Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2010 Issue

Gilding the Lilly Revisited: <i>New book a market-maker for US decorative bindings</i>

Richardminsky

Richard Minsky (photo by Richard Grosbard).


By Susan Halas

One of the oldest wisdoms of the antiquarian trade is: "If it was considered beautiful once, it will be considered beautiful again." The problem is how long do you have to wait?

Some older folks remember the 1950s when the public cleared out Arts & Crafts or Mission style objects by the truckload as taste shifted to bolder modern looks and colors. That cycle held true for books too: many of the limp leather bindings and ornately foiled boards of the late 19th century languished in obscurity or were unceremoniously shoveled off to the Goodwill. As the 20th century passed the decorative binding was replaced by the more pedestrian dust jacket as the outside face of the book. Though some antiquarian specialists saved these earlier volumes for their distinctive style and decorative appeal, for nearly a hundred years they were mostly ignored.

Comes now Richard Minsky
And all that's about to change.

AE Monthly readers may know Minsky for his affiliation with the non-profit NYC based Center for Book Arts, or they have heard of him as Minsky the book artist extraordinaire whose papers were recently acquired by Yale. Then there's Minsky the writer, designer, curator, scholar, lecturer, or developer of book related exhibits, leading to Minsky the bookseller who recently hosted three important and distinctive shows of decorative bindings at his own gallery in Stockport, NY. The three shows together displayed of about 1,100 volumes. Portions of the first two exhibits are still on view at his web site www.minsky.com, and the third is up through May 15 in Stockport by appointment, and can also be seen in part on the web.

However, with the publication of his new book, THE ART OF AMERICAN BOOK COVERS 1875-1930, (Braziller 2010 ISBN 978-0-8076-1602-4 - Link), it wouldn't be surprising if "Minsky the market-maker" can soon be added to the list.

You can buy this new book in a variety of formats, some of them with hefty price tags. But for most readers the first trade edition, which sells for $35 and has a press run of 2,000, is a winner. This lovely volume with bright gold cover illustrates 150 superb examples of decorative bindings of the period. It includes a bibliography, as well as an illustrated check list of notable designers and their marks/monograms. The text is brief but instructive and covers some of the people, companies, artistic points and distinctions that may have escaped popular notice till now.

It's highly unlikely that these niceties will be considered obscure much longer. That's because Minsky puts the era into a new context and makes it much easier for the average non-specialist to understand the creative high points.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.

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