The woodcut has been with the western world since the early 15th century, and its rise as a popular form of the visual arts can be at least partially attributed to the ease with which woodcuts could be printed side-by-side with text composed from movable type. As a result, the woodcut, and its kissing cousin, the wood engraving, were the only media for illustrating printed books until the late-sixteenth century, after which point techniques developed for engraving on other surfaces--stone, copper, then steel--offering alternatives that displaced the humble woodcut. Yet, the process of transferring images to paper via a carved block of wood managed to bounce back, enjoying revivals as recently as the mid-twentieth century. Its resilience is perhaps the result of a level of expression that can be teased out of a woodblock's positive and negative spaces. It is an attempt to illustrate this wide range that lies behind our latest e-catalogue.
In his text announcing "A Miniature Lesson in the History of the Book" -- a 2005 exhibition of miniature books at Harvard University's Houghton Library -- Julian Edison declared that "Miniature books have been produced for reasons of practicality, curiosity, and aesthetics, and are limited in design only by the scribe's and printer's skill and the binder's imagination." Just as we admire Ginger Rogers because she did everything Fred Astaire did, only backward and in high heels, miniature books rise in our estimation because their creators can explore diverse subjects and design possibilities while working with a canvas of under three inches. Edison's elegant and effective summary is an appropriate epigraph for the books that make up our 30th e-catalogue, which is comprised of nearly 45 recent acquisitions.
As bibliophiles, we know too well the appeal of a particularly strong, or sensual image found in a print or piece of original art. These pieces allow us to create a personal museum inspired by the pages of our books, which points to a very subtle relationship between the illustrated book and works on paper. For this e-catalogue, we have pulled together a diverse group of works on paper -- original art, prints, and broadsides -- that we think speak to this relationship. A significant portion of the artists represented in this selection are well-known to collectors of illustrated books: Sarah Chamberlain, Edward Gorey, Rockwell Kent, and Barry Moser, among many others. A few of the works produced by these artists were published, but most were created to stand on their own as prints, broadsides, or works of original art. We hope this offering inspires you to consider a few new volumes for the library on your walls.
For our twenty-seventh e-catalogue, we have pulled together over thirty artists' books that we feel strike a balance between text, illustration, and the design and execution of the book itself. The examples range from the Eragny Press masterpiece, La Charrue d'Érable, to John and Joy Tonkin's miniature book, ABC New Zealand Style, which contains an alphabet of New Zealand's particular dialect. From the field of children's books are examples of work from Belgian Fauvist Edgard Tijtgat and Italian Futurist Bruno Munari, and in the archive for Still, Mali Burgess's tour-de-force of concrete poetry, we see the printed word itself as the illustration, in the tradition of the Calligrammes of Apollinaire. We hope that you enjoy this exploration of the creativity, versatility, and ingenuity of artists' books.
In the process of choosing a specialty area for our first e-catalogue of the summer season, our thoughts turned to childhood. It can be argued that summer is best enjoyed when one is young, and many of our best memories spring from experiences as children in summertime. We have therefore gathered together a group of fifty-odd children's books and related material for your consideration.
Whether it's fly-fishing at the lake, or sailing on the open ocean, water figures very largely in our summer activities; that it makes up most of the earth's surface and the human body means that it is a central element in our lives. It is only natural, then, that water should also be a major symbol in literature, and we can see this from the Old Testament to Moby Dick. For our latest e-catalogue, we have therefore pulled together a surprisingly diverse group of books in which water plays a thematic role.