of Edward Gordon Craig from the property of an American gentleman will open the Important Books & Works on Paper sale at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ saleroom in London’s Mayfair on Thursday 13th November. The full catalogue is available to view and download at