It was quite straightforward. Both images were faultlessly printed. Here was someone who lived the arts and crafts ethos to the full, and was simply very good at what he was doing. The period was full of these sheer productions, of course. Ruskin and early Royal Lancastrian pottery come to mind. Like Giles' best work, they have that marvellous sense of craftsmanship and finish. As much as they were friends, Allen Seaby's experimental approach to woodcutting, with all its tantalizing loose ends, was not for Giles. Everything with him was bought as close to perfection as he could get it. No wonder he became friends with that other arch-perfectionist, Walter Phillips.
I am not suggesting everything Giles produced was in some ways perfect; it wasn't. But it was the quest he undertook for such high standards that captured the imaginations of other artists. In the box alongside the print I saw, was the baren he had used to print this image. He had had it made from green glass and had had a pine handle attached (which has come off). You might wonder why he had gone to such trouble and whether this was just another of Giles' eccentricities. But this was no ordinary woodcut; in fact, it was not a woodcut at all. In his search for the finest of images, Giles had first abandoned cherry wood for his blocks in favour of Kauri pine from New Zealand, but still not content, he had employed a zinc aquatint plate to make a print. Finally, he opted for steel (I believe) and this is why he needed a glass baren to rub over the back of the print. You will notice the fine print at the very bottom of the image. You would not associate that with any kind of woodcut. You can also make out that telling word 'copyright', which brings me to the second reason for his leadership.
This was probably the first commercially published British colour print. In fact, the image you see at the top isn't the one from 1912, as is so often stated. It dates from 1919. The first image from 1912 so far as I know is the one immediately above, as published by the French dealer and publisher, Goupil, who had a gallery in London. 1912 was the same year that Verpilleux was taken up by the Bond St. dealer, Colnaghi, who published all his work from then on. What was interesting about Giles' approach to commercial publishers is that he wished to show that colour prints made to the highest standards could be sold successfully by publishers, and I think this was another side to his leadership.
Goupil closed during the war, and soon after the war ended a new gallery and publisher opened called Bromhead, Cutts, and it was they that brought out the second edition of 150. But Giles was by no means finished with Midsummer Night. I suspect the development of what he called the Giles method took up alot of his time and he also needed to make money, and he finally allowed a third edition to be published in 1922. So much for limited editions. You can see the Bromhead Cutts version is different from the earlier one, but these second and third editions show Giles not only trying to sell prints after a long war, but, in fact leading the way both in making superb prints and in selling them properly. To his credit, he then handed plates, baren, and a proof over to a museum 'for the use of students', putting the print beyond further re-publication.
This did not stop other artists from taking his lead and making versions of their own. I am far too much of a fan of S.G. Boxsius to call him a plagiarist, but I am sure you will agree he looked with care at Midsummer Night before he made his updated version in his woodcut, Noonday. That Boxsius made the print out of admiration, I would say is obvious. I also think he made Giles modern, and brought in something new, as you must do when you borrow an idea. I was lucky enough to come across this beautifully printed woodcut during last summer and, again, just take my word for it, here was Boxsius and his hero at their best.