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.
If it weren't for Roman history and Shakespeare, there would be nothing ominous about the Ides of March. Its etymology is innocuous enough: it simply means the middle of March. However, the events of this day in 44 B.C. forever changed the language used in association with it. We would like to mark the middle of March by highlighting Classical literature, or works that have been inspired by Latin and Greek writers. This includes fine press printers who have been enticed by the challenge of designing Classical texts, from Giambattista Bodoni, whose vast oeuvre includes a handsome edition of Anacreon in Greek, to the Officina Bodoni, which often produced original texts and their translations in the same work. Many book illustrators have also found inspiration in Classical texts, including the French Catalan sculptor Aristide Maillol, who embraced a simpler line in his Odes of Horace, and Georges Barbier and Jean-Francois Schmied, whose Les Chansons de Bilitis is widely considered an Art-Deco highspot. As with Caesar's walk to the Theater of Pompey, books also have their destiny as Terentianus reminds us: Habent sua fata libell.
The recent celebration of the Chinese New Year gives one a yearly occasion to reflect upon the traditions and influences of East-Asian cultures that reach across the globe. As we examine the artistic output of East Asia, one can certainly behold a worldview that is quite different from that which is familiar to European and American sensibilities. And yet, the mirror that reflects a culture can also be a piece of glass that shows its face to the world, and it is this duality that is the theme behind our latest e-catalogue. The books selected for this catalogue range from 19th-century Chinese watercolors depicting the harvesting of tea and an album of paintings by Japanese artist Takeuchi Seiho, to works by artists in the West, who were influenced by East-Asian aesthetics and philosophy, such as Edmund Dulac, Morris Cox, and Mali Burgess. When gathering material together for this catalogue, we were surprised at the breadth of subjects that fit our theme. We hope you will find a few surprises here as well.
Through the stories and images we encountered as children, the landscape of our minds has been peopled with characters that have become iconic in our culture: from the illustrations of Dr. Seuss to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its many sequels. The objects of childhood offer a view of life as it once was, because of their role in the shaping of young minds. Consider the moral message behind The Errand Boy from 1821, in which young Tom is rewarded for overcoming his laziness. Messages such as this are essential to building the character of society, but if there was not an element of wonder to these objects, they would not hold the interest of a child for long. Some of these books feature sumptuous illustrations that transport a young mind to the distant lands of the Arabian Nights, or provide instructions on how to print illustrations using a potato, while others offer an interactive experience well before the age of cinema with moving and speaking pictures. It is in this spirit of wonder that we offer this selection of children's books and objects.
There is something seductive about a book or a document that bears the signature, or better yet, the inscription of a well-known author. Publishers recognize this appeal and offer signed limited editions of works separately from their regular counterparts. Manuscripts and letters allow us to get even closer to the author, providing a snapshot of the creative mind at work. This offering contains a bit of both signed limited editions and original signed manuscripts. Also, in honor of the Charles Dickens bicentennial, it contains a small selection of books by the man who gave us Oliver Twist, Ebeneezer Scrooge, Pip, and many others, as well as items inspired by his work.
Odd is interesting. Not only is this true in human society, in which the eccentric and extraordinary are examined as objects of curiosity, but it is especially true of the vehicles for human expression. The items found within our eccentric gathering work just a little harder than their straightforward counterparts in trying to gain our attention. Witness, for instance, the set of erotic porcelain lithophanes or the zoetrope, which seem odd to us now, but were some of the only forms of entertainment available to a world without electricity; or the book that lent its title to this catalogue - a beautifully printed and illustrated work by the Heavenly Monkey press on those characters from history whose personalities and antics keep us from averting our collective eyes.