Artists' Books, Bindings, Calligraphy, and Typography from the Veatchs Arts of the Book

- by Michael Stillman

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Artists' Books, Bindings, Calligraphy, and Typography from the Veatchs Arts of the Book

The Veatchs Arts of the Book has published their Catalogue 98 New Acquisitions, including Artists' Books, Bindings, Calligraphy, and Typography. That makes describing what's in this selection easy, especially since their name points out the focus is on the book arts. So, we will move right ahead to a few specific examples of items to be found herein.

 

We will begin with some deep philosophy, though the philosophy is secondary in this edition to the production. The book is Also Sprach Zarathustra. Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen (Thus spoke Zarathustra. A book for all and none). Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, was the ancient Persian teacher whose followers once dominated that part of the world. His teachings were focused on how to live a good life. This book was written by Friedrich Nietzsche and it illuminates his teachings, particularly his concept of the perfect being or ubermensch (superman). It was published in the 1880s, but this edition is from 1908 and the focus is on its production. Quoting the Princeton University Library Chronicle, the Veatchs notes, “In scale, sumptuousness, and significance, this book brings to mind the other two masterpieces of the early private-press movement, the Kelmcott Chaucer and the Doves Bible.” Considering that those are the two most highly praised private press books, that is quite a compliment. The book was commissioned by Harry (Count) Kessler, a German involved in the arts and follower of Nietzsche who later opened his own private press. He worked with Georges Lemmen to develop the type for this book. However, the primary force in its creation was Henry van de Velde. Van de Welde was a Belgian artist and designer, one of the founders of Art Nouveau and an admirer of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. It is a spectacular book, this being copy 521 of 530 on handmade paper. Item 46. $6,800.

 

Item 4 is the first Bible/New Testament in Greek published in America. That is significant as Greek was the language in which the New Testament was written. The Veatchs ascribed the printing to Isaiah Thomas Jr., son of the legendary American printer, newspaper publisher and patriot. Thomas moved his press from Boston to Worcester just before the Battle of Concord, in which he participated, sparing it from confiscation by the British. He continued printing until his death in 1831 and was then succeeded by his son. Thomas, Sr., was one of the founders of the American Antiquarian Society. $900.

 

The Veatchs introduces this book by saying, “A garden is a living collaboration of nature and art.” That is a collaboration that marks the work of this artist, Nancy Leavitt. Item 36 is her The Inner Garden, published in 2007. It is a one-of-a-kind hand-lettered and painted artist's book. Leavitt's background is a degree in biology along with a love of gardening combined with being a talented artist. With this book, along with the text are five double page nature prints. Nature printing was popular in the 1850s but there hasn't been much of it since. It is where some natural object, perhaps a leaf but it can be anything, is used to create a plate for printing. What Leavitt has done is not quite the same. She has laid plants on paper coated with inks, then covered them with glass and baked them in the sun. When the glass is removed, the ghost-like images are left in place. $3,800.

 

Here is an unusual item. You might call it a message in a bottle. The title is Any Number of Things, text and art by Rebecca Harvey. The story is that of the events which led up to the death of explorer Captain James Cook in 1779. On the way back from his third voyage, Cook stopped in Hawaii for some R&R (or perhaps a little more exploring) but ran into a misunderstanding with the natives. They took it too seriously. They killed him. In her text, Harvey concludes any number of things could have contributed to Cook's demise. The format is most unusual, though appropriate for a seagoing man. The text and art is on a scroll that opens to 10 ½ x 113 inches. It is housed in a glass bottle, 17 inches tall. There is a stopper in the top, but even open you would have a heck of a time getting this scroll into the bottle, and probably no chance of getting it back out. To make up for this, the bottle has no bottom. It has been placed on a saucer with micro-calligraphy by Ann Alaia Woods. The work was created in 2013. Item 25. $1,350.

 

This is a Livres d'Heures (Book of Hours) from Paris in 1889. It was used for a special ceremony on September 19, 1892, the wedding of Charles Lattemand and Charlotte Capitain. I have not been able to find anything more about the happy couple but hopefully they had a wonderful life since they certainly aren't with us anymore. The miniatures were designed by Madame L. Rousseau. The Veatchs notes this is “an exceptional copy, apparently unused since the happy couple's wedding day.” Item 53. $3,500.

 

The Veatchs Arts of the Book can be reached at 716-648-0361 or veatchs@veatchs.com. Their website is www.veatchs.com.