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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Celebrating Centennial Celebrations

Frank Leslie's 
Illustrated Historical Register 
of the 
Centennial Exposition 1876

(facsimile edition 1974)




Funny I should choose to look at this book right now. The movie "The Greatest Showman" has just come out. I've been to see it a couple of times—rare for me, because it's so damned expensive at the cinema and I have a nice TV. 

"The Greatest Showman" is a musical about P.T. Barnum. It touches on details of his life, makes a few things up for dramatic purposes and gets us all to fall in love with the wonder of the circus again. One of the things I noticed in the film were the many companies Barnum started, and (of course) the principal means of promoting those, which was at that time detailed illustration and bombastic font.


Frank Leslie was a man by another name entirely (Henry Carter) who loved art. He was born to a wealthy glove family (can't make this stuff up) who defied his father, moved to New York in 1848, followed his heart and went into illustration.

Where he couldn't get a job. So he formed his own illustration company. And that led him to P.T. Barnum, who always had need of large and lavish advertisement. Leslie worked for Barnum on a lot of ad and graphic design needs for Barnum's pursuits, most notably the Jenny Lind tour(s). They even started a newspaper together. That newspaper failed, but Leslie then started his own and found some success. 

This is a big book. 11 inches across, 16 inches high and an inch thick. When I first saw it among my aunt's books, I thought it was a department store catalogue. I suppose in a manner of speaking it is a catalogue, just not of things you order. 

So, how many illustrations are in the book? I don't know. One source claimed over 330 Illustrations another said over 800. I'm not counting them. There are a lot and most are quite beautifully done, even if a few are a little discomforting for my modern eyes (in context, the exploitation and casual racism that's abundant in all such books is part of the fabric of society). 

I haven't read this book closely enough to understand how it was pursued. Surely Leslie himself didn't draw all of it. It was put together for the opening of an expo. There would have been a lot going on at once. And considering how many illustrations are in here of President Grant going to and fro in the Expo, opening this, that or some other exhibit, Leslie would have been crippled trying to keep his pencil going fast enough. 

My aunt, true to the ways of the Wards, took the wrap off the book and saved it inside. While I don't press anything into my books (see an earlier post where I rant about that), I do save damned near everything, and would have kept the wrap, as well—actually "also" since I doubt it would be as well kept. However problematic the wrapper is for the book, the book is a pretty darn good keeper for the wrap.

I've bought several facsimiles for my library. Trying to think of which, now, I can recall at least two botany books, Gray's Anatomy (which I also own the updated edition of), some art books and this fella. Taschen, a publisher of reproduced art books—and let's admit right here, they're mostly on the erotic side—has put out some good reproductions of botanical illustrated books. Illustrations of plants often catch my eye far more than photographs. I adore older botany books, and have many, but when I spotted a Taschen reproduction, I snarfed it up without question. 


I don't think my first facsimile was the Gray's Anatomy or any of the Taschen books. If I recall, it was a medieval book. I'll have to search that out. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Book Box And A Mysterious Volume of Shakespeare's Works




I came across this box while shopping with a friend. It was the only one in the store, and had no information with it. It may well be intended for bibles. That doesn't matter. 



It's lovely, has as lovely an interior—which, strictly speaking, is really only the business of the book it holds—and its top converts to a reading stand.



Despite the picture above in which I tried to trick you into thinking I used the box to house some rare, antique book. I actually keep my copy of I Wonder (described in an earlier post) in it. A beautiful book deserves a beautiful home.



Now, about that antique book.



It's odd. There are far more questions than answers around it. It came it in a box of "inherited" books from Mr. Allison, a professor who lived at the opposite end of my road in my childhood community of Acamac. I got to know him when I delivered newspapers. My brother and I would have to go into people's houses and collect money every week, and we got to know a lot of our neighbours that way. The Allisons were fascinating, two elderly people living in a huge old house at the bottom of an overgrown field. There were not many children in that place who followed elders around while they showed off the million things in their rambling farmhouse and outbuildings, who hung on every word, and who dreamed of being educated. We were all poor families and kids were mostly growing up to have a trade. I was soundly ridiculed for wanting to learn.

Mr. Allison knew seven languages and taught at the local campus of the provincial university. When he died, his widow sent me a box of his books.

 I was thrilled, but mostly confused by the books. They were all far above my age and some of them were very specific to the courses he taught. But one of them was Shakspere's Works (sic).


"For Mr(s?) Forsyth
with love & best wishes
from E. L. Wilkinson
Xmas 1885(3?)"
That's not a typo. I can't get an exact date on the publication, because this book has thus far eluded my efforts to find publication data. But given the fact that it has a celluloid cover and a written date for when it was gifted, I've assumed it comes from somewhere in the last quarter of the 19th century. There are other books from that time that spell Shakespeare as "Shakspere."


Printed By Ballantyne, Hanson And Co
Edinburgh and London

It was edited by Charles Knight and published by JohnWalker & Company. 

Charles Knight was an editor and author who was born in 1791 and was dead by 1873. 

On the back page the book lists the printer as Ballantyne, Hanson and co. whose printing/publishing history seems to be  between 1858 and 1926, but only infrequently outside of 1878-1916. One assumes the title would show up in the years of very few pressings, so I'm tempted to narrow this book's printing down to a seven year period between 1878 and 1885. But that doesn't truly line up with its editor's lifespan. 

What I think is that Knight did indeed edit the works of Shakespeare, which John Walker & Company published in numerous versions during his life and after his death. Either that, or this is a reprint by Ballantyne, Hanson & co. It's just that a celluloid cover on a second edition seems strange to me. I'm not an expert. I could be wrong there. The other possibility is that this was one of his last, if not his last edited books.

Did you see that little pencil note by the publisher's name? It might be an "M." I suspect it is the mark of a reseller. The inside of the front cover of the book has another pencil mark: a price. I've seen these marks many times at used book stores. 

There's some scribbly mark I can't make out that might be a signature or an old price that got corrected and 2.70 

Yes, that seems cheap, but I have reason to believe that the time this book was sold was prior to the 1940's. So, relatively speaking, not that cheap.

My quick and dirty value-of-a-dollar calculator site (using a range of possible years going back as far as I could and ending at 1940) has the price between $47 and $65 by today's standards. Of course, the price would be calculated differently today. The book is in rougher shape, but it's also more rare (just TRY to find a copy online. It's frustrating).



Inside the book


It's an illustrated volume with 64 full page illustrations. The text is laid out in two columns and the illustrations have all that lovely victorian detail I'm so fond of.


The gilded edge pages all have borders. There's somewhat of a variety of design and colour throughout the book. I've found no real pattern to them. I thought for a while that they changed with each piece of writing, but that's not necessarily true throughout.

For the record, they don't coincide with sections of the book—it's divided into Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, and Poems









The cover is celluloid, and while not incredibly common for books in that era, it does show up as cover material in a wide variety of books. 
Celluloid cover and 19th century spelling
The picture above makes it seem like I was abusing the poor book, but that's just the magic of photography. I treat it very tenderly because the cover's so fragile. It's actually not particularly intact.
My memory of the book when I got it was that the cover was fine. An aunt relieved me of it while I was still rather young and I only got it back after she passed away some 40 years later. By that time, it was in rough shape. It might well be that I was merely imagining it romantically, and I don't speak ill of the dead, so we'll leave that there.


Besides, my aunt would not be the first, or most abusive custodian of the tome. When I got it, I found several things pressed in the pages. A leaf on it's own, a flower, a clump of petals, and some newspaper clippings. All of this detritus is bad for books. 

Note the discolouration of the pages where the rose petals had been pressed. Organic materials bring a host of problems to paper. And newsprint is no better. It's acidic. I've removed the material, but damage has been ongoing for a while.

So, was I tempted to blame my aunt for this lexiconic crime? Well, yes, actually, I was. Despite the fact that she was a librarian, she had a habit of pressing all manner of things into books. When she died, my uncle had to check each book to get the cash out of them. She would store paper money between pages.

But I found a clipping in this book about a man's death and burial. 

His name was Willard Moore and when he died, he had been farming in Acamac, my old community. The far greater likelihood is that the clippings and all the flora were pressed into the book by my old patron, Mr. Allison.

I tried to find information on Moore, but have thus far discovered squat. Cedar Hill cemetery denies having him, and he doesn't appear in any recorded deaths in the province.


news clippings with WWII references
With no date on the clipping (and short of a trip to the archives) I'm left to do some sussing from the context on the other side of the paper. Luckily, one of the clippings had some text.

The text describes political correspondence between Stalin and Roosevelt. A reply had been sent by Stalin, thanking Roosevelt for sending congratulations. The battle won by the USSR was against the Germans. The text reads "…with the victory of the Soviet forces at S—" so I looked up correspondence between those two leaders, with a guess that it might involve Stalingrad. I was able to find a thank you from Stalin that came very close to matching the text:
Sent on February 6, 1943
To Mr Franklin D. Roosevelt, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of AmericaThe White House, Washington
Thank you for your congratulations on the victory of the Soviet troops at Stalingrad.
I am convinced that the joint combat operations of the armed forces of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union will soon lead to victory over our common foe.
J. Stalin
Looking at the other clipping in that context, I could see that it was an image of a helmeted man, a soldier. This would have been an advertisement or an illustration to another article. It had to be from the Thursday or Friday edition of the same paper, since it discussed in past-tense the funeral and internment of Moore.

So, the book was in Acamac in 1943, and very likely in the possession of Mr. Allison from that point until it reached me in the 1970's. Whoever Moore was (friend, employee, neighbour) he was not likely the owner. Also, my aunt Marg is (mostly) off the hook for the poor condition of this lovely book. It's in my library only for now. I believe it needs a better home. It needs to be repaired and cared for properly. Sometimes even interesting old books like this one are not considered important enough to save, but I will ask around.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Game of Thrones Pop-Up

Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros




I got this book a while back—actually, before I started reading the books. I bought it because it was a good pop-up that showed some ingenuity. And it was on sale.

Now, this bit of art by Matthew Reinhart was produced in 2014 and is said to have been inspired by the opening sequence to the HBO show. That opening sequence inspires a lot of us. 

Technically speaking, this is not a book. It unfolds to wide layout that generally speaking can be described as a map. It can be opened as a book, though, and that's even preferable if you want to catch all the details in each section. 

Of course, I still had to give the full layout a try. 

I don't have a huge dining table, but it's not tiny, either. And this map required that the extensions be used. In this shot, I don't have all the mini pop-ups unfolded, so Pyke and The Twins look like they're missing, but they're in there:




Pyke

The first time I encountered mini pop-ups I had a little squee moment. There have often been little add-on bits in pop-up books, usually (especially in children's books) a little interactive tab that can be pulled to create action in the scene. 






The Twins
Sometimes a flap can be opened to show an action that takes place as part of the scene, or reveal a secret that's not known to the protagonist. In the "Ology" books (I will eventually do a post about those) the bonus sections contain everything from examples of inventions to coloured lenses to help a reader see a hidden feature on the page. 


Most bonus pop-ups are simpler, because they're smaller than the main art on the page, size allows for greater complexity, so more detailed pops. But for some designers, the mini's are equally, or at least nearly as complex. 

If you're wondering why these pop-ups aren't standing firmly upright, that's because I'm more concerned with collecting than displaying. I don't force paper to do a lot of extending. They will last a lot longer as paper art by not unfolding them too often, or too far. 

So, I have to say that the most breathtaking of the sections of this book was "The Wall," one of the larger pop-ups, and one of the tallest. In the books, and the show, the Wall is depicted as formidable, massive and awe inspiring. I think this book did that justice: 


The Wall

You see four mini pop-ups and a fold out at the bottom of this spread. The fold out is for information on "The Black" the uniform of the men who are sent to the wall to defend Westeros from the Wildlings and other dangers north of it. The fold outs each contain their own descriptive text.

Down at the other end of the map, one of the fold outs for Kings Landing is a depiction of the Battle of Blackwater Bay, complete with explosions of green "wildfire" through the attacking fleet of Stannis Baratheon. 



The Iron throne is tucked into one of these mini pop-ups, too. I again have to say that I would not give in to the temptation of properly opening the throne. You will have to cope with this almost-open version or buy your own GoT pop-up book and stretch it out as you please.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

New Pop Up Book

I've bought a lot of pop-up books, most of the time I buy when I come across one that grabs my interest. This little fella, though, I did not buy at that point. Why? Well it was coming on Christmas 2016 and people were asking me to give them some ideas of what to get me.


I literally held the book up to show one loved-one. I told another (and maybe sent an email), and gave hints that a third might ask if it had been purchased. Then I waited for Christmas.

Nada

So, I spent last year trying to find it. I suppose, for the sake of honesty, I should acknowledge that I did indeed find copies early on, but they were full-priced in my "only buy discount" store, so I passed, hoping to find one in my "buy new" store.

Nope. And no longer in the store I'd found it. And not in any store. I forgot the title and for some reason couldn't get close enough with google, but I did eventually find it online—something I worked out in the fall, so started hinting about.

Christmas came and…nada.

So, "screw it," says I, and ordered it online. A year after everybody else, I have my J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World: A Pop-Up Gallery of Curiosities.

Thank you internet.



What makes it interesting (besides the obvious)?
It's not trying to be a book. It's design is that of a display case.



The illustrations are well done and the designs are exciting—they're dynamic and whimsical and humourous, at least. Rowling has always been able to create material that's fit for kids, but also the kid in adults. That's refreshing. So many pop-up books are clearly for children, so of lessened interest to me as an adult.


The book has some creative bits, like different ways to make the text as pop-upish as the illustrations, and these aren't groundbreaking or anything, but somebody put some thought into them, so kudos for that. The little write up on Newt coming out of his case on the floor, pulls out from the floor. That's a subtlety they didn't have to include, but did.
















There's a couple of parts that have to be manipulated by the reader. Floating candles in one part, and the anchoring of a bank vault for the niffler scene. My photos here don't do this vault justice. There are layers of paper cut inside that provide a nice detailed depth.

My one real complaint is that it's so damned short. Pop-ups get very thick, very fast, so most of them are shortish. But a few more scenes wouldn't have been too many.

Almost all the text in pop-up books are brief. It's either because text is hard to incorporate, and large amounts of it exponentially harder, or because there's some belief out there that people who like pop-ups are not going to be all that interested in reading large sections of prose.

I have a few books that contain either pop-ups or some other paper-arts enhancement that are first and foremost books (lots of text). They'll eventually get blogged about, I suppose.

I don't usually rate my books (except in Library thing where I faithfully rate with stars for the sake of organization) but if I were to give this one a grade, it would still be four out of five despite the brevity.

I'm sitting here, now, wondering why that is. It's a good book, but doesn't have the most "wow!" which is what makes pop-ups call my name. The only thing I can think of is that I like the subject matter enough for the book to get an automatic bump.

Maybe also it's because I had to wait a year to get it.

Monday, 3 July 2017

I Wonder!




Marian Bantjes is a Canadian Graphic Designer. Actually, she now calls herself a Graphic Artist, having moved on, she says from the creatively limiting sphere of Graphic Design to something that allows her to put more of herself—her ego—into whatever she makes for clients.

In this way, she’s a lot like Irma Boom, another favourite designer of books. 

I Wonder is a beautiful book inside and out. It’s hardcover. The black silk is embossed with gold—and the page edges are gilded. The beautifully lettered title is embossed silver. Every page is gorgeous and rich in its visuals and the various essays and ponderings (mostly blog posts, apparently) are thoughtful and thought provoking.


I learned about this book during my time at NBCCD, studying Graphic Design. It was brought up as an example of successful Canadian designers, or typographical art, or maybe the use of patterns. I can’t remember if my instructor owned a copy that he showed to the class, or if he showed us slides. What happened was that I immediately went out and ordered the book. There was pretty much no way to live without it.

Bantjes’ work is detailed—really detailed, and that’s part of what attracts me to it. The pages are loaded with things to look at all around the text. The patterns she makes are intricate and tight. They don’t just vary, they vary hugely from one end of the book to the other—from one page to the other. And she leaves no page untouched by design.



Never mind reading it (although it is interesting) this book is amazing just to flip through looking at pictures. It’s even good to just hold, with its lovely cover and comforting weight in the hand.

Bantjes waxes poetic on I Wonder here:
http://bantjes.com/work/i-wonder/

She calls it her masterpiece. I guess that may be, but I’m rather hoping she’ll make another stab at striking wonder.



A little note about my copy:

I notice that my copy of this book has a break in her cover pattern at the bottom of the front cover where “The Monacelli Press” name appears (scroll up to the top photo to see it). Interesting. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

…and speaking of teeny tiny skulls



This one’s made of bone. It’s a miniature skull carved from the bone of a water buffalo by an artist who used to be part of the ivory business. The ban on ivory caused some hardship among these craftspeople, but rather than just condemn them and leave them to their fates, some people stepped in and encouraged a new approach using material that was essentially a by-product of domestication. 




This is clearly bone and not “fake ivory.” It is not intended to fool anybody. It’s instead a way for the members of this fair-trade group to use the skills they had in a way that could be marketed to the West.

I seriously would have bought the skull, regardless. 


It’s not high art, but consider the size and the material (which is unlike ivory in many ways, too) when you look at the features and detail carved into this piece. The workmanship is solid. 

I like that the mandible is carved out, so you get the sense of a jaw bone, rather than just a mass at the bottom of the head.



Also, notice the scalloping around the ears. That’s just whimsy, there. The artist lives in Malaysia. They're not into “day of the dead” stuff—and that shows through the rest of the skull.

I keep this bony little bit in a miniature china cabinet, so it looks massive.


And of course I'll have to now look at the rest of the cabinet's contents.

To be continued…

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Library Museum Gallery

My collection of things and why they're interesting to me:

What you're looking at in this first picture is the photo I used as a basis for a new little bit of art on an instagram post.
This is the Instagram post



This skull is made of resin. It was carved by a forensic artist whose job is to create models of remains for the RCMP, so practices with things like this one.

Here's the thing that's so neat: It's a miniature. I've set a tiny skull on top of three of my miniature books because it gave me giggles to do so. I have a real thing for miniatures and I'm going to photograph more of them later.



These are the elements of that photo laid out. I set a quarter down for scale, but probably should have turned it over (we'll all just have to live with that, since I'm not taking the shot again). The skull was a gift to me from somebody who knew the artist and knew I would be interested. My friends know me well. 
Of the three books, I believe I first acquired the Micro Mini Bible. It has a plastic case to protect it, but has a crease from being opened too enthusiastically. I know it looks like I'm doing the same, but I was being as gentle as I could.
Micro Mini Bibles are a collectable thing. They can be found on eBay and book trade sites, sometimes under "vintage." While they are completely readable, I'm not sure if the point of them is to have a handy holy book in your pocket, or just the novelty. I can't see them being the easiest—or coolest—way to enjoy a list of "begats." 





The book with the flower is an old volume of Emerson writings. Its title is Thought Treasures. It rings all the bells for me. It's got that "old book" feel, has lovely words, has an interesting cover (which frankly looks homemade) and is a miniature that sports at least some full-size detail.I believe I got it as a "thank you" from a friend for helping her with her parents' home. She  knows I love both books and miniatures. Her parents were a librarian and archivist and had been friends with many poets and bibliofiles.While other versions of Thought Treasures can be found through google, I've never come across this one specifically. I try every so often on the assumption that old books are constantly being added to the collections of others. Those collectors/sellers might use an internet catalogue system or a book trading site.
The last is a little translating dictionary that's small (one imagines) for the sake of tourists' pockets. That also explains the dog-earing. Well, maybe it's never seen the other side of the Atlantic, or bounced around with coin and pocket lint through Quebec's old city. Maybe this particular book was purchased by its original owner for the same reason I keep it: little books are neat.


There are other miniatures I want to put up. I'm not going to do them all at once, though. I'd like to photograph the library in a random way, so I don't get bogged down in "theme" entries. There's a lot of lovely full-size books and plenty more skeletons. I latch onto other nifty stuff, too, so my future posts about this won't be limited to any particular kind of item—beyond interesting, of course.


Saturday, 1 August 2015

Self-Help Steps, Expectations, and Resolve

So, last week I joined the provincial Writers' Federation, which is a good move both professionally and personally. Writers' unions play an important role. They have resources and hold events that bring the writing community together as well as out into the rest of the world. The act of joining is also a step forward on a personal level: after all, it's writers who join, so that's what I must be, right?

Ah, but I've been darn sure of that for a long while now. So, why didn't I join until last week? This is something I probably need a couch, $125/hour and a nodding doctor to figure out. I'm not going to let it trouble me (thus saving $125). The bottom line is that I'm a union girl now. I'm branded. I'm committed to the cause. I fly the colours.

The act of writing is as basic as breathing for me. What's not natural is all the stuff around it. Even after the book, I still find myself questioning whether I belong in writers' circles:

Do I have enough to say?
Really, I barely shut up. 

Do I have the written goods?
Do the others? Okay, yes. Some. Not everybody, though. 

Will I fit in?
Seriously? They're writers. Nobody fits in. That's why they write.

But the tendencies that have me questioning my right to join the union are exactly why I need to be part of it. I need to do all the stuff around writing that makes it work and that's what unions do. They get writers to connect, network, promote, engage and do the business it takes to keep getting published.

We'll see.
Sigh.


***

Why do I always choose spiderwebs to represent my writing…?
We know why.