Friday, January 27, 2012

Featured Item of the Week: Works by Gunnar Kaldewey

Changing Waters. Part 1: The Hudson

Instead of having a single featured item this week, we have chosen to highlight the renowned publisher and book artist Gunnar Kaldewey, who printed his 75th artist book, titled "AT 75," this past year.

Asia America Europe
Kaldewey and the Bromers have had a long relationship. Kaldewey began his career as an antiquarian bookseller based in Germany and New York, but found his true calling as a printer and publisher. He has been producing unusual, often multi-media artist's books at his studio in Poestenkill, NY since the mid-1980s. In 1987, he designed a catalog for us showcasing a collection of miniature books in designer bindings, which garnered a certificate of merit from the Printing Industries of America's 1988 Graphic Arts Awards Competition.

 Kaldewey's books often employ unusual typography, layers of various kinds of hand-made paper, and unconventional shapes and bindings. Asia America Europe (1994) explores three extremely tall buildings, one on each of the continents: The Longhua Pagoda of China, the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany. In order to convey the sense of height, Kaldewey silk screened images of the buildings onto separate, hanging scrolls that can be unrolled alongside the text.

In an article about an exhibition of Kaldewey's work at Harvard's Houghton Library in 1990, Anne Anninger, former Curator of Graphic Arts, is quoted as saying that Kaldewey combines the tradition of the livre d'artiste, or artists' book, with fine letterpress printing. In doing so, "he creates a tension between the traditional mode and the very experimental mode," resulting in "something very handsome and exciting." In addition, many of his works incorporate sound recordings, creating a complete, multi-sensory experience. In The Desert (1987), seven black & white etchings of desert landscapes are accompanied by two tapes: one a recording of the sounds of the desert during the day, and the other of the desert at night (view a video of this book here). Kaldewey also recreated the atmosphere of a Japanese pachinko parlor in his book Pachinko: A Nine Minute Dream (1999), a video of which is included below.

Other works by Kaldewey focus more on the tactile experience of the book. In Insect Musicians (2001), each printed page is separated by a soft, transparent paper "netting"  flecked with gold and silver leaf, which is decorated with little insects printed in black and brushstrokes of green and yellow. These "netting" pages layer over the text pages with a beautiful delicacy, allowing the text to become part of the illustration. A video of the book can be viewed at the bottom of the page. Using a different approach, Kaldewey brings together subject and form in Dreams of a Butterfly (1995), which, when opened, takes on the shape of the butterfly. Bun-Ching Lam, Kaldewey's partner, did the Chinese calligraphy and English translation of the text, which was written by the fourth-century Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu.

Dreams of a Butterfly

For more information about these items and other works by Gunnar Kaldewey, please visit our website. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing more of our hidden treasures with you next week.

Bromers Endow the Boston Athenæum’s Curatorship of Rare Books and Manuscripts

From the Boston Athenaeum's press release:
(Boston, Massachusetts, January 25, 2012): Anne C. and David J. Bromer have made an important gift to endow the Anne C. and David J. Bromer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Boston Athenaeum, the Athenæum announced today.

The Bromers are the proprietors of Bromer Booksellers, specializing in aesthetically significant rare books, located in Copley Square since 1980. They are noted authorities in such specialties as private press books, “fore-edge” painting, one-of-a-kind fine binding designs, early children’s books, and miniature books. Anne studied Library Science at Simmons College, and David holds three degrees, including a Ph.D., from MIT.  They are longtime supporters of the Boston Athenæum.

“The Bromers are among the lucky few who found a way to turn a great passion into a successful business as well as an avocation and a scholarly pursuit,” commented Paula D. Matthews, the Boston Athenæum’s Stanford Calderwood Director and Librarian. “Their love, nurtured since their student days, has included a wide-eyed appreciation of the joys of books as physical objects and a deep empathy for the sensuous beauty books possess at their finest.”

L to R: David J. Bromer, Anne C. Bromer, Stanley Ellis Cushing. Photo: Megan Manton.

The first Bromer Curator will be Stanley Ellis Cushing, current curator of rare books and manuscripts and a staff member of the Boston Athenæum since 1971. Cushing is the organizer of the exhibition, “Artists’ Books, Books by Artists,” which is on view in the Athenæum’s Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery until March.

“The Bromers’ gift and the appointment represent a true confluence of sympathies,” Matthews continued, “for the book as a magical thing with inks, textures, bindings, materials, and physical dimensions as well as words and pictures.

“Historically, most libraries have been the property of something larger: a private collector, a book-loving monarch, a government, school, or other larger institution, and subject to changes in their budgets, priorities, and tastes. Gifts like the Bromers help keep the Boston Athenæum independent, able to preserve its values and collections for generation after generation.”

“We are so honored to endow the Curatorship of Rare Books and Manuscripts, now and evermore,” said the Bromers. “That Stanley should be the present curator gives us even more pleasure.  Books are more than just information. We feel the future of rare books, of books as beautiful objects, is with book-loving institutions like the Boston Athenæum. That future is in good hands with Stanley and Paula.”

“Our gift is a perfect fit with our interests in rare books and in the values and focus of the Boston Athenæum. It is also a way to honor the legacy of a half century of conducting a rare book business in our home city of Boston.”

Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenæum is Boston’s first cultural institution. Information about membership, programs, and hours can be found at

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

E-catalogue 19: Oddballs

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.

We hope you enjoy our odd little e-catalogue and look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Featured Item of the Week: Zoetrope, "The Wheel of Life"

In honor of our latest E-catalogue, Oddballs, this week's featured item is an object that often elicits curiosity from those who visit our shop: the zoetrope. This nineteenth-century optical toy was a popular form of entertainment before the advent of cinema and television, and still continues to fascinate viewers today.

Our zoetrope, titled "The Wheel of Life," was produced by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company around the 1870s. The first modern zoetrope was designed by W. G. Horner in Bristol, England in 1833. He called it a "Daedalum," after the inventor and architect of Greek mythology, Daedalus. Zoetropes gained popularity around 1860 when the concept was patented in France, and then spread to the United States, where they were patented by Milton Bradley.

Along with flip books and thaumatropes, the zoetrope was a step towards the development of film and television. The zoetrope is comprised of a metal drum with evenly-spaced slots all around it. The drum is mounted on a spindle on a wooden base, which allows it to spin freely. The slots on the side of the zoetrope create a stroboscopic effect, in a similar manner to the shutter of a movie projector. The viewer looks through the slots while spinning the drum, creating the illusion of animation or continuous motion. This sense of movement is created by an optical illusion known as the Phi Phenomenon: the brain creates relationships between images seen close together and fills in the gaps, allowing us to perceive smooth, constant movement instead of a sequence of images.

As Blair Whitton writes in his book Paper Toys of the World, "The variety of designs of figures and animals that were produced for the zoetrope strips are a fascinating study in themselves. Some display the movements of dancers, jugglers, circus performers, boxers, all with a comic theme." Our zoetrope includes fourteen color-printed strips depicting silhouette figures (both human and animal) performing acrobatic feats: a dog catches a ball in its mouth, a gymnast does flips, and a frog juggles a ball on its hind legs. A few of the strips, one of which can be seen in the video below, feature stereotypical depictions of blackface characters, evoking minstrelsy as part of the theme of entertainment. Also included are four rare round sheets for the bottom of the drum, which are printed or hand-colored with bright, kaleidoscopic, carnival-inspired designs.

If you cannot come and visit us in Boston to experience the zoetrope for yourself, give it a virtual whirl by clicking on the video below. For more information on the zoetrope and our other optical and paper toys, please visit our website. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing another item with you next week.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Featured Item of the Week: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with an original drawing by Arthur Rackham

As many of you may know, we recently released an e-catalogue dedicated to the work of Arthur Rackham, one of the most prolific illustrators of the early twentieth century. One of the items included is a deluxe copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with a signed drawing on the limitation page. Rackham books with original drawings are fairly uncommon, and the fact that this title is the only one that Rackham did not sign in the deluxe issue in his lifetime makes this copy especially rare.

As an illustrator, Rackham was a perfectionist who paid careful attention to every detail of his commissions. However, a lighter side of the artist is revealed in the freehand illustrations that he occasionally made on the flyleaves of his books. These were often done at the request of a fan, or for a special presentation copy. According to James Hamilton's biography of the artist, "[Rackham] would willingly make flyleaf illustrations for owners of his books, making it clear that he was to be entirely free to do whatever suggested itself to him." The drawings are almost always lighthearted and humorous, done in a loose, freehand style. Rackham explains that this was because "the nature of the paper is such that there can be no preparatory drawing and no alterations," freeing him to create something spontaneous and whimsical: "a jeu d'esprit," as he describes it (Hamilton, p. 156).

For the drawing in our copy of Alice, Rackham drew inspiration from his illustration of Alice's encounter with the caterpillar. In the book illustration, the Caterpillar tranquilly offers his advice while Alice listens politely. However, in the watercolor sketch Rackham chose to depict Alice and the Caterpillar in the midst of an earnest, animated discussion.

Hamilton notes that Rackham took a lot of care with these small "commissions." Alice was apparently a very difficult title to decorate in this manner: Hamilton cites a letter in which Rackham explains to a client how the particular paper used for this title immediately soaked up even the slightest touch of moisture, like blotting paper, causing the paper to lose its shape a little and the ink to dry a different color than originally intended. Nonetheless, the drawing in our copy of Alice still perfectly captures the pink flowers on Alice's dress and the caterpillar's green hue.

For more information on this item, and about other works by Arthur Rackham, please visit our website. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing another item with you next week.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Tiny Alphabet Book in The Microbibliophile

An article written by our very own Shannon Struble appeared in the January issue of The Microbibliophile, a bimonthly journal about miniature books and the book arts. The full text of the article, discussing Bryce's My Tiny Alphabet Book, appears below. We hope you enjoy it!  
Louis Bondy wrote of David Bryce: “His contribution to the totality of miniature books has been of the greatest significance and we do not hesitate to describe the Glasgow publisher as a giant towering over the world of dwarf books” (p. 116). Bryce published miniature books on a variety of topics, including language, religion, literature, the sciences, and more. When one thinks of the publishing house of David Bryce and Son, what comes to mind is usually his “Smallest Bible in the World,” set of Shakespeare, Koran, or even his Scotland-themed books, such as the Burns’ Family Bible. What is not so well known and does not fit so easily with Bryce’s other miniature publications is the children’s book My Tiny Alphabet Book (1 1/8 by 7/8 inches), issued around 1900.
As the title suggests, it is an ABC book containing two separate alphabets, “Tiny Alphabet of Animals” and “Tiny Alphabet of Birds,” each with its own title page and followed by a page of numeric figures and arithmetic problems. Both alphabets are delightfully illustrated with pictures of representative animals and birds, 52 in total, and printed using color lithography. Bromer and Edison note that this volume “held the distinction of being the smallest book printed in color to that time” (p. 131). 

Unlike many Bryce publications, which were usually reduced versions of larger works, Spielmann indicates that My Tiny Alphabet Book was created specifically to appear in miniature format (no. 489). Bryce advertised the book as part of the Mite Series, and it was listed in the contents of Bryce’s Bijou Bookcase, along with other volumes from the Mite, Thumb, and Pearl Series. There is some variation of bindings, but the one described most often is gilt-stamped red leather, often with an advertisement for Mellins Food on the lower cover. Some copies have a boy and a girl holding ABC books within the title “My Tiny Alphabet Book” on the front cover, while Bondy notes that others “show a horse and a bird in flight on both covers” (p. 72). The version examined for this article is bound in black leather with only the boy and the girl stamped in gilt on the front cover.   

Bryce published additional books for children, but no others that fit the standard definition of a miniature book, that is, measuring less than three inches. In addition to a collection of folklore aimed at children that was just over three inches tall, Bryce issued religious and moral tracts and instructional texts, all between 24mo and octavo in size. It is unclear how popular My Tiny Alphabet Book was with children; however, if there is one thing small people seem to consistently like, it is other small things, including books. Even when they are not able to read them, or when they are just starting to learn their ABCs, children like to hold tiny books in their hands, look at the text, and especially look at the illustrations. Perhaps it is a sense of shared affinity, as if the miniature books were made just for them, or the novelty of interacting with something on their scale in a world sized to adults, but children seem to connect with miniature books on a level that they might not experience with full-sized books. For this reason, it makes sense that publishers like David Bryce and Son would produce miniature, or near-miniature, books especially for children, and that those books would be read and well-loved by the young minds for which they were produced. 

MyTiny Alphabet Book. Glasgow, David Bryce and Son, (c. 1900). Top edge shows one spot of wear, else a fine copy. A.e.g. $650

References: Bromer, Anne and Julian Edison. Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (New York: Abrams, 2007), 131; Bondy, Louis W. Miniature Books: Their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day (London: Sheppard Press, 1981), 72, 116; Spielmann, Percy Edwin. Catalogue of the Library of Miniature Books (London: Edward Arnold, 1961), 489; David Bryce catalogue, c. 1912.
Our thanks to Jim Brogan for permission to post this article here. The Microbibliophile is an excellent journal that publishes news about miniature books, miniature book publishers, and the book arts and related events. It is available from Mr. Brogan for a yearly subscription of $36 (in the US) or $7 for a single issue.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

E-catalogue 18: The Godfather of Fantasy Illustrators

Arthur Rackham was perhaps the most prolific book illustrator of the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning with The Zankiwank and the Bletherwitch in 1896, for which he contributed forty line drawings, Rackham illustrated over thirty-five works in the course of a career that spanned over fifty years. Among the works for which he is best-known is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- the first edition of this book to appear with illustrations other than those of John Tenniel. The deluxe edition is unusual in that it was never signed by Rackham; our copy is not only signed, it contains an original drawing of Alice and the Caterpillar.

We invite you to have a look at our select group of books featuring illustrations by Arthur Rackham that are the focus of this catalogue.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Featured Item of the Week: Ebru Papers by Hikmet Barutçugil

This week, as we begin what is traditionally one of the coldest months of the year in Boston, I would like to share a hint of spring. We have a small selection of colorful Ebru papers from Turkey by one of country's leading contemporary artists, Hikmet Barutçugil. Two examples, titled "Efsun Çiçegi" (Enchanting Beauty Flowers), are part of his series "Efsun Flowers," which was inspired by his wife, Füsun Hanim. This particular style of Ebru is known as Necmeddin Ebru, or "Flowery Ebru," was developed in the 20th century and is named after its creator, master marbler Necmeddin Okyay. Drawing on this tradition, Barutçugil developed his own technique for creating flowers within his marbled patterns.

Ebru, or marbling, is one of the oldest arts in Turkey. The earliest example found, thought to be from 1447, is held in the Palace of Topkapı. The art form traces its origins to Iran, and the name Ebru has its roots in the Persian words "Abru," meaning the surface of water, and "Ebri," which means cloud. To create Ebru, colors are floated on the surface of water thickened with sizing. Patterns can be created by dropping mineral pigment dyes onto the sizing, or by manipulating the colors using rakes, combs, or brushes in order to create intricate designs (view a video of this process here).

In contrast to Western paper marbling, which is used primarily in book binding and design, Ebru was often used as a background for calligraphy and can be considered high art. Ever since its fifteenth-century beginnings, artists in Turkey (and around the world) have experimented with Ebru marbling in order to create increasingly complex designs, which are works of art in their own right.

Hikmet Barutçugil has turned his historic Turkish mansion into a workshop and cultural center, using the house itself to showcase his art. Everything, from the draperies and decorations to the ceiling tiles, is marbled, highlighting the versatility and beauty of Ebru. In this inspirational environment, Barutçugil offers classes in Ebru and other traditional Turkish-Islamic arts in order to perpetuate and renew these arts for future generations.

To view other examples of Ebru marbling, please visit our website. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing another item with you next week.