Once in a while, a catalogue comes across my desk that is very hard to describe. This time, one has arrived I find impossible to put into words. The title is Timothy C. Ely 8 Books, the bookseller Abby Schoolman Books of New York. These eight books are all the handcrafts of Mr. Ely. They are not antiquarian. Timothy Ely is still very much alive. But, they are rare, extremely so. Mr. Ely has no print runs. He makes them one at a time, and each is unique. Every one of Ely's books is as rare as it can possibly be.
Naturally, there are no "reading copies" of a book as rare as one copy, but that is all right here. These are not to be read, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather, they are compilations of Mr. Ely's art, from the unique bindings to the artwork that constitutes their internal pages. Here is where the descriptions become impossible. I really have no words to describe the art he has created.
The closest comparable that comes to mind is the mysterious Voynich Manuscript. That is the strange manuscript of unknown origin, believed to date back to the 15th century. You have probably read about it or seen images of it. It combines drawings, some scientific-looking artistic designs, and a language no one has yet been able to decipher. Ely's work is far more artistic and less textual. And yet, his work also contains symbols and drawings that look scientific or mathematical, but in a language we don't quite understand. They, too, will take you on flights of fancy, trying to discover precisely what they mean. Ultimately, their meaning becomes the meaning we give it, rather than what Mr. Ely assigns, for this is a language of art and imagination rather than math and science.
The titles of the eight books are Bones of the Book, Gamma Cruxis, Mechanism, PhiaL, Second Road, Tethys, Transmission, and Tor. That doesn't much help describe them either. You know from the title what The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is about, but Tethys? PhiaL? Again, each person will have to create their own understanding of the mysteries as Mr. Ely provides no lecture notes. The artwork is dramatic, colorful, and beautiful. What stands apart from other art is the use of symbols, shapes that look like they come from mechanical devices, grid work representations, and such. They look to be telling us something specific, and yet, only the viewer can give them meaning.
With that, I will try no more. Rather, here is a link to Timothy C. Ely's eight books and a few more that Abby Schoolman Books is offering. Each is illustrated and described better than I can do, but you will probably want to create your own interpretations and descriptions. Click here.