Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Hours

This year, Bromer Booksellers will be open until 2:00pm on Christmas Eve and closed on December 25th and 26th. Additionally, we will be open until 2:00pm on New Year's Eve and closed New Year's Day.

Besides the days stated above, we will be open during our normal business hours of 9:30am to 5:30pm, Monday through Friday, into the New Year.

We would like to wish everyone all the best during this holiday season and a joyous New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

E-catalogue 31: The World in the Woodgrain

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.

It was Albrecht Durer who raised the woodcut to the level of art form in the late 15th century. We offer here a choice example of his single leaf cut depicting the circumcision of Christ. Several decades later, Geoffrey Tory explored the dramatic potential latent in the block in the black figures in his Parisian Book of Hours from 1527--figures that included death riding a black horse.

Toward the close of the 18th century, and into the early 19th century, woodcuts and wood engravings made something of a comeback as they proved to be an economical way to illustrate children's books. Popular cuts produced by commercial artists were widely reused in a variety of chapbooks, of which we have many examples on offer. Well-known artists such as Thomas Bewick and his younger brother John also illustrated works for juvenile audiences.

With the renewal of interest in craftsmanship that characterized the Arts and Crafts movement at the end of the 19th century came a renaissance in book illustration, and once again the woodcut and wood engraving were the media of choice. Modern illustrators such as Eric Gill, John Buckland Wright and Lynd Ward pushed the expressive boundaries of the wood block further, rendering dramatic, sensual images.

We hope you enjoy this selection, and we wish our customers, colleagues, and friends a very Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Swiss People and Places in Miniature

Petits Souvenirs de la Suisse

At Bromer Booksellers, we have two miniature souvenir books related to Switzerland: Petits Souvenirs de la Suisse, which contains tiny prints depicting picturesque places in Switzerland, and Costumes Suisses, which features lithographs of men and women from the different Swiss cantons in their native dress. 
Costumes Suisses

Both are presented as leporellos and were produced in the mid-1800s, right at the peak of the popularity of these types of souvenirs. Leporellos, or accordion-fold books, have a long strip of paper folded to create individual pages. The strip can then be stretched out to show a continuous view of the pages (see below). 

Souvenir books like these often contained a series of pictures of the people or landmarks of popular destinations and some were housed in novelty cases, such as a nutshell or a bean pot (for Boston views). Many of these fall into the category of miniature books as they were sized to fit in a traveler's pocket or stow away easily in luggage.

Our two examples are particularly fine because they are hand-colored; often, these souvenir albums were printed in black or sepia. They bring the people and locations to life and were a way to bring one's memories home to share with family and friends in a time before color photography.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Livers des Artistes

Frida Kahlo
Livers des Artistes. Fairfax, CA, Jungle Garden Press, 1994. One of only three copies, signed by the illustrator, Carl Dern, and the printer, Marie Dern. 

Playing with, or possibly parodying, the concept of the livre d'artiste, or artist's book, the tongue-in-cheek illustrations in this portfolio interpret the work of eight famous modern artists, incorporating a representation of a human liver into the artists' works.

Georgia O'Keefe
Ram's Head - 1930 (via)

Georges Seurat
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte - 1884 (via)

Kurt Schwitters
Mz 410 irgendsowas (something or other) - 1922


Joan Miró
Nocture - 1940 (via)

Also included are parodies of René Magritte, Eva Hesse, and Joseph Beuys. Each illustration is preceded by a page bearing the name of the artist, letterpress printed by Marie Dern. The loose sheets are housed in a purple clamshell box designed by Dominic Riley.


In a Dadaist touch, a textured, liver-shaped piece of metal is laid in, and attached to the box on a piece of string is a small plastic figurine of a baby. It is a fitting "closure" to this quirky tribute to modern art done as a collaborative effort between Marie Dern, a book artist, and Carl Dern, an accomplished sculptor, and it reflects the sense of humor and irony found throughout the work of both artists.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Announcing our new print catalogue #138

Our latest print catalogue is now available via our website. Catalogue 138 features recent acquisitions that range from works by fine presses and illustrated books, to a few fine bindings and fore-edge paintings, first editions, and juvenalia. Highlights include:

Checkerboard. Honolulu, Punahou Service, 1942. Folding tapa-covered boards containing a hand-cut checkerboard with two small manila envelopes pasted on opposite sides, containing thirteen red and yellow plastic disks. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the acting Dean of Girls at Punahou School -- the largest independent college preparatory school in the United States and alma mater of President Barack Obama --  re-structured Punahou Service, an extant arts and crafts program, to aid in the war effort. The students produced handmade items for soldiers, the most popular of which "was a cigar box 'pastime kit' containing a crossword puzzle, a file case, pad and pencil, a folder, a deck of cards, and small cribbage and checker boards."...[more]

Gedichte, Entwürfe zu Gedichten und Bruchstücke aus den Jahren MDCCXCVI-MDCCCIV, by Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin. Aurora, NY, and Lexington, KY, Stamperia del Santuccio, 1949. One of 51 copies. Known as Victor Hammer's "American masterpiece," Hölderlin's Gedichte represents a near complete collection of the poet's work between the years 1796 and 1804, printed in the original German as Hammer believed was the proper way to do the poems full justice. Illustrated with a single brass-plate engraving by Hammer showing the poet in the pose of the Seer, a likeness of Hölderlin taken from a 1792 pastel drawing of him by F. C. Hiemer...[more]

Harlequin and Mother Goose: Or The Golden Egg. London, Laurie & Whittle, 1807. Framed engraved writing sheet with a mirror over the blank area in the center usually reserved for examples of penmanship. The mirror is near-contemporary to the writing sheet, and together they create an attractive piece that perhaps could have served as decoration in a child's room. The ten hand-colored illustrations bordering the mirror depict the pantomime of Harlequin and Mother Goose or, the Golden Egg, featuring the characters of the Harlequinade...[more]

The Harvard Advocate, illustrated by Edward Gorey. Cambridge, MA, Advocate House, 1950. The cover illustration by Edward Gorey shows two Mr. Earbrass-style characters throwing sticks at two hooded heads on pikes. This constitutes Gorey's first published appearance as an illustrator. This issue is also remarkable for the appearance of three pieces by Gorey's Harvard roommate, Frank O'Hara: two poems and a short prose work entitled "Late Adventure." This is O'Hara's third print appearance, and it predates his landmark first book, A City Winter, by two years...[more]

Petites Fleurs de Saint François d'Assise. Paris, Jacques Beltrand, 1913. One of 120 copies. With 74 color wood engravings, historiated borders, initials, and paraphs by Marice Denis, one of the co-founders of Les Nabis, a relatively short-lived artistic movement aligned with Symbolism. Bound by Georges Mercier in full dark brown morocco with an elaborate neo-Gothic motif on both panels. This is noted art critic Lucien Henraux's copy, as indicated on the colophon page...[more]

Romola. London, Smith, Elder & Co, 1880. One of 1,000 numbered copies comprising a deluxe edition. Illustrated with twenty-four engraved plates by Sir Frederick Leighton and numerous smaller vignettes. Each volume features three fore-edge paintings in the style typical of Thomas & John Fazakerley: in each, a larger central painting is flanked by two smaller, atmospheric paintings, all of which are directly related to Eliot's novel. These paintings, which characteristically do not require fanning to view, are further heightened by Fazakerley's trademark gauffered strapwork, which essentially frames each painting, giving it further emphasis. This strapwork carries across the three edges of the text block...[more]

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf. New York, The Viking Press, 1936. Octavo. First edition, signed by the author on the title page. With full-page black & white drawings by Robert Lawson on each recto page illustrating text on the opposite page. The story of Ferdinand the bull, who would rather sit under his favorite cork tree and smell flowers than battle a matador in the bull fighting ring, was an immensely popular children's book in the 1930s and to this day. Fine in original dust jacket...[more]

The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, by William Shakespeare. Weimar, Cranach Press, 1930. One of fifteen copies on Imperial Japanese paper, with an extra suite of fifty-three loose proofs initialed in pencil by the artist, Edward Gordon Craig...[more]

All items in the catalogue are photographed and available to view on our website here. To request a print version of the catalogue, contact us via email or through our website.

Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair 2012

Bromer Booksellers has always had a close relationship with the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. We have exhibited there since its inception in 1977, and Florence Finn, Anne’s mother, even promoted the show for the first ten years.

However, for the first time ever, this year we will be taking a respite as exhibitors and, instead, will welcome collectors and dealers to our shop, where all of our stock will be available for sale and discounts will be available during the week of the fair. We invite you to visit us in Copley Square, just five blocks from the Hynes Convention Center.

Our hours during the weekend of the fair are as follows:

  • Friday, November 16th, we will be open during our normal business hours, 9:30 to 5:30.
  • Saturday, November 17th, we will have special open hours from 9:30 to 2:00.
  • Sunday, November 18th, we will be closed.

We also invite our customers and colleagues to our annual Wine and Cheese Reception at our shop on Thursday, November 15 from noon to 5:30pm. As in years past, it is sure to be an afternoon of fine fare, books, and cheer.

We look forward to greeting you at 607 Boylston Street (second floor) the weekend of the book fair.

Monday, November 12, 2012

W. A. Dwiggins

In preparation for the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair (more on that tomorrow), we have set up a display in our shop devoted to one of the greatest graphic designers of the twentieth century: William Addison Dwiggins. Dwiggins is credited with coining the term "graphic designer," and besides his work for Alfred A. Knopf, he also had his own press with Dorothy Abbe, called Püterschein-Hingham.

Our collection (above) includes materials Dwiggins designed for Knopf and Püterschein-Hingham, an essay he wrote on the atrocities of the present design of currency and postage stamps, manuscript material, and the original zinc plate for a creative exercise Dwiggins called a "Graphic Response to Verbal Stimuli." At the center of the display is Strings Attached, a book by Anne Bromer about Dorothy Abbe, who partnered with Dwiggins at Püterschein-Hingham and was one of his most important collaborators.

Dwiggins was also very interested in marionettes, and he took on the role of director, carved the figures, and designed the stages, scenery, costumes, and lighting for his productions. A photograph of one of his marionettes, modeled after F. Morton Smith, a Boston lawyer who was a friend of Dwiggins, is part of the group, as is a photograph of Dwiggins himself (seen above).

Rounding out the group is a woodcut illustrating Stravinsky's ballet Petrouchka, printed by Dorothy Abbe from a wood block cut by Dwiggins. We liked this image so much that we used it for the front cover of our most recent print catalogue (available here).

To view more items associated with W. A. Dwiggins, visit our website and search for "Dwiggins" in the search bar on the left. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, where we will outline our events for the weekend of the Boston Book Fair.


Friday, November 9, 2012

E-catalogue 30: Miniature Books

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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Corrugations: Some Speculations on Australian Tin

The artist's book is a thriving art form in Australia. While books most typically convey ideas through their text, artists' books express meaning through a combination of illustrations, typography, and the form of the book itself. In Corrugations, Australian artist Katie Clemson worked in collaboration with the poet Anne Bell to capture the essence of the land where she grew up and create a tribute to a material that has become a characteristic part of Australia's architectural landscape: corrugated iron.

it transcends spaces;
dented by cricket balls in back yards everywhere,
rusted red as the sands of inland loneliness,
it flourishes alike in urban lanes
and the frayed edges of country towns.

Exerpt from Corrugations, Anne Bell, 2005

Although corrugated iron was first invented in London in 1828, Clemson explains that it was quickly adopted in newly-settled Australia. The material's lightness, durability, and low cost made it the perfect building material for the colonists, who used it to build their own domestic and industrial structures, from farmyard sheds and silos to homes and churches. John Lysaght began manufacturing the material in Australia in 1857 and business quickly boomed.

Corrugations is comprised of two accordion-fold volumes that can be opened in tandem or paged through separately. In the first volume, Clemson illustrates Bell's verses with linocuts of buildings and structures chosen from all over Western Australia to show the diversity and "quirkiness" of the material's applications.

Clemson was born in rural New South Wales and lived in both Australia and England. For the illustrations, she drew inspiration from the bright colors and sunlight of Australia and captures the look of buildings in the haze of heat, using pale yellows, blues, bright red, and shades of green. The book itself has an architectural quality as Clemson integrated pop-up elements into her linocuts. The peaks of steeples rise up from the page, and factory buildings take shape.

The smaller second volume folds out into a long corrugated iron fence, decorated with graffiti, business advertising, rust, and the patina of age. In the colophon, Clemson writes that "[The Lysaght firm's] claim that they could make a fence round Australia from one year's output of corrugated iron sheets was the inspiration behind the 'fence' book."

In the same way that the two volumes complement each other, Anne Bell's poetry perfectly corresponds with Clemson's illustrations, adding another dimension to the work. The contemplative, lyrical lines of her poem float across the page, italicized and printed in pale gray. Bell is also a native of Australia, and her poems often reflect on Australian themes. Her poetry has earned her the Henry Lawson Prize for Verse twice. According to the website of the Alembic Press, who published this book, "She writes with love about Australia with a keen sense of history, an eye for detail, and an ear for the music of the words."

These two volumes reveal the poetic side of this common building material and form a personal tribute to a land that both the poet and artist called home.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sunrise is Coming After While

After a brief hiatus to focus on our latest print catalogue, we are back with a new acquisition that everyone at Bromer Booksellers admires: the Limited Editions Club publication of Sunrise is Coming After While.

This beautiful, and very large, book is a collection of poems by Langston Hughes, selected by Maya Angelou. It contains six silkscreen reproductions of collages by Phoebe Beasley, whose art Angelou also admired and felt would perfectly complement Hughes's eloquent poems.

Friday, September 21, 2012

E-Catalogue 28: The Allure of Provenance

Among the attributes that make books appealing as collected artifacts is the fact that some of them can boast a significant previous owner. Many of these owners quite literally left their mark on the books they once owned: some affixed bookplates or tasteful leather booklabels; others simply wrote their names; and still others were close enough to the author to receive a copy of the book inscribed to them.

For this e-catalogue, we have gathered over thirty books whose provenance has been established, either through a bookplate or label, or an ownership or authorial inscription. We were quite pleased with the diverse group of previous owners we found among our shelves. FDR, for instance, was an avid collector of miniature books, many of which were given to him by Eleanor; and while these seldom appear on the market, we have his copy of The CompleatAngler, which bears both of their initials, as well as his bookplate.

Moving from presidents to popes, an inscription can be a subtle nod to biography, as can be seen in the Italian edition of the handsome Officina Bodoni Four Gospels inscribed by Pope Paul VI to the former mayor of Milan -- a connection that becomes clear when one learns that before ascending to the Papacy, Paul VI served as the Archbishop of Milan.

Above all, these ownership markings deepen the stories of the objects, enhancing their appeal. We hope you will find some of these stories compelling.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This set of watercolor paintings comprises what appears to be the artwork for a children's book that was never published, and is by an artist with whom we are unfamiliar.

The paintings are brilliantly colored and accomplished, showing a clever eye for detail, from the birds flying upside down around the balloon children, to the balloon children sliding down cloud "hills" in the backgrounds. Two of the panels are signed "Alberta," and that is all we have been able to discern about the artist.

The story follows a group of balloon children as they are sold by a balloon vendor at a county fair, then drift up into “Upsidedowntown.” There, they frolic with a dog and go to a candy store. One of them is punctured by some bad nails and then patched up by a kindly doctor balloon. This all takes place with the county fair upside down in each panel. The story ends with a green balloon child in bed, with a child’s bedroom upside down above. One can envision a text that would go along with this story, though the visuals are so strong that words might only be an embellishment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

E-catalogue 27: Artists' Books

As a segment of the book arts, there are possibly as many supporters of the artist's book as there are definitions of what one is supposed to be. The seminal catalogue of the 1960 exhibition at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts -- known to posterity as The Artist and the Book -- informs us that "the illustrated book should be a harmonious combination of textual and pictorial elements, each significant, and each of relatively equal importance." Forty years later, Jerry Kelly and his collaborators in The Best of Both Worlds brought the criterion of printing quality into the equation, noting that there are many instances where the fine press book and the livre d'artiste overlap, "resulting in a volume that can hold its own among prime examples of each group."

We couldn't agree more. For our twenty-seventh e-catalogue, then, 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 -- a book that is number 247 in The Artist and the Book, and the only book illustrated by Camille Pissarro -- to John and Joy Tonkin's miniature book, ABC New Zealand Style, which contains an alphabet of New Zealand's particular dialect.

Beyond beauty and ingenuity, though, we have also included examples that show the versatility of the artist's book. From the field of children's books are examples of work from Belgian Fauvist Edgard Tijtgat -- another artist included in the 1960 MFA exhibit -- and Italian Futurist Bruno Munari. Jacques Villon, who was Marcel Duchamp's brother and yet another artist represented in The Artist and the Book, shows a range of styles in the thirteen etchings for Dents de Lait, Dents de Loup. 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 you enjoy this wide-ranging selection and look forward to hearing from you.