The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, James McNeil Whistler
Edited by Sheridan Ford
Rare pirated edition, preceding the trade and signed limited edition published later the same year. The book serves both as a response to and a detailed account of Whistler's notable defamation lawsuit against the critic John Ruskin. This legal battle stemmed from Ruskin's critique of Whistler's artwork, particularly his piece titled "Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket," which Ruskin disparagingly described as akin to recklessly throwing paint at the public. Additionally, the book compiles Whistler's various letters to newspapers, where he aired his numerous minor disputes with different people in his social circle. It also includes Whistler's renowned 1885 lecture "Ten O'Clock," where he elaborates on his views regarding the essence and objective of art.
In August 1889, Sheridan Ford, a freelance journalist and art critic, started working on a comprehensive collection of Whistler's newspaper correspondence, documenting his various public disputes. Whistler initially entrusted the publishing of this collection, a reflection of his "literary" endeavors, to Chatto & Windus. However, he suddenly revoked his permission and ended his association with Ford. In response, Ford, holding onto the printer's plates, contracted a publisher in Antwerp in February 1890. When Whistler's lawyer accused Ford of copyright infringement and seized 2,000 printed copies, Ford didn't give up. He escaped to Ghent and managed to release around 4,000 copies with Paris and New York labels (the New York one being Frederick Stokes). In the introduction to the book, Ford provocatively suggested, "I commend the book to Mr. Whistler's enemies, assuring them that if each one buys a copy, the entire edition would sell out within a week."
New York [Ghent]: Frederick Stokes and Brother, 1890. Original speckled card stock wrappers, lettered in red; pp. [vi], xi-xvii, , 21-256, . In about very good condition. Wraps show some wear and chipping to extremities, front corner chipped, loss to the spine wrapper but the title and author still intact, spine rebacked to match, internally clean. Housed in a custom cloth slipcase with the spine lettered in red, previous owner's bookplate inside.