Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2008 Issue

The Art Of The Book: The Book As Art

32806540

Original dies for Bird & Bull Press - offered by Oak Knoll

From this appreciation for artful presentation the book as artful object has developed as a collecting category. If most book collectors focus on content and printing priority and thus value the first edition over the second and take their clues and information from the text, the world of "books as objects" looks both at priority and artistry and comes down with emphasis on the quality of presentation. This art expresses itself as exceptional printing, sometimes as the unusually illustrated, other times as bindings complex, original and evocative of the text, other times focusing on an author, even the book owner. In all these many ways the content of the book is but a point of departure for the printer or binder to create and convey an impression and feeling. For many collectors, it is the feeling they collect with emotion never far from the surface.

Such material is per-norm visually appealing and hence often the subject of library and institutional displays and shows somewhat out of proportion to the small numbers extant. The impression is made that librarians, who see books in all their forms, often personally connect with such richly embellished examples. Everyone can sing. A few can sing an aria with grace. For many who appreciate such material, exceptional bindings are their grace notes.

It is to the rank and file somewhat esoteric and I therefore sought to better understand this Rhode Island among the California, Texas and New Yorks of traditional book collecting by simply asking the knowledgeable for their perspectives.

For the past thirty years Bob and Lynne Veatch have made a life and business as The Veatchs Arts of the Book. For them "Book Arts" encompasses an appreciation both for the book as artifact and for the individual arts which created the book– papermaking, type design, calligraphy, layout, presswork, illustration and binding. The collector captivated by a Kelmscott Chaucer, magnificently printed on handmade paper, illustrated with Burne-Jones' woodcuts, and bound in blind-tooled pigksin, may study the history of type design. Or papermaking. Or book illustration. Or bookbinding. Then there are humbler books-as-objects which help illuminate the history of bookmaking. "Early printed books with an earlier vellum manuscript leaf used as part of the binding and an 18th century novel with its pages untrimmed and in original wraps" are two such examples, each different and yet united under the banner of book arts.

In discussing how collectors approach the 'book arts' Lynne explains that, "because the field is broad, collectors narrow their focus. One might collect 16th century French bindings, or bindings executed by women, or publishers' bindings in striped cloth. One might collect books illustrated with wood engravings or with original etchings. One might collect the entire output of one private press, or fine printing from one geographical area, or the writings of Herman Melville in every fine edition. The possibilities are endless."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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