Fine Examples of the Book Arts from the Veatchs
By Michael Stillman
The Veatchs Arts of the Book has released Catalogue 60: Recent Acquisitions. While the title of the catalogue might not leave much hint as to what is inside, the bookseller's name explains it well. Offered is a collection of works from fine presses, books about the book arts such as papermaking, printing, and marbling, specimens, leaf books, and more. There are 151 items in all for your consideration. Here are some.
Item 17 is an unusual copy of America's first color plate book, American Medical Botany, by Jacob Bigelow. Bigelow was both a doctor and a botanist, explaining this book combining the fields. He had intended it, like other books of the day, to be colored by hand, but when this proved impractical, he devised a system for color printing. This was a six-part, three-volume set, published from 1817-1820. However, this copy, with all volumes bound in one, is unusual in that the first part is done in a contemporary manuscript facsimile with ten hand colored plates. It is accompanied by a letter from Richard J. Wolfe, author of a book about Bigelow's first American color plate book. He explains that Bigelow continued to put together copies of the book for many years, and when he ran out of sheets for the first part, he made books by using the facsimiles plus the old hand colored plates he had earlier produced but never used. Wolfe estimates this copy was assembled in the 1840s or 1850s. Priced at $6,750.
I don't ever recall seeing a book about fleurons before, but here is one: Fleurons, Their Place in History and in Print. Fleurons are those little flowery ornaments printers use to dress up a page. Mark Arman published his book on these designs in 1988, this being one of 170 signed and numbered copies, hand printed on goatskin parchment paper. Item 7. $150.
For those fascinated by dictionaries, here is a chance to own a piece of two of the most important ones ever printed. Item 70 is Dr. Johnson and Noah Webster. Two Men and Their Dictionaries. Samuel Johnson produced the first truly comprehensive dictionary, while Webster created what is still the greatest American one. This account of these two men and their dictionaries was written by David Littlejohn and published in 1971. Tipped in are leaves from the letter "A" from each of these men's dictionaries - Johnson's 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language, and Webster's 1828 An American Dictionary of the English Language. $300.
Here is a book that makes very fast reading. It is actually a joke from Henry Morris of Bird and Bull Press, entitled Forty Years of Bird and Bull, 1958-1998. Comprising the Accumulated Knowledge Gained from Four Decades of Practical Experience in Running One of America's Successful Private Presses. It consists of a title, half title, colophon, and about 80 blank leaves. Only 14 copies were made, inscribed by Morris and given away. Item 25. $600.