Friday, December 30, 2011

Featured Item of the Week: Calendars

New Year's is traditionally a time to look forward, and also to reflect on the past. In the spirit of the holiday, we would like to highlight four calendars from our stock, from very different time periods: A 1969 wall calendar commemorating the African American Civil Rights Movement with bold prints, a calendar of color woodcut illustrations published by the leading art journal of the Vienna Secession in 1903, an ornate Renaissance-inspired Italian calendar from 1899 accompanied by the original pen and watercolor drawings, and a luxurious embroidered almanack from 1792 small enough to be tucked in one's pocket.

The German artist Hans Christoph Schmolck created this calendar as a tribute to the African American Civil Rights Movement, titled Black Power: 1969, in 1968. Each month is illustrated with two pages of signed prints celebrating the African-American Civil Rights Movement: one with the name of the month in English, and the other in German. The English pages bear black & white prints of shadowy figures reminiscent of collages, and the German pages have large, bold linoleum cuts accented with color. The powerful images express rage, fear, pain, and strength, and many reference specific events, including the Orangeburg Massacre in February, 1968 and the Newark Riots of 1967. Several important figures are also depicted: April's linoleum cut is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., with the date of his assassination. The calendars list the dates in a vertical format, so that it can be used in any year; the artist writes on his website, "This calendar is perpetual as long as misanthropy and violence dominate the world."

 Another calendar remarkable for its illustrations is the Ver Sacrum Kalender 1903, which has thirteen bright color woodcuts from various artists, including Karl Müller, Wilhelm List, and Max Kurzweil. The calendars and decorative borders were designed by Alfred Roller, whose lettering was a major influence on the psychedelic poster art of the 1960s. Ver Sacrum was the major publication of the Vienna Secession movement, a group of artists who banded together in Vienna at the turn of the century to challenge what they saw as the conservative, academic bent of the city's art establishment. The magazine was published from 1898 to 1903 and produced a calendar each year. This is the last calendar in the series.

This pre-Raphaelite example, Calendario dell'Anno, 1899, provides insight into how the artwork for a calendar was created: the finished, printed calendar is accompanied by twenty-one of Giuseppe Cellini's original watercolor and ink drawings, of which three were not used, and one is a duplicate.The printed calendar is illustrated with seventeen chromolithographed plates, which accompany a series of musical arrangements by Salvatore Saya, with lyrics by the Italian poet Ugo Fleres. In the original art, the panels for the months of the year have, in almost all cases, placeholder text handwritten by the artist that was replaced by type in the final version. These intricate calendar illustrations also clearly demonstrate the sway that the Renaissance aesthetic had on the Arts & Crafts movement, with elaborate floral and foliate designs, initials decorated with interlacing, and symbols for each sign of the zodiac, all in regal shades of red, blue, green, and gold.
This deluxe, near-miniature almanack from 1792, Cupidon Logicens ou les Pedagoges, a Cythere, is notable not only for its thirteen hand-colored engravings, but also for its richly embroidered binding. In a time before iPhones and BlackBerrys, almanacks were used to keep track of dates and appointments. Not merely calendars, they also include tables of useful information such as holidays, currency exchange rates, and the phases of the moon. In addition to the usual contents of an almanac, this tome contains tales of love told in rhyming verse and an acrostic poem based on the name "Sophie." Its lovely white satin embroidered binding with floral motifs in gold thread with sequins and metal plaquettes was intended to convey the status and sophistication of the book's owner.

For more information on these items, and several other almanacks and calendars, please visit our website. Thank you for reading, and all of us at Bromer Booksellers wish you a very happy New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Featured Item of the Week: Ubu Roi

One of our most unusual items is a copy of Alfred Jarry's surrealist play Ubu Roi: Drame en Cinq Actes, notable not only for its illustrations by the Chilean expressionist artist Roberto Sebastian Matta, but also for its bold designer binding by Georges Leroux. The book is accompanied by a reproduction of a 1950s Japanese toy robot, which served the inspiration for Leroux's design. Leroux chose to depict Father and Mother Ubu, the drama's main characters, as robots sculpted in relief on the front and rear covers, set against a background of bright vermilion calf. He incorporated a series of gears, springs, and clock wheels into the chest cavities of both figures, and added multi-colored wires, metal widgets, sheet plastic, and marbles. One of Father Ubu's most striking features is that his holographic eyes appear to spin in his head.

In The Art of Contemporary Bookbinding, Jan Van Der Marck writes, "Attracted to the incongruous, like the Surrealists, Leroux indulges his love of tinkering by analyzing, dissecting, and reproducing the most salient imagery and features of a given text and illustration," often using irony and "tongue-in-cheek visual rhymes." For Ubu Roi, he drew on Matta's bold color palette, and the spiral clock spring inside of Father Ubu's chest plays on the characteristic, distinctive spiral designs used both in Matta's illustrations and in Jarry's original depiction of the greedy ruler.

For more information and images of Matta's illustrations, please visit our website.

Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing another of our favorite items with you next week.

E-catalogue 17: Remembering Christmas

For our latest e-catalogue, we are remembering Christmas by highlighting materials that speak to the spiritual and communal nature of the coming Christian holiday. Certainly, the Bible is key to this, and so we have included a copy of Officina Bodoni's Gospels inscribed by Pope Paul VI, as well as a number of miniature Bibles and Psalters. In remembering Christmas, it is also important to recall the magic of the season as experienced by children: a wonder that can be found in the unfolding of an elaborate nineteenth-century pop-up Christmas card or a set of Dutton's chromolithographed Christmas Box Series in their original box labeled "To All Good Boys and Girls."  

More from the Boston Book Fair

Check out a video from the 35th Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, held this past November.

Friday, December 9, 2011

E-catalogue 16: Bound to be Enjoyed

Our E-catalogue 16: Bound to be Enjoyed offers 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. View the e-catalogue here or visit our website for more information.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Miniature Books in Chronicle of Higher Education

Anne Bromer and Julian Edison's beautifully presented book on miniature books, Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures, was featured in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, found here.

A deluxe edition of the book is available for sale on our website, a rare opportunity from an edition of 250 copies that sold out before the book was published. Each copy is signed by the authors and includes a facsimile of the book in miniature format, together in a specially designed slipcase. It is an award-winning design, having taken first place in the Gift Book category at the prestigious New York Book Show in March 2008. "[The] miniature book was a perfect touch," the judges commented. "Beautiful reproductions [and a] well executed, special slipcase."

For more information, see our website or contact us directly.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Featured Item of the Week: Culinaria by Laura Davidson


 After a brief hiatus, our featured item of the week is back again. This week, I've selected a book by a local Boston artist, Laura Davidson. Davidson's Culinaria is a collection of eleven drypoint etchings of practical kitchen utensils, including a whisk, corkscrew, and masher, delicately colored with ink washes. The illustrations are bound in brushed stainless steel covers, which have a brass-colored metal spatula attached to the front with small, strong magnets. The spine is a pink, white and green floral, vintage-style cloth, reminiscent of 1940s feed-sack prints. Davidson also made the cheerful, pink-checkered endpapers using original linoleum prints of knives, spoons, forks, and measuring cups.

Davidson is known for her tunnel books depicting some of her favorite places, from Fenway Park to Boston's Fort Point neighborhood, where she lives and works. Her work is currently on display at the Boston Athenaeum, as part of their exhibition of the outstanding artist's books in their collection, which was funded in part by Anne & David Bromer.

For more information, please visit our website or contact us. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to sharing another item with you next week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Featured Item of the Week: Ett Hem

As many of you may have heard, we recently acquired a large private collection of deluxe illustrated children’s books from the late 19th and early 20th century. In addition to works by Arthur Rackham, Alastair, and Dulac, the collection includes several large, oblong books by the Swedish illustrator Carl Larsson. One that particularly caught my eye was Ett Hem (A Home), an album of watercolors of Lilla Hyttnäs, Larsson’s cottage in Sundborn, Sweden.

Ett Hem was Larsson's second book. Due to its numerous large, full-color illustrations, this first edition of Ett Hem, published by the Swedish firm Bonniers, was only produced in a very small, expensive print run. As such, they are now uncommon. However, a German version of the book published in 1909 became an instant bestseller and brought the Larssons international recognition.

In the introduction to Ett Hem, Larsson describes how this country cottage gave him a sense of peace and seclusion that he had previously only felt while he was in the French countryside, where he spent time in an artists’ colony. Larsson’s father-in-law gave him the cottage in 1888, and he and his wife, Karin, immediately set about transforming it into their dream home. He writes that he wanted his home to be decorated exactly according to his taste, with every detail just right, otherwise he wouldn’t be happy and his work would suffer.

The results of this labor of love are documented in Ett Hem, which was published just over ten years later. The illustrations reveal a home that is practically a work of art in itself, and yet, is cozy, comfortable, and lovingly lived-in. In a painting of the living room, the family dog naps on a rumpled rug and newspaper pages are strewn on the sofa. The artist’s own studio is filled with orderly clutter: canvases in various states and rolls of fabric lean against the wall, and his work table is covered with papers, boxes of paint, and vases of fresh wildflowers. The Larssons’ home celebrates an Arts and Crafts-inspired handmade aesthetic, decorated throughout with bright murals and artwork on the walls, cheerful, homemade blue-striped slipcovers on hand-me-down furniture, and bold textiles designed, woven, embroidered, and printed by Karin, who also had a background in art. Larsson’s watercolors pay tribute not only to the cottage itself, but to his family (who appear in many of the illustrations, going about their daily activities), and the landscape and community surrounding them.

In a profile of the artist's home, Anna Hoffman, of Apartment Therapy, writes, "The Larssons' aesthetic owed a lot to the writings of William Morris, who also espoused a return to simplicity, to handcraft and to natural beauty. These qualities not only helped define the direction of Scandinavian design in the 20th century, but is still deeply influential today." Lilla Hyttnäs is now a museum, preserved as an example of ground-breaking Swedish interior design. The cottage still looks almost exactly as it was depicted in Carl Larsson's watercolors. However, Ett Hem captures something that no museum ever could: what everyday life was like for the artist and his family at home.

For more information on this book, please visit our website.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

War and Innocence

One of the reasons the Iliad and Odyssey continue to be relevant after 4000 years is because they depict the lengthy, fraught process of going to and returning from war. It is a process, to be sure: from the moment Iphigenia is sacrificed (all part of a mythology with which Homer's audience would have been familiar), the innocence of that society was lost. Achilles, he of the legendary brooding and rage, knew he could not return to life before; and Odysseus had to undergo a gradual shedding of his war-time instincts (his "dissembling") in order to reclaim his home and family.

Among the beautiful and significant illustrated books and other works that comprise our latest printed catalogue, there is a four-page letter with a drawing that was sent by a young soldier to an eight-year-old girl from western Massachusetts. The letter was sent in response to a care package that Agnes Isabelle Munson sent through her church in South Deerfield. Charles Kauffman, a soldier with the 2nd Heavy Artillery, 112th Pennsylvania Regiment, reveals in this letter that he had been serving in the Union army since the age of fifteen. And although Kauffman assures his reader that he was "not sick or wonded" (sic), he does describe the war as cruel, and his depictions of captured confederate soldiers indicate that he had grown up tremendously during his two-year enlistment.

When I spotted this letter at an antiques show over the summer, I did not immediately think of the siege of Troy, but because these works held such a prominent place in my literary background this may have been what compelled me to purchase it. This letter, written by a seventeen-year-old Union soldier just two months before the surrender at Appomatox, with its naive and strangely compelling drawing of a girl or young woman holding a rabbit, is nothing less than an act of rejoining society.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Announcing a New Catalogue

Catalogue 137, with a selection of deluxe illustrated children's books from a recently acquired private collection, contains fifty-two items, including a copy of Arthur Rackham's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with an original ink and watercolor drawing; an extraordinary illuminated manuscript on vellum of The Song of Songs, from the collection of a prominent Talmudic scholar; a powerful German linocut calendar from 1969 that pays tribute to the African-American Civil Rights Movement; and much more.

Printed in full color, copies are available upon request, via email, phone, or mail. A PDF version, with links to item descriptions and photographs, is available on our website. Please let us know if you have any questions, and we hope you enjoy the latest offering from Bromer Booksellers!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bromer Booksellers on

Boston-area booksellers, including Bromer Booksellers, were featured in a recent piece by the Boston Globe, found here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Featured Item of the Week: Oddballs

Our much-anticipated copy of Heavenly Monkey’s latest publication, Oddballs, by Jim Westergard, arrived last week. Upon unwrapping the book, we were immediately drawn in by the quirky biographical sketches and humorous wood-engraved portraits of people who were “quietly or outlandishly out of the ordinary.”

On the Heavenly Monkey Blog, Rollin Millroy mentions how it was fun flipping through the book with customers at the Seattle Book Fair, “watching reactions and seeing how different oddballs stood out to different people.” In the same spirit, and after much debate, Phil, Shannon and I have chosen our own favorite oddballs:

Phil was drawn to the reclusive and eccentric brothers Homer & Langley Collyer (p. 34), who lived and died among the 140 tons of hoarded materials that they accumulated over decades in their three-story Harlem brownstone. These included years of newspapers that Langley claimed to be saving for the day when his brother Homer, who was blind, regained his sight. Langely was eventually done in by one of the booby traps that he had set up to guard against break-ins, while trying to reach his brother by tunneling through the refuse. While he hopes to avoid their fate, Phil nevertheless admires the obsessive focus that defined their oddity, and the touch of irony in their demise.
George Adamski, another Oddball

My oddball of choice has to be Pope Joan (p.72), who, according to Westergard, “deserves the prize for pulling off the grandest hoax.” I first encountered her extraordinary story when cataloging a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle. In the 10th century, Joan became the only female pope ever elected (unbeknownst to her electors at the time). As a young, intelligent girl, Joan dressed as a boy in order to obtain an education. After studying in Rome and becoming a priest, she ascended the church hierarchy, finally being named Pope John Anglicus. Legend has it that her true gender was revealed a few years into her reign, when she gave birth to a son while mounting a horse on a street in Rome. After this revelation, she was either killed or confined to a convent, depending on the account. The Nuremberg Chronicle includes a portrait of Pope Joan holding her baby son in her arms, but the portrait was defaced in many copies of the book.

Out of all the oddballs past and present, Shannon’s favorite is the frontispiece self-portrait of the author/artist himself. This portrait alone is worth the price of admission, capturing Westergard’s sense of humor and setting the tone for the rest of the book. In the Foreword, Westergard explains that he collects articles and stories about odd people and situations, which would sometimes become inspiration for prints or drawings.

According to the printer, the book’s glassine wrapper, which has an intricate spiderweb pattern, was only intended to protect the book and was not a deliberate part of its design. We are very fond of this jacket, though, and, like the Collyer brothers, we decided to keep it.

For more information, please check out our website. We hope you enjoyed the first post on our new blog!