Kelmscott Bookshop Rare Books has offered their Catalog 19: Artists' Books & Private Press, Illustrated Books, Art, Literature, History & Travel, Plus More! Kelmscott offers an interesting mix. Much of what they have is what you might expect from a bookshop named “Kelmscott.” It features many works from the book arts and private press. Especially common are recent vintage books by artists who have created unusual works in very small numbers, in some cases each copy being unique. But then, the catalogue evolves into all sorts of other material. They get into historical works, literature, and a variety of other topics, with books now often being several centuries old rather than a year or two. It's not a mix I see very often but it makes for an unusual and fascinating selection. Here are a few examples.
We begin with a book from Argentine calligrapher and artist Marina Soria. She began her career teaching at the University of Buenos Aires, including the first course offered in her country on calligraphy, but later focused full time on her art. At the beginning of the century, she visited Japan, which led to a year of study of sumi-e, Japanese painting. That takes us to this recent work she created just last year. The title is Pink Hanami, “hanami” being Japanese for “flower watching,” particularly Sakura, sort of a cherry blossom festival in the spring. The pages are an abstract riot of pink cherry blossoms with some brown for the trees. It is a pop-up book and tabs on the back hold it up and open for display. She also also created a poem, in Spanish, which features her calligraphic skills. An excerpt, in the English translation, reads:
“She has flourished in the spring
And has lived her whole existence
Just for this moment
Sublime and evanescent”
It is accompanied by a card with the English translation and the book's description, signed by the artist. Item 64. Priced at $3,600.
This is an older book and one that is quite unusual. It comes from the 19th century French artist J. J. Grandville. The title is Les Fleurs Animées (animated flowers). Grandville was a man of great imagination and he lets it run free in his illustrations. He is perhaps something of a pre-surrealist illustrator. In this case, he has created human, female in particular, flowers. These beautiful young ladies sprout from the branches of flowers, each part human, part flower. Grandville is noted for his creation of both anthropomorphic flowers and animals. There are 52 color plates in the two volume set. This is the 1867 new edition published 20 years after the first. Item 94. $500.
In case you are wondering about the macabre wrapped skeleton on the cover, it is The Mask of the Red Death. A Fantasy. Thankfully, it is just a fantasy. This is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, originally published in 1842. It occurs at a time of a plague, the “Red Death,” a period we can all relate to these days. Some mysterious and frightening things take place, as one might expect of Poe. This is a 1969 edition and the first book published by the Aquarius Press of Baltimore. It features the illustrations of Federico Castellon. Castellon was born in Spain but moved with his family to New York at a young age. He was taken under the wing of Mexican painter Diego Rivera, developing his own style, described sometimes as surrealistic, and becoming accomplished in lithography. He found that Poe spoke to him in his searching for what life was about, leading to his choice of this work to illustrate. The book includes a separate portfolio of 16 signed and numbered lithographs along with six unrelated erotic lithographs. This is copy “A” of ten lettered copies reserved for the collaborators. Item 8. $4,000.
Horace Walpole, son of British Prime Minister Robert Walpole and an MP himself, was a writer, printer and possessor of an enormous library. He also built a neo-Gothic castle in sections, beginning in 1749. It was called Strawberry Hill and within it he housed his Strawberry Hill Press. So many people wished to see his castle that Walpole complained that he was driven from his own home by tourists. You can still visit it today. Item 68 is Walpole's A Description of the Villa of Mr. Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Oxford, at Strawberry Hill Near Twickenham, Middlesex. It was printed at the Strawberry Hill Press in 1784. It documents Walpole's estate and some of the possessions within. This copy has a handwritten table of contents bound inside and handwritten notes and list of plates laid in. $1,000.
Now for something completely different. This is an account of an early expedition in what was then primarily New Mexico territory in the American Southwest. The title is Report of an Expedition Down the Zuni and Colorado Rivers, presented to the U.S. Senate in 1854. The author and head of the expedition was Capt. Lorenzo Sitgreaves. They were sent to explore this unknown part of northern New Mexico and look for a route to California. Sitgreaves spent much of his career as a topographical engineer for the army. It contains numerous plates of Indians, landscapes, fauna and flora they saw along the way. Occasionally, they found themselves in firefights with hostile Indians. Wheat described the accompanying map as “a monumental achievement...generally correct and exceedingly well done.” Item 118. $250.
The Kelmscott Bookshop Rare Books may be reached at 410-235-6810 or email@example.com. Their website is www.kelmscottbookshop.com.