What is an alphabet but one of the essential building blocks of language, and thus, of the stories that serve as the backbone of culture? From our first formative educational experience to the intricacies of letterform and design, our mastery of our ABCs shapes how we experience the world during our time in it. We have therefore gathered a selection of material that speaks to this broad range of influence. From 19th century illustrated primers, to Edward Gorey’s Gashleycrumb Tinies; from Vespasiano Amphiareo’s writing manual, to the jewel-like calligraphy in Melissa Sweet’s Garden Companion, we see just how well-traveled these characters are.
A tour of the offerings in our booth at the virtual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair in 2020.
The subject of this e-catalogue is the examination of Eric Gill's considerable talents in the book arts. From his work for Count Kessler at the Cranach Press and Robert Gibbings at the Golden Cockerel Press, to the small communities he formed at Ditchling with Hilary Pepler, Gill's prolific output was enduring and his influence on future artists immense. His biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, concludes that he was “a most extraordinary person,” which dovetails perfectly with something Gill himself wrote in 1934: “Art itself has become an extraordinary thing—the activity of peculiar people—people who become more and more peculiar as their activity becomes more and more extraordinary.”
We close out our series of lists featuring books-about-books with a nod to the self-referential nature that these works tend to take. The preservation of stories about printing, typography, bookbinding, and book collecting lies at the core of this selection, covering a variety of bookish worlds, from the booksellers imagined in Henry Morris’s San Serriffe, to the Typestickers of Los Angeles. The high level of production also befits the texts they contain: consider George Parker Winship’s address on William Caxton, delivered to the Club of Odd Volumes in 1908 and printed at the Doves Press; or the indulgently extravagant entrée into the world of books and book collecting that is The Colophon—available here as a nearly complete run and with the first part in original slipcases.
The third installment in our month-long books-about-books theme takes a look at several aspects of that essential element of bookmaking: paper. Although this list is weighted heavily toward the decorative end—featuring a range of books about marbling, paste-papers, and sample books showing the available range of patterns from commercial papermakers—there are several works here that delve into more historical perspectives.
Dipping our toes for a second time into the refreshing waters of books-about-books, we delve a little into the notion of book decoration. At first blush, the most obvious landing point is the illustrations a book contains, as the illustrated book offers an additional window into the interpretation of a text. Here, our selection covers some vast ground: from ukiyo-e to Edward Gorey. Diving a little deeper, one can also look at the decoration of the object itself as a form of interpretation—thus, we have included several notable works on bookbinding. And because ownership also helps to place books within a contextual framework, in addition to being another form of adornment, you will find a few books about bookplate artists as well.
For the month of August, we have prepared a series of short lists that show the great diversity within the area of books-about-books. We’re kicking off the series with a look at the ways in which books incorporate the element of bonus content—after all, most people enjoy a good surprise.
For our latest e-catalogue, we have chosen to pull together examples of the ways in which we interact with books, toys, and games from the standpoint of touch. Early games, for instance, made use of texts—such as that which is based on Jules Verne’s Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours, which brings the players into the text, traveling along with Phileas Phogg while learning world geography. Being able to manipulate characters in two dimensions as a story progresses is the premise behind pop-up and movable books, of which we have several choice examples. Above all, these books and objects remind us of the importance of play. Coming at a time when we are being asked to withhold the basic element of human touch, that level of interaction assumes even greater significance.