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.
In the spirit of a season in which 'tis better to give than to receive, we offer a choice selection of books attractively bound in leather. The books listed here represent all our specialty areas: from the first edition of Gay's fables to be illustrated by Thomas Bewick, to the earliest presentation copies of Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno and Sylvie and Bruno Revisited, to a miniature manuscript of FDR's inaugural address. All are in fine collector's condition; any one would make a welcome addition to the library of the discerning bibliophile on your gift list.
The alphabet is the subject of our latest e-catalogue, and in the process of gathering the books in this list, we couldn't help but notice that they touched on nearly all of our specialties. Among the thirty-six examples of ABC books is Christopher's Book, written and illustrated by Sir Alec Guinness's wife, Merula Salaman, an extremely rare and unrecorded miniature book, The Golden Alphabet, and 28 Characters, 4 Men, 10 Women, 5 Boys and 8 Girls, a playful work produced in 2010 in an edition of five copies. We hope you find something of interest in our gathering of letters.