Author Archives: Julie Mellby

Fine Press Book Fair

Despite the cold weather, a large crowd showed up for the 4th annual Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair on Saturday, March 11, in the basement of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer.

Exhibitors included Abecedarian Gallery, Denver, CO; Alice Austin, Philadelphia, PA; Booklyn, Brooklyn, NY; Ken Botnick, St. Louis, MO; Bridge Press, Westmoreland, NH; Caliban Press, Canton, NY; Center for Book Arts, New York, NY; Gerald W. Cloud Rare Books, SF, CA; Edition Schwarze Seite, Scheer/Donau, Germany; Furious Day Press, New York, NY; Leslie Gerry Editions, Gloucestershire, UK; Harsimus Press, Jersey City, NJ; Intima Press, New York, NY; Lead Graffiti, Newark, DE; Leopard Studio Editions, Rochester, NY; Nancy Loeber, Brooklyn, NY; Luminice Press, Philadelphia, PA; Russell Maret, New York, NY; Midnight Paper Sales, Stockholm, WI; Mixolydian Editions, Petaluma, CA; Sarah Nicholls, Brooklyn, NY; Olchef Press, Newark, NJ; Otter Bookbinding, Woking, Surrey, UK; Pied Oxen Printers, Hopewell, NJ; Sarah Plimpton, New York, NY; Purgatory Pie Press, New York, NY; Robin Price Publisher, Middletown, CT; Maria Veronica San Martin, Brooklyn, NY and Santiago, Chile; Shanty Bay Press, Shanty Bay, Ontario, Canada; Sherwin Beach Press, Chicago, IL; Swamp Press, Northfield, MA; Tideline Press, West Sayville, NY; Traffic Street Press, New York, NY; Two Ponds Press, Rockport, ME; University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA; and Whittington Press, Gloucestershire, UK.

Ephemera collectors came early and stayed late, browsing through the bins.

Material varied enormously from old to new, small to large, unique and mass produced.

Enjoy the last day of the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.

Alpha Beta

Ines von Ketelhodt, Alpha Beta. Text by Michel Butor (Flörsheim am Main: I. v. Ketelhodt, 2017). Two volumes, in French and German. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2017- in process

Investigating the visual and conceptual structure of the printed page, Alpha Beta is designed, printed, and bound by the German artist Ines von Ketelhodt. Her matrix is the writing of Michel Butor (1926-2016), a French novelist whose experiments with narrative and structure put him at the forefront of the literary trend known as le nouveau roman (the new novel).

Von Ketelhodt has letterpress printed a passage in which Butor offered a portrait of a universal library: Itinéraire: les bibliothèques. In the first volume, it is in Butor’s original French and in the second volume, it has been translated into German. Each letter of the alphabet is confined to one transparent page so that, as the pages are turned, a single letter disappears throughout. By the end, only the punctuation remains on the right, with Butor’s text in reverse on the left.

Transparency is at the core of this volume, printed from polymer plates on to cellophane sheets and housed in a plexiglass slipcase. The text is fluid, both in its narrative and here, even in its physical format. Here is the French text:

Rangés dans leurs casiers comme des bouteilles les volumes fermentent à l’intérieur de la grande cave aux lampadaires doux sur les fronts ridés ou bouclés qui se penchent dans le déchiffrement de leurs annotations. Par ici les dictionnaires, l’espalier des langues; dans cette galerie les cristallisations des sonnets et des haïku, la joaillerie des ballades. On ouvre une grille et c’est la haute salle de lecture avec ses verrières qui répercutent les somnolences, les feuillettements, les émerveillements. Comme une vrille de volubilis la longue phrase s’entortille autour de la rambarde qui longe les balcons des romans-fleuves avec leurs péniches de familles, d’héritages, d’affrontements, d’effondrements, d’écoeurements et de baisers. Plus loin les rayons de l’Histoire Naturelle avec les herbiers et les flores; les oiseaux, s’envolant quand on tourne les pages, virent autour des colonnes de fer, effleurent les crânes et reviennent dormir dans leur volière de cuir ou de toile; les rugissements des fauves et le passage des poissons devant ces fenêtres d’aquarium.

Here are two possible English translations I have found for this complex text:

Placed in their lockers like bottles, the volumes ferment inside the large cellar with soft lamps on the wrinkled or curled fronts that lean in the decipherment of their annotations. Here the dictionaries, the espalier of languages; In this gallery the crystallizations of sonnets and haiku, the jewelry of ballads. It opens a grid and it is the high reading room with its stained glass that reverberates drowsiness, leaflets, wonders. Like a twist of volubilis the long sentence is wrapped around the railing that runs alongside the balconies of the novels-rivers with their barges of families, inheritances, confrontations, collapses, disgustings and kisses. Further on are the rays of Natural History, with herbals and floras; The birds fly away when they turn the pages, look round the iron columns, brush their skulls and come back to sleep in their leather or canvas aviaries; The roar of the wild beasts and the passage of fish in front of these aquarium windows.

Arranged like bottles on their shelves, the volumes age in the large cellar, soft lamps hovering over creased or ringleted foreheads lowered in their attempts to decipher the comments. Here are the dictionaries, the espaliers of languages; in that aisle over there, the crystalline sonnets and haikus, the gemlike ballads. Opening a grating, you find yourself in a lofty reading room with a glass ceiling that reflects back the drowsiness, the leafing, the ecstasies. Like a climbing plant, the long sentence twines around the railing that runs along the galleries of the Romans-fleuves with their barges full of families, inheritances, conflicts, collapses, wearinesses and kisses. A bit farther on: the natural history shelves with their plant posters and flora; the birds that fly upward when you turn the pages and circle around the iron columns, touch their skulls and then return to their leather and linen aviaries to sleep; the beasts of prey roaring and the fish gliding by the aquarium windows.


See also Vieira da Silva (1908-1992), Vieira da Silva: peintures. Includes Butor’s Itineraire (p. 7-19) (Paris: L’Autre musée, 1983).

Terms and Conditions


One of the best things about Robert Sikoryak’s new edition of Terms and Conditions (self-published in April 2015 and posted on Tumblr between September and December 2015) is the index.

How many of the 101 illustrators and cartoonist parodied in this volume can you identify without cheating, i.e. using the index? By my count, the earliest is Winsor McCay from 1905 and the most recent are several from 2014.

More information on the project can be found here and in the dozens of other reviews that have appeared before and after the book’s release this week.



[left] Winsor McCay, Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905). [right] Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Incredible Hulk (1962)


[left] Ian Boothby and John Costanza, Simpsons Comic (2002). [right] Stan Lee and John Buscema, Silver Surfer (1968)


Tom Wilson, Ziggy (1976)

Robert Sikoryak, Terms and Conditions (Montreal, Québec: Drawn & Quarterly, 2017). Graphic Arts Collection GArecap 2017- in process

James Allan: Gypsy, Musician and Thief

The first criminal given a royal pardon signed by the prince regent, afterwards George IV, was James (Jimmy or Jemmy) Allan, musician and thief. Unfortunately, it arrived several months after his death at the age of 76.

James Allan (1734–1810) was the son of the performer Will Allan and a woman called Betty, frequently described as a Gypsy. Thanks to his mother, James Allan believed he was a member of the Faas, a clan of Gypsies noted for roving the Anglo-Scottish border. Although official piper to Elizabeth Percy, countess of Northumberland, for two years, the majority of Allan’s life was spent on the road playing music and stealing.

According to Keith Gregson’s entry in the DNB, “Most of Allan’s adult life was taken up with rambling and it is here that ‘the line between fact and fiction becomes thin’. He made his livelihood out of piping and stealing and, beyond that, by ‘enlisting as a soldier and deserting—often having received his bounty money’. He was eventually arrested in 1803 . . . tried and sentenced to death [but] the death sentence was commuted . . . .”

“Allan was remembered as a virtuoso on the bagpipes, an expert at the double hornpipe played at 3/2 or 9/4 pace, and closely associated with the music of his native Cheviot Hills. Woodcuts of his playing both the Northumbrian small pipes and the highland pipes have survived but the veracity of any surviving sketches of him was brought into question by the researches of the bagpipe historian Gilbert Askew in the 1930s.”

We were recently asked for a history of the language of the Gypsies, which can be found in this biography of Allan, illustrated with designs by Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856), engraved by J. Knox. We are fortunate to have the rare volume thanks to our donor, Richard Waln Meirs, Class of 1888.

“The life of this singular character has all the air of a romance, the incidents being so various and extraordinary; but the relation possesses such genuine marks of authenticity as must satisfy the most scrupulous. Allan was extremely illiterate, and utterly incapable of perusing the narratives of the adventurous voyager and the curious traveller, much less of collecting and arranging their scattered remarks on the manners and customs which prevail in distant and unfrequented countries, with a view to impose upon the public. Yet his observations in China, in India, in Tartary, and in other countries, exactly correspond with those published by the most learned, accurate, and esteemed travellers, and afford such presumptive and internal evidences of the substantial veracity of this history, as must dissipate the most marvellous and obstinate credulity.”

James Thompson (active 1828), A New, Improved, and Authentic Life of James Allan: the Celebrated Northumberland Piper, Detailing His Surprising Adventures in Various Parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, including a Complete Description of the Manners and Customs of the Gipsy Tribes, Collected from Sources of Genuine Authority, by James Thompson; with Explanatory Notes by E. Mackenzie … ; and Illustrated by Fine Engravings from Designs by [Robert] Cruikshank (Newcastle upon Tyne: Mackenzie and Dent … 1828). In the original parts (20 in 14 numbers) with original light brown printed wrappers. Gift of Richard Waln Meirs, Class of 1888. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Cruik 1828.3 Robert

See also [below]: History of James Allan, the celebrated Northumberland piper (Newcastle: W. Fordyce [1840]). (Ex) 3580.999 v.32

Soon after Allan’s passing, the following lines were written to his memory:

All ye whom Music’s charms inspire
Who skilful minstrels do admire,
All ye whom bagpipe lilts can fire
’Tween Wear and Tweed,
Come, strike with me the mournful lyre
For ALLAN’s dead.

No more where Coquet’s stream doth glide
Shall we view JEMMY in his pride,
With bagpipe buckled to his side,
And nymphs and swains
In groups collect at even-tide
To hear his strains.

When elbow moved and bellows blew,
On green or floor the dancers flew,
In many turns ran through and through
With cap’ring canter,
And aye their nimble feet beat true
To his sweet chanter.

Watercolor Lessons 1811

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired two drawing and coloring manuals, including one of the first English manuals to include actual color samples, only predated by Mary Gartside’s Essay on Light and Shade (1805) Ex 2013-0074Q.

Giles Firmin Phillips, A Practical Treatise on Drawing and on Painting in Water Colours, with Illustrative Examples in Pencil, in Sepia, and in Water Colours, Leading the Artist Progressively, from the First Rudiments, to the Completion of Works of Art in Their Finished State; Comprehending the Treatment of Coast Scenery, River Scenery, and General Landscape (London: A. & H. Bailey and Co., 1839). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

Engraved title with hand colored aquatint vignette, 14 soft-ground etchings with monochrome aquatint added, (one view in three progressive stages), 5 colored aquatints, and a color chart. Abbey Life 166.

David Cox, A Series of Progressive Lessons Intended to Elucidate the Art of Painting in Water Colours. (London: T. Clay, 1811). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

Illustrated with 13 plates (2 soft-ground etchings and 11 aquatints including 6 with hand coloring), and 8 color squares in the text.


Live Dog / Evil God

Born in Minnesota, Fritz Scholder (1937-2005) moved with his family to Sacramento, California, where he began studying painting with Wayne Thiebaud. Although Scholder was one-quarter Luseino, a California Mission tribe, he grew up outside the native American community and only later began to explore this cultural heritage, bringing to it a unique perspective.

In 1970, Tamarind Institute invited Scholder to Albuquerque to create a suite of lithographs he called, Indians Forever. From that time on, Scholder would be a major influence for his generation of native American artists.

Afternoon Nap was published in 1991, the first in a series of book projects by Nazraeli Press, Munich, followed in 1992 with Live Dog / Evil God in a limited edition of 50 copies. Nazraeli was founded in 1989 by Chris Pichler, specializing in books of photography. Scholder created ten cliche-verres or glass plate negatives for the book that were printed as kallitypes by James Hajicek. These were reproduced in duotone lithograph by Fabe Litho in Tucson, Arizona.

Pichler also published Scholder’s 1993 exhibition catalogue with an essay by Edward Lucie-Smith for the Riva Yares Gallery (SA ND237.S31 L824 1993). This review of Scholder’s 2015 exhibition at the Denver Art Museum brings the artist’s work up to date.

Fritz Scholder (1937-2005), Live Dog / Evil God (Munich and Tucson: Nazraeli Press, 1992). Copy 44 of 50. Includes a suite of ten original prints. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

In the Fabled Fragrant East

Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), Stanzas. Spine title: In the fabled, fragrant East; Nell’ odorato e lucido oriente. Translation by David R. Slavitt, edited by Michele Miracolo (Austin: Michele Miracolo Press; printed by Bradley Hutchinson, 2015). Dos-à-dos binding. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process


Pietro Bembo was a well-known Vienna poet and humanist who composed this 50 stanza poem as part of the Carnival festivities for the court of Urbino in 1507: “For the entertainment of the lords and ladies gathered at Castel Durante, and to the delight of Madonna Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchessa d’Urbino, and Madonna Emilia Pia, her good friend and companion. Both ladies are entreated by Bembo and Don Ottaviano Fregoso, disguised as ambassadors from the court of the Goddess Venus, to renounce their sad devotion to chastity and embrace the pleasures of Love.”

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired the inaugural publication from Austin’s Michele Miracolo Press. Bembo’s text has been newly translated into English by David Slavitt and printed by Bradley Hutchinson from Blado types cast at his letterpress workshop in Texas.

“Approximately 100 copies of this bilingual edition were printed and bound in an unusual “tête bêche” [a.k.a., dos à dos] style, with each language having its own front cover but meeting in the middle, one text upside down in relation to the other.

The printing was executed on a Heidelberg flat-bed cylinder letterpress by Bradley Hutchinson. The paper is a scarce mouldmade sheet from the 1980’s, no longer manufactured, from the Magnani mill in Pescia, Italy.

The text is smythe sewn and bound into stiff wrappers, with a soft grey dust jacket and enclosed in a handsome slipcase made by Jace Graf at Cloverleaf Studio in Austin, Texas.”–prospectus.



See also:

Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), Le rime di m. Pietro Bembo, nvovamente ricorrette et ristampate In Vinegia [G. Scotto] (1552). “Stanze di m. Pietro Bembo nvovamente ricorrette & ristampate.” with separate t.p.: 10 l. at end. Rare Books (Ex) 3122.68.1552

and Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), Gliasolani de Messer Pietro Bembo (Venetia, Aldo Romano, 1505). Rare Books (Ex) 3122.68.313

A slate book with “noiseless” slate pencils

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a slate book–two wooden framed slates hinged with the original cord–together with a pack of noiseless Scholar’s Slate Pencils “for clever boys and girls.” A listing in the New York Times from 1893 gives the cost of slate pencils VS lead (graphite) pencils.

According to Stone magazine, v.10 (1895) “Only one firm in the United States is making slate pencils from native slate. There are imported many slate pencils—that is, pencils made of slate—from Germany, and also some soapstone pencils from abroad. The native soapstone pencil industry languishes, according to those interested, because of the recent reduction in the tariff upon imported soapstone pencils.

Millions of pencils made of slate are turned out at a quarry in Pennsylvania. The rough slate is sawn into suitable pieces by machinery, and from each piece a special machine cuts six pencils of standard length, 5 1/2 inches. These pencils come out rounded, but not pointed. Deft boys take them by twos and threes and quickly point them at an emery wheel rapidly revolved by machinery.

The pencils are then put up in pasteboard boxes of 100 each, and these boxes are placed in wooden cases containing 10,000 pencils. The wholesale price of slate pencils is only $6.75 per case. Pencils that break in the making are made up into “shorts,” measuring 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 inches, and the shorter pencils are made also from small fragments of slate.

Pencils wrapped in the American flag printed on paper cost about $2 a case more than the ordinary standard bare pencil, and pencils wrapped in gilt paper come somewhat higher. It is an easy bit of ciphering to make out that pencils at $6.75 a case of 10,000 are worth about two-thirds of a mill or one-fifteenth of a cent each.”


Housing Piazzetta’s Studi di Pittura

The following is a guest post by Lindsey Hobbs, Collections Conservator in our Preservation Office:

A newly acquired rare edition of Giambatista Piazzetta’s Studi di Pittura, a series of engravings to guide aspiring artists printed in 18th-century Venice, presented some handling and storage concerns for the library. [original post: ]  The book’s value alone merited a custom drop spine box for protection, however, the binding also created challenges.

Although the binding is well in tact, the soft, worn cover boards flex and bow in dramatic fashion when lifted. Since the delicate nature of the boards is not apparent upon visual inspection, we needed a means of signaling to future researchers that this book requires special care before it’s handled.

The solution I landed on is a drop spine box with an integral, or built-in cradle. When opened, the user must lift and prop the first platform of a cradle via a ribbon in order to access the book. One can then prop the second platform in the same manner on the right to support the book while in use. When finished, the cradle platforms fold back around the book to allow the box to close.

This was my first attempt at building this type of enclosure and I have already thought of ways to improve it. My initial thought was to build two separate cradle “wings” to attach beneath the right and left box trays but this made the opening and closing action of the box a bit awkward. Building the cradle in a wrap-around style for the book was necessary to create a more fluid movement.

Of course, the best feature of this style is the intuitiveness of its use. I think the ribbon placement provides a clear indicator of what to do when opening the box, and once pulled, the rest of the structure guides the cradle into place. While the cradle adds a bit of construction time over a standard drop spine, it offers a relatively simple solution for showing users how to use this special book.

Remarks on Prints

The Grove Dictionary of Art declares Richard Dalton (1715?-1791) one of the most influential figures in the sphere of collecting in England for some four decades.

In 1749, at the age of thirty-nine, Dalton visited Calabria and Sicily and then, Egypt, Turkey and Greece. He was possibly the first English artist to record the ancient monuments of these places.

In 1755 he was appointed librarian to the Prince of Wales (later George III) but after only three years was back in Italy with commissions to buy drawings and medals. Both loved and hated, Dalton remains a powerful figure in the world of art and antiquities.

His major work evolved from a selection of drawings executed during his 1749 tour, which was finally published in 1791 as: Antiquities and views in Greece and Egypt; with the manners and customs of the inhabitants: … Engraved on 79 copper-plates by Chatelain [and others] ([London]: T. King and H. Chapman, 1791). (SAX) Oversize N5330 .D17e

Before that publication appeared, Dalton prepared a commentary without the plates about the places and cultures he visited, released as: Remarks on Prints, That Were Published in the Year 1781, Relative to the Manners, Customs, &C. of the Present Inhabitants of Egypt. from Drawings Made on the Spot, A.D. 1749 (London: printed by J. Nichols for J. Robson and W. Clarke, 1790). The Graphic Arts Collection is pleased to add this rare volume  to augment both the story of Dalton and the history of collecting.

See also: John Dalton (1709-1763), Remarks on XII Historical Designs of Raphael, and the Museum Græcum et Ægyptiacum, or, Antiquities of Greece and Egypt, illustrated by prints (London: Printed for M. Cooper …, 1752). (Ex) 2008-0382N