Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2019 Issue

Imagination and the Illustrated Book from Ursus Rare Books

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Imagination in illustrated books.

Ursus Rare Books has released their Catalogue 343 Imagination & The Illustrated Book from Piranesi to Present. That is a date range, or more specifically, 1748-2017. These books are mostly artistic in one fashion or another. Some are works of art, some artists' books, others just graced with wonderful illustrations. Several are combinations between visual artists and literary ones. The artwork is quite original, often unusual, surrealism often popping its strange head. These are a few items to be found in this collection of illustrated books.

 

Life was not easy for the great artist and engraver William Blake. Between perfecting his art and making enough money to get by, it was always a struggle. Perhaps that is why he was so fascinated with Job. He didn't suffer quite as much as the biblical figure, but it is likely Blake could relate to him, his struggles and ultimate redemption. Still, it wasn't until late in life that he took on his Illustrations of the Book of Job. It was published in 1825, two years before his death, when Blake was age 68. Two years earlier, his friend, the painter John Linnell, commissioned the series. Blake was never much appreciated during his lifetime. It would take several decades before he began to get his due recognition, but Linnell recognized his extraordinary talent before others and provided the funds Blake needed. These illustrations are quintessential Blake, spiritual, otherworldly. Each has a caption quote from the Book of Job or other part of the Bible, while other quotes reflecting Job's struggles can be found at the top. Decorative borders otherwise surround the images. As Ursus points out, the illustrations "must be seen to be fully appreciated." The bookseller notes that this is an unusually clean copy, without the significant foxing seen in most, though it has not been washed. Item 2. Priced at $85,000.

 

Next we have a familiar early venture into science fiction, though you may not recognize the title unless you speak French: Les Guerre des Mondes. This is a 1906 Brussels edition (in French) of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. This work is known not only for its written merit, but for the 1938 radio enactment that had many Americans believing America was actually under attack by Martians. While a later edition translated to a foreign language is usually not a very desirable one, this edition is desirable because of its illustrations. They were provided by an obscure Brazilian artist, Henrique Alvim Corrêa (translated in the French edition to Henri Alvin Correa). These are a nightmarish bunch of illustrations that will relieve you of any misconceptions that Martians are cute little green men. You will not want to be the first person to travel to Mars once you see who lives there. I cannot vouch for this, since I understand not everything you read on the internet is necessarily true, but reportedly, Corrêa, who had moved to Brussels to set up his studio, traveled to London to show Wells his artwork. Wells was so impressed that he asked him to illustrate his upcoming French edition of The War of the Worlds. Again, according to internet sources, Wells later said, "Alvim Corrêa did more for my work with his brush than I with my pen." Whether apocryphal or real, these illustrations are worthy of such praise. Perhaps the reason so few people are familiar with Corrêa is that he died just a few years later of tuberculosis at the age of 34. Item 13. $8,500.

 

Here is another illustrated book with drawings strange enough to match those of Corrêa. This is surrealism long before that term was invented. J. J. Grandville was a French artist of great imagination. By the time he got around to this book, which Ursus calls "Grandville's masterpiece," he had done much illustration work for magazines and books. He did caricatures for magazines, his wit making them popular among readers. When restrictions were placed on caricaturing people, he turned more to book illustration, often with classics. Item 4 is Grandville's Un Autre Monde. Transformations, Visions, Incarnations... published in 1844. The first part of that title translates to "an other world." That it is. Bizarre creatures and such inhabit this very strange, surrealistic other world. It was nothing like anything seen before, and it became influential on other artists such as John Tenniel. It clearly was influential on the drawings Tenniel created for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Grandville's drawings provide a preview of them. $9,750.

 

These next drawings are not surrealistic, but rather, futuristic. They come from the most unlikely of places. Item 31 is Arkhitekturniie Fantazii (architectural fantasies), published in 1933. This is a collection of 101 architectural designs from the vivid imagination of Yakov Chernykov. It contains drawings of cities, structures, factories and such with designs far ahead of their time. Ursus describes this as "one of the most exciting books on architecture issued in the twentieth century." Compton, in his writing about Russian avante-garde books, says his "almost unlimited imagination for architectural forms provides a pattern book for modernist architecture, rather than a repertoire of viable designs." Here is why this book is so surprising. Imaginative, avant-garde work is hardly synonymous with Stalin's Soviet Union. Drab, gray, practical was the order of the day. The result was very few of Chernykov's designs were ever used, and the avante-garde in the Soviet Union was quickly repressed after this time. $12,500.

 

Here is another strange book, but in a very different way. Ursus describes it thus - "A stupendous object, in a binding that is completely over the top. Fascist bombast at its most preposterous." This one was commissioned by Mussolini, who was not shy about being self-aggrandizing, to celebrate his subjugation of the people of Ethiopia in 1936. This work was produced in 1937 by Celso Maria Garatti, the title being Italiani di Mussolini in A. O. (Italians of Mussolini in A. O., "A. O." being Africa Orientale or East Africa). It features a cloth binding with copper tubes along the spine and an onlaid metal axe protruding over the front cover. An axe and rods is a fasces, a device for clearing people out of the way in ancient times. It became the symbol of the fascist regime. This large folio book is filled with pictures, mostly photographs of fascist control of Ethiopia. It didn't last long. By 1941, the Allies, mainly the British, had thrown the Italians out of East Africa. Item 43. $8,500.

 

Ursus Books may be reached at 212-772-8787 or pkraus@ursusbooks.com. Their website is www.ursusbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Koller International Auctions: Books [and] Manuscripts & Autographs. June 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> INCUNABULA -Fridolin, Stephan. <i>Schatzbehalter.</i> With 96 (including 5 repeated) full-page text woodcuts. Nürnberg, 1491.<br>€ 39 470 / 57 020
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Kokoschka, Oskar. <i>Die Träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Boys).</i> With 11 original lithographs. Vienne, 1908.<br>€ 35 090 / 52 630
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Third Bessarion Master (active in Lombard in the third quarter of the 15th century). Leaf from a gradual, 1455-60.<br>€ 21 930 / 30 700
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Picasso, Pablo - Delgado, José alias Pepe Illo. <i>La Tauromaquia o arte de torear.</i> With 26 original aquatints and 1 original etching by Picasso.<br>€ 21 930 / 35 090
    <b>Koller International Auctions: Books [and] Manuscripts & Autographs. June 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Linschoten, Jan Huygen van. <i>Itinerario, Voyage ofte Schipvaert naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien…</i> Amsterdam, 1595.<br>€ 17 540 / 26 320
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> CHILDREN’S BOOKS - Meggendorfer, Lothar. <i>Nah und Fern. Ein Tierbilderbuch zum Ziehen.</i> With 8 coloured, lithographed plates.<br>€ 530 / 790
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> DANSE MACABRE - Bille, Edmond. <i>Une Danse macabre.</i> With 20 coloured woodcuts. Lausanne, 1919. Large folio.<br>€ 610 / 880
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Dexel, Walter. A collection of 7 invitation cards from the Kunstverein Jena, each typographically designed by W. Dexel. Jena, 1924-1928. Each 10.5 x 14.8 cm.<br>€ 530 / 790
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States, pamphlet, 1862. Sold May 7 for $11,875.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. Sold May 7 for $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> E. Simms Campbell, A Night-Club Map of Harlem, in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. Sold May 7 for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. Sold May 7 for $17,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. Sold May 7 for $5,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> The Black Panther: Black Community News Service, 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. Sold May 7 for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike, silver print, 1968. Sold May 7 for $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> March For Freedom Now!, poster for a protest on the 1960 Republican Convention. Sold May 7 for $17,500.
  • <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
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    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [SUPREME COURT JUSTICES]. A very extensive collection of 203 letters, documents and signatures. A COMPLETE COLLECTION OF THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES, JOHN JAY THROUGH WILLIAM REHNQUIST. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> ZATTA, Antonio. <i>Atlante Novissimo.</i> Venice: Antonio Zatta, 1775-1785. ONE OF THE FINEST WORLD ATLASES issued in Italy in the 18th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [CHICAGO HISTORY] -- [COLUMBUS, Christopher]. Monumental historiated and embroidered panel of the MADE FOR THE 1893 COLUMBIAN EXHIBITION IN CHICAGO. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [MONASTERY HILL BINDING]. AINSWORTH, William Harrison. <i>Historical Romances.</i> Philadelphia, n.d. A fine early exhibition binding by the Monastery Hill Bindery. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM]. New York: Tiber Press, [1960]. 4 volumes. LIMITED EDITION, number 119 of 200 COPIES, EACH SIGNED BY THE POET AND ARTIST. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> GRATIANUS, the Canonist. <i>Decretum.</i> Venedig: Petrus de Plasiis, 25 January 1483. Second quarto edition. FIRST PAGE ILLUMINATED BY A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [ABOLITIONISTS]. <i>William Lloyd Garrison. The Story of his Life.</i> New York, 1885. ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS FROM SEVERAL NOTABLE ABOLITIONISTS neatly bound in throughout. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> ANSON, George. <i>A Voyage round the World, In the Years 1740... 1744.</i> London: John and Paul Knapton for the author, 1748. FIRST EDITION. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> Blank railroad ledger, "Compagnie des Chemins de fer de l'Ouest" (spine title). N.p., 1909. A MONUMENTAL 20th-CENTURY ART NOUVEAU BINDING. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [MINIATURE ROOM] -- [FLEMING, John (1910-1987)]. Miniature of his 57th Street Library and Gallery. JOHN F. FLEMING'S BARONIAL 57TH STREET GALLERY. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE BINDING]. CHESTERTON, G.K. <i>Five Types: A Book of Essays.</i> London, 1910. LIMITED EDITION, number 3 of 30 copies on vellum SIGNED BY GEORGE SUTCLIFFE. $400 to $500.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. <i>When Adam Delved and Eve Span....</i> [Ancoats Brotherhood, 1894-5]. LIMITED EDITION, one of 250 copies printed. $500 to $700.

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