Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Langston Hughes: In His Own Words

We wanted to close Black History Month by celebrating one of the great figures in contemporary African American history: Langston Hughes (1902-1967). Hughes was a writer, poet, and social activist who became the voice of the Harlem Renaissance. He was born in the Midwest, and he lived there until he moved to New York City when he was 19 to attend Columbia College. He became deeply involved in the arts scene in Harlem, and he got to know many of the prominent writers, musicians, and artists, including Countee Cullen, Aaron Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Heale Hurston, Louis Armstrong and Cora La Redd. Hughes left Columbia College in 1922 due to racial prejudice but stayed in Harlem, where he soon started publishing his poetry in Crisis and Opportunity magazines.

Through his writing, Hughes sought to represent African American life and culture as unique and valuable in its own right and not in need of change to imitate white culture. He wrote:
But in spite of the Nordicized Negro intelligentsia and the desires of some white editors we have an honest American Negro literature already with us. Now I await the rise of the Negro theater. Our folk music, having achieved world-wide fame, offers itself to the genius of the great individual American Negro composer who is to come. And within the next decade I expect to see the work of a growing school of colored artists who paint and model the beauty of dark faces and create with new technique the expressions of their own soul-world. And the Negro dancers who will dance like flame and the singers who will continue to carry our songs to all who listen -- they will be with us in even greater numbers tomorrow. (71)
He went on to issue a "declaration of independence" for African American artists, saying, "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too" (73). Later in his life, this ardent support of African American culture would earn him the informal title "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race."

In 1956, Hughes co-wrote A Pictorial History of the Negro in America with Milton Meltzer. This was Meltzer's first book, having previously worked in broadcasting and public relations. As a result of their collaboration, the two became friends, and Meltzer wrote a biography of Hughes, published in 1968, which was a National Book Award finalist. Meltzer went on to write over 110 books on history for adults and children, most focusing on social justice, and won numerous awards for his writing, including the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal.

In 1964, Meltzer started a series of three books that revealed African American history through "letters, memoirs, autobiographies, articles, editorials, interviews, affidavits, eyewitness accounts, and testimony given at public hearings" (v). The series was called In Their Own Words: A History of the American Negro, and each volume covered a different period of time. The final volume focused on the years 1916 through 1966, and it contained two excerpts from essays by Hughes.

As a thank you to Hughes for giving permission to use his writings, Meltzer inscribed a first edition copy of the book to him on March 1967, writing, "For Langston, again with thanks for helping to make it! Milton." Hughes went on to underline his own name in red throughout the book, finding it in the acknowledgements, on the contents page, in the section introductions, reading list, jacket blurb, and index, in addition to his two contributions themselves. These lines were made two months before Hughes' death of complications after abdominal surgery related to prostate cancer on May 22, 1967. The perfectly straight red lines reveal something of the man who had seen his own mortality, but even without the words that had made him so famous, the lines also show a man who was viewing his legacy and the great contributions he had made to African American history and culture.

For more information about our copy of In Their Own Words: A History of the American Negro, 1916-1966, please visit our website. We thank you for reading, and wish you all the best on this last day of Black History Month.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"All Sails Up"

"Toutes Voiles Dehors" ("All Sails Up"). A stunning Art Deco-style hand mirror designed by Erté, one of the most prominent French illustrators of the Art Deco period.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Brush With Fame

The Academy Awards are this weekend, and six of the Best Picture nominees are adapted from books. Take a look at this gallery of other Oscar-nominated books-turned-movies currently in our stock, and enjoy rubbing shoulders with true celebrities.

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. First American edition, translated from the German and published in 1929. This is the first novel published by the author. It is based on his own experiences as a young soldier in the first World War, and it stands as one of the most powerful works of anti-war literature ever written.

The book was adapted for the screen in 1930 and nominated for four Academy Awards, of which it won Best Picture and Best Director.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. First edition, published in New York in 1886, and preceded the London edition by three days. In the scarce original yellow wrappers.

The story was made into a play almost immediately after the book's release, and it has been adapted into numerous films beginning in 1908. The 1932 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Adaptation Writing, and won Best Actor in a Leading Role for Fredric March. The 1941 adaptation was also nominated for three Oscars.

L'Histoire Tragique de Romeo Montecchio & Giulietta Capelletta, by Matteo Bandello and published in 1947. From an edition of 242 copies, this is one of twenty-five copies with extra suites of the surrealist engravings and chapter headings, illustrated by Mario Prassinos. Bandello's tale, which was a principal source for Shakespeare's play, has been translated into French by Michel Arnaud.

Unfortunately, we do not have a first edition of Shakepeare's The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet, but we do have this translation of the story upon which Shakespeare based his tragic romance. Shakespeare's work has been adapted for the screen many times, earning Academy Award nominations in 1936, 1968 (winning for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design), and most recently, in 1996 for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. First edition, first impression, published in 1861. One of 1,000 copies. Widely acknowledged as Dickens's masterpiece, Great Expectations was one of only two novels not published in monthly parts and published without illustrations, and it is the rarest of Dickens' larger books in that most of the first edition was purchased by libraries; those copies that survive, therefore, are usually not in good condition. This copy is fine in publisher's bright violet cloth.

There have been several film adaptations of Great Expectations, but only the 1946 version was nominated for and won Academy Awards. It was nominated for five awards and won for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.

The Marvelous Miniature Library, published c. 1925. A collection of classic texts, including Hamlet and Macbeth by William Shakespeare, and others, issued in a gilt-titled leather wallet-style binding, with snap closings, and housed in a gilt-titled snap-closed leatherette case. Each volume measures 2 1/8 by 1 9/16 (55x39mm).

As mentioned above, we do not have any first edition Shakespeare, but here is an interesting presentation of two of his works, which certainly takes up less room than a First Folio. In the movies, Hamlet has appeared frequently, garnering eleven nominations and winning four Oscars for the 1948 version, including Best Picture and Best Actor. Macbeth has also been adapted many times but has yet to receive an Oscar nomination.

A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams. First edition, published in 1947. This is Williams's most famous play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the year it was published.

Williams also wrote the screenplay for the 1951 film, which garnered fame equal to (and perhaps surpassing) that of the original play with defining performances by Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. However, many of the more sensitive aspects of the play, such as Blanche's rape and references to homosexuality, were altered or omitted in order to comply with the film industry's censorship codes. Nevertheless, the film was nominated for twelve Oscars, including all of the major categories, and won for Best Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, and Art Direction.

27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other One-Act Plays, by Tennessee Williams. First edition, published in 1945. Contains eleven one-act plays by the master of modern drama.

27 Wagons Full of Cotton was adapted into the film Baby Doll in 1956 and garnered four Academy Award nominations, such as Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, published in 1965. One of 500 numbered copies signed by the author, printed on special paper, and specially bound in full black cloth. The story of the brutal murder of a Kansas family by two robbers is considered perhaps the greatest work of the New Journalism movement, which sought to incorporate literary techniques into journalistic reportage. Its most notable practitioners, in addition to Capote, were Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, and Tom Wolfe.

In Cold Blood was adapted for the screen in 1967 and received four Oscar nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Ulysses, by James Joyce. First edition printed in England in 1936. From an edition of 1,000, this is one of 100 copies signed by Joyce and specially bound in full calf vellum with gilt bow design on the front cover by Eric Gill. The text for this edition follows the second Odyssey Press edition. The ban on Ulysses was overturned in the United States in 1933, but British printers were still initially hesitant about publishing the book, fearing legal consequences. However, Joyce sensed that attitudes in England would soon change, and this edition was printed in Britain three years after that landmark decision. Following the text is an appendix with information about the trial and Judge John M. Woolsey's decision to lift the ban.

A film version of Ulysses was not made until 1967, and it is notable for how closely it follows the original text. It was filmed in Dublin, and most of the lines of the script were drawn directly from the book. Even three decades after the close of the obscenity trial, however, the film itself was censored, receiving an X rating in Great Britain and appearing at Cannes with unauthorized cuts in the French subtitles. Nevertheless, the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards, in direct competition with In Cold Blood (the award went to A Man for All Seasons).

Ilias and Odusseia (The Iliad and The Odyssey), by Homer. Printed at the Bremer Presse between 1923 and 1924. Two volumes, each one of 615 copies printed in Greek with titles by Anna Simons.

Perhaps there is no such thing as the "first edition" of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but there have been many editions over the years and a multitude of translations. This edition is in the stories' original Greek language, and is beautifully printed. The epic poem, The Odyssey, has influenced numerous other works since its inception, in every facets of the arts, including Joyce's Ulysses, above, and the movie O Brother Where Art Thou, which was nominated for two Academy Awards in 2000.

If you would like any more information on the titles listed here, please visit our website. We hope you enjoyed this brief brush with celebrity, and we thank you for reading.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Senator Kennedy and His Glasses

Despite his youthful and robust image, John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was ill and in pain for most of his life. He suffered from Addison's Disease, which was not diagnosed until he was 30, and the resulting abdominal discomfort he endured was treated with corticosteroids as early as 1937. The effects of prolonged use of corticosteroids were unknown at that time, and Kennedy's treatment resulted in osteoporosis and degeneration of the bone in his lower back. By 1954, he had endured fourteen years of chronic and increasing back pain, despite medication, back exercises and manipulation under anesthesia, a back brace, and surgery. Finally, his pain had gotten so bad that he could not bend or climb stairs without crutches. His fifth lumbar vertebra had collapsed, and in October of 1954, while Senator of Massachusetts, Kennedy underwent surgery in New York to hopefully repair the damage.

Due to the hormone treatments Kennedy was receiving for his Addison's Disease, his immune system was compromised, and the surgery was extremely dangerous. Prior to that time, few, if any, patients with Addison's Disease had survived surgery. Indeed, after the surgery, Kennedy contracted a urinary tract infection, went into a coma, and was so close to death that he received Last Rites. Nevertheless, he had recovered enough by December to move to his family's home in Palm Beach, Florida. It was there that both he and Jacqueline Kennedy sent letters to their friend and Senator Kennedy's aide, Robert F. Morey, thanking him for checking on "Jack's" progress in New York and sending Kennedy a pair of glasses.

Robert F. Morey (1913-1996) was born in Charlestown, Mass. and was a prize fighter and shipyard electrician before becoming John F. Kennedy's chauffeur. He worked on Kennedy's 1946 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives and became his aide when Kennedy won a seat in the Senate in 1953. Morey was also an artist, and he encouraged both John and Edward Kennedy to paint, often painting with them. In 1961, Kennedy named Morey U.S. Marshal for Massachusetts, and in 1969, Morey's design was chosen over twenty others to become the official seal for the U.S. Marshals Service, a design that is still in use today.

Morey was working in Kennedy's office in the Federal Building in Boston when he received the Kennedys' letters from Palm Beach. Senator Kennedy's letter was a form letter on United States Senate letterhead and dated January 7, 1955. It is mostly typed, with a hand-written signature and note at the bottom of the page. The letter reads:

Mr. Robert Morey
1702 Federal Building
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Bob:

Many, many thanks for your kind message
to me when I was in the hospital in New York. Hospitals
are gloomy places, I am afraid; and it makes a tremen-
dous difference when friends remember you as you did.

I am feeling much better and am looking forward
to getting back to Washington around the first of March.
Perhaps then I will have a chance to thank you again in person.

Until then, Jackie and I want to wish you and
all your family a very happy and successful New Year.


John F. Kennedy   

[Written] Many thanks for the glasses.
Hope to see you soon.

Jacqueline Kennedy's letter is entirely hand-written, signed simply "Jackie," and includes the envelope addressed by her and postmarked January 13, 1955. The letter reads:

Dear Bob

That was so kind and thoughtful
of you - to send Jack those glasses
in the hospital - and you can't imagine
how touched [he] was at your going to all
that trouble - or what a terrific help
they were. I never knew such things
existed - and they made all the difference
in the world as he would have gone
mad just lying there staring at the
ceiling not being able to read.

So many many thanks Bob - and
a very happy New Year from us


It is unclear what sort of glasses Morey sent, but, as Jacqueline Kennedy stated, they helped Senator Kennedy read while in the hospital in New York, and it was during this time that he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage.

Kennedy's back troubles did not go away because of his 1954 surgery. In February 1955, he had surgery again, this time to remove the metal plate that had been inserted the previous October, which had caused an infection. Despite his hope of "getting back to Washington by around the first of March," Kennedy did not end up returning to work until May. Even then, his back pain remained and persisted for the rest of his life.

As a result of his long absence from Congress, some of Kennedy's health problems were finally revealed to the public, something he and his family had worked hard to avoid throughout the years. However, the surgery and recovery period were spun as isolated events that did not affect his overall health. The public did not learn about his chronic ill health and Addison's Disease until many years after his death, and for the rest of his presidency, Kennedy remained a symbol of youth, vigor, and robust good health. 

For more information about the Kennedys' letters to Robert F. Morey, please visit our website. For more about John F. Kennedy's health problems, see this article from The Atlantic or this website. Thank you for reading, and Happy President's Day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Edward Gorey!

In celebration of Edward Gorey, born February 22, 1925, here are a few highlights from our collection of works by this master of the macabre:

The Harvard Advocate. Cambridge, MA: Advocate House, . Gorey's first published appearance as an illustrator, showing two Mr. Earbrass-style characters throwing sticks at two hooded heads on pikes. 

The Eclectic Abecedarium. Boston: Anne & David Bromer, . Gorey's first miniature book, this copy is one of 300 comprising the regular edition, signed by Gorey.

The Sopping Thursday. NY: Gotham Book Mart, . One of twenty-six deluxe lettered copies, signed by Gorey, with an original drawing laid in. The Sopping Thursday is the first of only two of Gorey's primary works that included original drawings with the deluxe editions. This title, therefore, is extremely rare in the deluxe state.

Q.R.V. Boston: Anne & David Bromer, . From an edition of 400 copies signed by Gorey, this is one of 110 comprising the deluxe issue, with twenty-nine illustrations hand-colored by him in silver and gold metallic paint. This copy bears a presentation inscription on the colophon page and was very likely one of the copies set aside for use by the author and publisher.

Season's Greetings 1996 Bromer Booksellers. Boston: Bromer Booksellers, . Features a previously unpublished, full-color cover design by Gorey, who created the artwork originally for a Nieman Marcus holiday catalogue. When the retailer rejected Gorey's work, choosing that of another artist instead, Bromer Booksellers happily acquired the illustration.

And for the truly macabre:

The Beastly Baby, by Ogdred Weary. (N.p.): The Fantod Press, . One of 500 copies. First edition of Gorey's first publication from his Fantod Press, published under the name Ogdred Weary, one of his many anagram pseudonyms. Written by Gorey and illustrated with his black and white drawings, this is the story of a bloated baby with two left hands, a guilty conscience, malice in his heart, and a nose that appeared older than the rest of him.

For more works by Edward Gorey, go to our website. Thank you for reading, and we wish you a very Gorey day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

E-catalogue 21: Children's Books

Tatters, the Puppy
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: those who grew up in the era following the Second World War, for instance, have no trouble identifying an illustration by Dr. Seuss. Those from the era before that conflict are as well-versed in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its many sequels as the youth of today are with the story of Harry Potter.

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.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Introducing the New

For the past year, we have been working to update and expand our website to provide the best possible experience for our customers. Our entire stock is now listed and photographed for easy searching and browsing, and for the first time, items can be purchased securely through the website. See below for more information on the changes we have made.

Key features of our new website include:

Click to view larger image
    • Search or browse by specialties, such as Miniature Books and Fine Bindings.
    • Sign up for email notifications when books are added within selected specialties.
    • Explore interesting content, including videos, blog posts, event updates, and an ever-expanding list of resources and publications.
    • Come back to our homepage to view weekly featured items.
    • View e-catalogues and PDFs of our print catalogues.

    Click to view larger image
      • Nearly every item in our stock is photographed.
      • Order items securely using a variety of payment options.
      • Sort search results by title, author, price, or date added.

        For a tutorial on our website, including more of the site's features, watch this video:

        If you are not already receiving emails from us and would like to, please let us know. Thank you for your continued interest during this exciting time. We hope you enjoy our new website and look forward to hearing your feedback.

        Wednesday, February 15, 2012

        Aldous Huxley and Anita Loos in Hollywood

        Aldous Huxley, c. 1938
        Though best known as a British author, Aldous Huxley spent the last twenty-six years of his life living in the United States. When he and his wife, Maria, left England for the United States in 1937, they did not plan to stay, but with the war in Europe heating up and their son's acceptance to an American school, they decided to settle in Los Angeles. It was there that Huxley renewed his acquaintance with Anita Loos, the author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

        Anita Loos (1888-1981) grew up in show business, starting out in stage productions in San Francisco when she was eleven and publishing plays when she was just out of high school. Her first screenplay to be produced was New York Hat in 1912, starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore and directed by D. W. Griffith. She eventually joined Griffith at the Triangle Film Corporation and became one of the first staff writers in the industry.

        Loos did not remain in this position for long and moved to New York City where she socialized with such figures as William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies, Marilyn Miller, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and H. L. Mencken. It was from Mencken and his many lady friends that she drew inspiration for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was an instant success upon its publication in book form in 1925, selling out immediately and requiring multiple printings. Loos produced the Broadway play of the book, which was also a success, and a film version appeared in 1928.

        Anita Loos
        Despite her professional success, Loos's personal life was not happy, and by the 1930s, she and her husband, the director John Emerson, were living apart in New York. The stock market crash had depleted the couple's finances, and Loos was providing for both households, working on a stage production of But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. When MGM offered her $1,000 a week to write screenplays, Loos left New York and her husband to move back to California.

        Huxley was a fan of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when it was published in 1925, and he wrote in a letter to Loos, "...I was enraptured by the book, have just hugely enjoyed the play, and am to be in America so short a time that I have no leisure to do things in the polite and torturous way" (Bedford 175). They met in New York when he and Maria visited the United States for the first time in 1926. When the Huxleys moved to Los Angeles in 1937, Loos introduced them to her contacts in the movie industry. Through this long friendship, Huxley would go on to write six screenplays (four of which were produced) in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.

        As a mark of their friendship, Huxley inscribed a copy of his Texts and Pretexts for Loos, writing:
        For Anita
        To dip into when
        the Women are
        too much for her,
        with love from
        Aldous H.
        April 26th '39
        At the time, Loos was working on a film adaptation of the all-female Broadway hit The Women. The movie was released in September of 1939 and was a box-office smash, starring Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. The book also contains Loos's bookplate, which was created by African-American illustrator Frank Walts, whom she might have met in New York when she lived there in the 1920s and whose work appeared in The Crisis, The Masses, and The Liberator, as well as The New Yorker, Harper's Weekly, and Colliers. The smiling face on the bookplate is Loos's own, revealing the positive side of a woman whose life was consumed by work and too much personal strife.

        Loos continued to write screenplays and articles for magazines until her death in 1981 at the age of 93. She and Huxley remained friends until his death in 1963.

        For more information about Huxley and Loos, see Aldous Huxley: A Biography, by Sybille Bedford (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974) and Huxley in Hollywood, by David King Dunaway (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), or visit our website. Thank you for reading.

        Tuesday, February 14, 2012

        Bromer Booksellers on Love

        Check out our collection of the artifacts of love available from Bromer Booksellers in honor of Valentine's Day:

        Almanach des Heroides. An almanac in a lovely embroidered and hand-painted binding with a design of a smiling cupid holding his bow and arrow on the front cover. For more information, go here.

        May Sarton, Collection of Seven Manuscript Poems, Cambridge, 1930. A group of seven manuscript love poems written by Sarton and presented as a Christmas gift to her teacher, Anne Longfellow Thorp. For more information, go here.

        The Love Books of Ovid, published in London in 1925. Ovid's treatise on erotic love, beautifully bound in painted vellum by G. G. Levitzky, with a cover illustration that depicts Cupid hovering above a seduction scene. For more information, go here.

        Scherzi poetici e pittorici, published by Bodoni in 1795. A collection of poems concerning love and featuring Venus and Cupid, by the Italian poet de Rossi. For more information, go here.

        Twelve of Hearts, published by Anne and David Bromer in 1982. A miniature manuscript consisting of twelve original watercolor designs by Robert Gould, showing hearts embellished with symbolic designs. For more information, go here.

        Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets From the Portuguese, published at the Minia Press, c. 1945. This miniature book of poems about love lost and found is bound in cloth with a gilt heart motif. For more information, go here.

        Cupidon Logicien ou les Pedagoges, A Cythere, 1792. This almanac is illustrated with 13 hand-colored engravings accompanied by love poetry and bound in an embroidered binding. For more information, go here.

        Caresse Crosby, Crosses of Gold: A Book of Verse. Crosby's first book, this intimate book of romantic poems and short prose pieces is dedicated to Crosby's husband, Harry, and includes a few hand-drawn decorative devices. For more information, go here.

        A Garland of Love. A pair of beautifully-bound examples of this collection of pretty mottoes, one a calligraphic manuscript by Francis Sangorski in a hand-painted binding and the other a rare printed version. For more information, go here.

        Amish Valentine, 1860. A drawing of a young man and woman glancing shyly at each other, with their noses drawn in an angular fashion so as to point at each other. Below the figures is penned words “i cant [sic] stop long this time.” For more information, go here.

        Le Calendrier de Minerve o le Joujou de L'Innocence. An embroidered binding with a title page showing cupid floating over a walled garden and 12 engraved plates accompanying moral verses. For more information, go here.

        William Morris, Love is Enough. One of only two books printed in three colors at the Kelmscott Press, this book contains two woodcuts by Edward Burne-Jones that accompany Morris's poem about unchanging love. For more information, go here

        Hiroshima Mon Amour: Synopsis. Colored papers capture the seriousness, sadness, and sensuality of the film about a French woman and a Japanese man who become lovers in Hiroshima 14 years after the atomic bomb. For more information, go here.

        Monday, February 13, 2012

        Carnet de Bal

        "Dancing is the poetry of the foot."  ~ John Dryden

        CARNET DE BAL. A nineteenth-century French gold and enamel dance card holder studded with diamonds and containing five bone leaves. First appearing around 1820, a carnet de bal was an accessory taken to balls by a lady to record the order of an evening's dances, as well as the name of her partner for each dance. The owner of the carnet de bal would use the gold-sheathed pencil topped with a rose-cut diamond to write the dance information directly onto the bone leaves, which could later be wiped clean in preparation for the next ball. This is the most beautiful carnet de bal we have encountered, an extraordinary bejewelled example, measuring only 2 15/16 by 1 7/8 inches (75x49mm).

        Friday, February 10, 2012

        Featured Item of the Week: Five Micrographic Biblical Passages

        It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about a picture made up of a thousand tiny words? This week's featured item is a set of five Biblical scenes composed of the miniature writing known as micrography or micro-calligraphy. Not only do these scenes illustrate passages from the Bible, but the figures are actually made from the words of the Biblical verses being depicted.

        The scenes illustrated in this set include Daniel in the lions' den, with text from Daniel 6; Samson slaying the lion, composed of the text from Judges 14; Samson pulling down the pillars of the Philistine temple and Delilah cutting Samson’s hair, both of which are drawn from sections of Judges 16; and the bearing of giant fruit from the land of the Canaanites, with the full text of Numbers 13. The tiny, handwritten text is at most 2mm high, and yet, the writing is clear, with a delicate precision. In the illustration of Daniel in the lions' den, strands of words form the lions' flowing manes and individual letters create the texture of Daniel's shirt. Some of the words are darker than others, creating subtle shading along the arch of the lions' backs or on the curve of a skull discarded in a corner of the scene.

        These five examples of micrography date from the eighteenth century, but the origins of micrography can be traced as far back as the tenth century. The art form has its roots in Islamic calligraphy and calligrams, which are images created from words. In the beginning, micrography appeared primarily in Jewish biblical codices: the marginal notations in these codices became elaborate decorative elements, written in geometric and floral patterns. Micrography was also popular in Christianity and Islam because it circumvented the Second Commandment, which prohibited the depiction of “what is in the heavens above.”

         As the technique spread throughout Europe around the thirteenth century, more elaborate motifs emerged, including depictions of humans, animals, and mythological beasts. According to the online exhibition of micrography presented by the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, "Bibles produced in France and Germany featured elaborate ornamental panels that introduce the individual biblical books." This is clearly exemplified by these intricate examples, which become full illustrations of the text itself.

        The practice of micrography has evolved and changed over time, but is still in use to this day: many contemporary artists, calligraphers, graphic designers, and poets have explored the boundaries of this traditional art form.

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