Author Archives: Julie Mellby

Le Grand Écart

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963). Le Grand Ecart. Roman illustré par l’auteur de vingt deux dessins dont onze en couleurs (Paris: Librairie Stock, 1926). First illustrated edition, with reproductions of 22 drawings by Cocteau, 11 in color. Copy 18 of 20 on imperial Japan paper. A fine inscribed copy with a large original drawing by Jean Cocteau (profile of a male head): “à Parisot Souvenir très amical de Jean Cocteau.” Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019- in process


This novel has a small album of drawings bound inside between chapters. Cocteau wrote:

Ce petit roman est composé comme un album de dessins. C’est ce que nous invite à penser une lettre de Cocteau à sa mère le 19 juillet 1922 : « Tout est écrit. Il faut maintenant dessiner chaque page. La reprendre jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit ressemblante comme je fais pour mes portraits ou mes caricatures. » En réalité, à cette date rien n’est vraiment écrit : Cocteau a juste commencé, il a surtout le plan en tête (sauf l’épilogue, trouvé en octobre seulement). Et, comme l’album graphique qu’il compose en même temps (Dessins, publié en 1923), le roman se présente dans son esprit comme une suite de planches à composer l’une après l’autre. Dans ses entretiens à la radio avec André Fraigneau en 1951, Cocteau dira qu’il a composé Le Grand Écart « par petits blocs ».

This little novel is composed as an album of drawings. This is what invites us to think of a letter from Cocteau to his mother on July 19, 1922: “Everything is written. We must now draw each page. Repeat it until it looks like I do for my portraits or caricatures. In reality, at this date nothing is really written: Cocteau has just started, he has the plan especially in mind (except the epilogue, found in October only). And, like the graphic album he composes at the same time (Drawings, published in 1923), the novel appears in his mind as a series of plates to compose one after the other. In his radio interviews with André Fraigneau in 1951, Cocteau said that he composed Le Grand Écart “in small blocks”.–


Cocteau wrote six novels: 1919: Le Potomak; 1923: Le Grand Écart; 1923: Thomas l’Imposteur; 1928: Le Livre blanc; 1929: Les Enfants terribles; and 1940: La Fin du Potomak.

During the 1920s Cocteau also devoted his time to writing several novels, a new genre for him. These novels are usually concerned with protagonists who cannot leave their childhoods behind them. In Le Grand Ecart, for example, Jacques Forestier finds that beauty always brings him pain, a pattern established when he was a child.

As a young man, the pattern continues when he loses his first love to another man, leading Jacques to attempt suicide. Germaine Bree and Margaret Guiton note in The French Novel from Gide to Camus that Jacques is “the most directly autobiographical of Cocteau’s fictional characters.” In addition, as McNab pointed out, the novel anticipates Cocteau’s later obsession with childhood. —



KWY: Revista trimestrial d’arte actual (Paris, [publisher not identified], [1958-1963]. No 1-12. French, English, and Portuguese. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019 in process.

The Graphic Arts Collection, along with our colleagues in Art history and French literature, recently acquired a complete run of the rare serial KWY. Each issue was editioned differently: no. 2 is a limited edition of 50 copies; no. 3 a limited edition of 85 copies; no. 4 a limited edition of 100 copies; no. 5 signed in pencil on back cover: 73/134; no. 6 a limited edition of 500 copies; no. 7-12 each a limited edition of 300 copies. Our no.1 is a facsimile while all the rest are original as issued.

A truly international publication, KWY was produced mainly with serigraphs and letterpress by Portuguese artists Lourdes Castro, René Bertholo, Antonio Costa Pinheiro, João Vieira, José Escada and Gonçalo Duarte and by Bulgarian Christo and the German Jan Voss. These artists gathered in Paris under the title “Le groupe KWY” focusing primarily on the production of the magazine from 1958 and 1964.

According to one source, the name KWY was chosen because these are the three letters that rarely appear in Portuguese words.

Various movements have been connected with this group, including Portuguese figuration and New Realism, the Fluxus spirit, the Spanish group El Paso and the lyricists and the experiences of the sound poetry. Issues also include work by António Areal, François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Bernard Heidsieck, Yves Klein, and Jorge Martins, among others.


Happy and sad, is one pirated?

This early book on obstetrics and human reproduction has many editions. Our earliest is the 21st edition published in 1738. Our most recent, just arrived, is from 1802 or 1808, London or Boston.

It is believed to be an unrecorded early American pirated edition with a false imprint bound in contemporary calf-backed paper covered boards with wastepaper endpapers and pastedowns from a Boston 1808 almanac published by Manning and Loring. Taken from the London 1802 edition, the text has been completely reset, with new (variant) woodcuts. What do you think?

Aristotle’s compleat master-piece: in three parts; Displaying the secrets of nature in the generation of man. Regularly digested into chapters and in sections, rendering it far more useful and easy than any yet extant. To which is added, a treasure of health; or, the family physician, being choice and approved remedies for all the several distempers incident to the human bodies. 31 ed. (London: Printed and sold by the booksellers, 1776). Rare Books 2007-2533N

Aristotle’s complete master-piece: in three parts: displaying the secrets of nature in the generation of man: regularly digested into chapters and sections, rendering it far more useful and easy than any yet extant: to which is added, A treasure of health, or, The family physician: being choice and approved remedies for all the several distempers incident to human bodies. The thirtieth edition ([New York?]: Printed and sold by the book-sellers, 1796. Graphic Arts Collection Hamilton 167s. [Place of publication suggested by Bristol.]

Aristotle’s complete master-piece: displaying the secrets of nature in the generation of man: to which is added The family physician; being approved remedies for all the several distempers incident to human bodies. A new edition (London [i.e., Boston]: Printed for the booksellers [i.e.Manning and Loring]., 1802 [ca. 1808]). Graphic Arts Collection 2019 in process




Portraits with Scottish Roasting-Jacks and Toasting-Forks.

John Kay (1742-1826), [Miss Burns] : Burns whose Beauty warms the age and fills our Youth with love & rage, no date [1801]. Etching. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2011.00649

…Miss Burns was a professional harlot, the lawful daughter of a Durham merchant of the name of Matthews. She was in Edinburgh while Burns resided there in 1786-87. Some time afterwards she left the place, but returned again in 1789, and, with another young lady, set up a brothel in Rose Street. Being complained against, they were sentenced by Bailie William Creech to be banished the city; but, on 22nd December, the Court of Session passed a bill of suspension in their favour. Miss Burns died of consumption at Roslin in 1792.”– The Poetry of Robert Burns, Volume 2 (1905).

The London’s National Portrait Gallery adds: “Miss Burns, otherwise known as Miss Mathews, was a celebrated courtesan and beauty, who came to Edinburgh from Durham when her wealthy merchant father fell on hard times. She is shown by Kay as she appeared on her evening promenades, dressed in her fashionable finery. The stir she caused resulted in complaints from her scandalised neighbours. She was brought to court and sentenced to be banished from the city, and to be confined for 6 months in a house of correction should she return. The sentence was finally overturned on appeal.”

The Graphic Arts Collection holds a group of etchings by the Scottish barber-turned-artist John Kay (1742-1826). NPG calls John Kay a little known etcher, although many institutions in the United States have 100s of his prints. “Kay was an ex-barber and native of Edinburgh who turned to etching relatively late in life and produced many hundreds of original naïve and mostly humorous portraits of his fellow citizens.” Here are a few of ours.


John Kay (1742-1826), [Rev. Dr. John Erskine], 1793. Etching. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2011.00652

The name John Erskine (1721-1803) may not be familiar to the modern Christian world, but to his friends and colleagues he was the leading Calvinist clergyman of the Church of Scotland during much of the eighteenth-century. Despite his family’s desire for him to follow his father’s path in law and manage the eventual inheritance of a large estate in Carnock and Torryburn, he began his career as a preacher in the town of Kirkintilloch (1744-1753). As the leader of the Popular party, he opposed patronage in favor of a popular vote for ministers and would later serve at Edinburgh’s New Greyfriars (1758-1767) and Old Greyfriars (1767-1803). —

John Kay (1742-1826), [John Wemyss (died 1788), Town crier; Robert Clerk (1738-1810), Book seller and publisher; George Pratt (active 1784), Town crier. ca.1784]. Etching. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2011.00651

John Wemyss, the figure on the left, was, as the Print denotes, one of the Town Criers, and colleague of the eccentric and consequential George Pratt. He had formerly been a respectable dyer; but, owing to some reverses in business, he was reluctantly compelled to abandon the trade; and, from necessity, had recourse to the calling in which he is here represented. He was for many years officer to the Incorporation of Bonnet-makers, for which he received the sum of fifty shillings a-year!

…Mr Robert Clerk, the centre figure, was for many years a bookseller and publisher in the Parliament Square. His father, John Clerk, a printer, was said to have been descended from Alexander Clark, Lord Provost of the city of Edinburgh at the commencement of the seventeenth century. …Although at that period the book trade of Edinburgh was comparatively limited, he succeeded in establishing a profitable business—having a good many bookbinders employed—and latterly engaging in several fortunate speculations as a publisher.–A Series of Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, Volume 2, Part 1 (1838)

“Now for your quarters and Shoulders of Mutton or Lamb Geese and turkeys, any more a Wanting my hearty ones. What are you all asleep nous [sic] your time. I leave this City tomorrow & have Sold Sixteen Hundred down all well prov’d well try’d the last one now.” He says “Nice rrrRoasting Jacks and toasting Forks.”

McBain had been a soldier. Receiving no pension on retiring from the army, he became a manufacturer of roasting-jacks for turning meat and toasting-forks. He sold these on the streets of the city, singing his ‘roasting, toasting’ ditty. In old age he was admitted to the workhouse, but at 96 was expelled after becoming intimate with the elderly nurse. They married, and he returned to selling roasting-jacks, before being readmitted to the workhouse where he died aged 102.–NPG


John Kay (1742-1826), Lauchlan McBain, 1791. Etching. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2005.02049


John Kay (1742-1826), Travells eldest son in conversation with a Cherokee chief, 1791. Etching. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2011.00650

The taller (left), … is James Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller whose ‘Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, 1768-1773’, appeared in 1790. The other is Williamson, an Edinburgh bookseller and tavern-keeper, who had published an account of his adventures in America: ‘French and Indian Cruelty exemplified in the Life of Peter Williamson’, 1757, &c, and compiled the first Edinburgh directory (1773).

Their words are engraved beneath the design: ‘[J. B.] How dare you approach me with your travells. There is not a single word of them true. [P. W.] There you may be right, and aliho I never dined upon the Lion or eat half a Cow and turned the rest to grass, yet my works have been of more use to mankind than yours and there is more truth in one page of my Edinh directory than in all your five Volumes 40. So when you talk to me dont imagine yourself at the Source of the Nile!’ –British Museum


See also: John Kay, A series of original portraits and caricature etchings. With biographical sketches and illustrative anecdotes (Edinburgh: A. and C. Black, 1877). Marquand Library NE642.K18 A3

Furtwängler’s The Raven

Felix Martin Furtwängler and Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven. Pictopoesien Supplement: Peter Jelavich, Terror of the Soul ([Wiesbaden]: Harrasowitz in Kommission, 2018 (Berlin: Privat Presse)). Artist’s book, one-time edition, 99 numbered and signed copies, with an enclosed essay by Peter Jelavich, Terror of the Soul (primary publication). Graphic Arts collection GAX N-001958

Since 1975, Felix Martin Furtwängler has been publishing hand-printed copies, artist’s books, and book objects. “Inspiration and basis for his pictures, graphics and colored figures-and-letters collages are his own and literary texts, with texts and pictures forming a symbiosis. He works with different graphic techniques such as woodcut and linocut as well as etching, combining them and experimenting with painting over them. With his painting books and graphic works, Felix Martin Furtwängler is present in far more than one hundred collections worldwide.”

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem “The Raven,” Furtwängler designed and created this folding and folding book of a special kind. The prospectus notes,”Graphic illustrations by the author accompany the text, paper cuts and pop-up forms lend a three-dimensional shape and vivacity to the words. …The work was printed on a Roland 700, using the offset printing process. It was typeset manually, using the scripts Schwabach Due Mille, Las Vegas medium, Futura medium, Futura bold, Lucida Blackletter regular, Neue Helvetica medium and Special Elite regular, while each of the 14 Pantone colors on the machine was individually modulated and mixed by the artist. The paper Furtwängler chose is 200 g/qm Tintoretto Gesso wood-free white felt-marked, with a classical hand-made paper structure by Fedrigoni.”

“Thereafter, the artist cut each single leaf by hand, grooved and folded them. The folded single leaves were collected into sewing layers by hand, sewn with open thread-stitching with triple cross-stitch and fitted between two book covers made of 2.2 mm thick book binding board, covered by blue Hansa linen and embossed with white hot-foil embossing on the front cover and a printed ending paper made of 200 g/qm Tintoretto Gesso.”


See also the exhibition catalogue:
Felix Martin Furtwängler: printing into thinking: Folgen, Suiten, Zyklen / [Redaktion, Walter Kurz … [et al.] ; Kataloggestaltung, Felix Martin Furtwängler] (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, in Kommission; Wolfenbüttel: Herzog August Bibliothek; Mainz: Gutenbergmuseum, [2009]). Marquand Library Oversize NE654.F84 A4 2009q. Catalog of an exhibition held at the Kunsthalle Erfurt, Aug. 16-Sept. 27, 2009. “Eine Auswahl der Radierungen aus dem Archiv des Künstlers ergänzt durch Werke aus privater Hand und einer öffentlichen Sammlung “


Graphic Arts holds a small collection of blank notebooks (also called pocket memorandums) produced and distributed as advertising for various fertilizer companies in the early twentieth century. Some include calendars or almanac listings but mainly they have brief ads at the top of each empty page. The majority of our collection comes from the Baltimore area, home of the Miller Chemical & Fertilizer Corporation, the Hubbard Fertilizer Company, and a dozen more.

“If it’s worth while to use fertilizer, it is worth while to use the best.”


George the Third

What does it say about us that we have eight boxes of George Washington portrait engravings and only a handful of George III caricatures? This is now slightly improved with the acquisition of two formal full-length mezzotint portraits of King George III (1738-1820, Reigned 1760-1820).

[top] Gainsborough Dupont (1754-1797), after Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), George the Third, King of Great Britain &c. &c. &c., [Published December 30 1790 by Gainsborough Dupont No 87 Pall Mall]. Mezzotint, proof before all letters. The original painting, completed 1781, is in the Royal Collection, Hampton Court. Graphic Arts Collection 2019-in process

Gainsborough Dupont was the eldest son of Thomas Gainsborough’s sister, Sarah and Philip Dupont. He apprenticed to his uncle 1772-79; entered RA Schools 1775; remained in Gainsborough’s studio, producing studio replicas, mezzotints and oil copies, until his uncle’s death in 1788 when he inherited studio properties.

[below] James Ward (1769-1859) after painting by Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), His most Gracious Majesty George III, on his Favourite Charger Adonis. Dedicated to the Queen’s most excellent Majesty; By Her faithful and devoted Servant, John P. Thompson. London, Re Published Feb.y 6th 1811 by J.P. Thompson, G.t Newport Street, Printseller to his Majesty and the Duke & Duchess of York. Mezzotint with separately-printed title. Graphic Arts Collection 2019-in process.

There are several variations on this mezzotint, George III alone; George III with Adonis; George, Adonis and others; Adonis alone, etc.


[left] Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), George Washington after the Battle of Princeton, 1779–82. Oil on canvas. Princeton University, bequest of Charles A. Munn, Class of 1881. The 1784 companion to this hangs on the southern wall of the Faculty Room in Nassau Hall, George Washington at the Battle of Princeton also painted by Charles Willson Peale. Popular legend maintains that the gilded frame holding this portrait once contained a painting of King George II before a cannonball fired from Alexander Hamilton’s battery during the Battle of Princeton decapitated the King as it crashed through one of the windows of Nassau Hall.

Cultures of the Book: Science, Technology, and the Spread of Knowledge

The website and program is now available for the upcoming conference “Cultures of the Book: Science, Technology and the Spread of Knowledge,” Wednesday-Thursday, November 6-7, 2019 at University of Chieti-Pescara (Map).

This conference is subsidized and so, registration is free (opening soon). Here is the preliminary program for the two days:

The focus is broad but there is a nice attempt to include Eastern European and Arabic material along with the usual. “This conference will be of interest to historians of the book, printing and print culture, scientists and technologists who are interested in the book, bibliographers, librarians, conservationists, bibliophiles and book collectors and practitioners including printers, binders and type designers. It is not looking at books from aesthetic or literary perspectives but how science and technology have been deployed in book production and how the book itself has been a vehicle for the promotion of science and technology. We are covering all periods, regions and cultures and interpreting the ‘book’ widely to include clay tablets, codices, printed texts and electronic media. Both the physicality and culture of the book are explored. The conference is not only looking at the word, but images as well, including woodcuts, engravings, photographs and digital images.”

Subjects include: Science, technology and the making of the book, before and after the printing revolution, for example, writing instruments, substrates, ink, punches, presses, type, bindings; The relationship of technology to the appearance of letter forms and images; Science, technology and book conservation; and more.

This event is being organized by the joint Centre for Printing History and Culture at Birmingham City University and University of Birmingham, United Kingdom and the Department of Language, Literature and Modern Culture, University of Chieti-Pescara, Italy. [Pictures added by me]



Homer’s “Odyssey” and Owen’s “Sing to Me”

We hosted a visit this week from Professor Reeves’s class “The Classical Roots of Western Literature,” which focuses on the classics of the Western literary tradition from Antiquity through the medieval period, including Apollonius of Rhodes’s Jason and the Argonauts, Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, Dante’s Inferno and others.  This week they read The Odyssey and so, we focused on the calligraphic work of Jan Owen’s “Sing to Me” with text by Homer.

The group had so many questions about the work, donated to the Graphic Arts Collection by Lynne Fagles, that an email was sent directly to the artist. The wonderful Ms. Owen replied immediately with an explanation of how the work came about and the inspiration for her interest in calligraphy. Here are a few of her words.

In 1997, I was invited to participate in Perspectives, the Art of the Book at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, ME. That fall, I got a call from Lynne Fagles who said her husband had seen and liked my work and would I do a piece with words from his new translation as a Christmas present. I had read excerpts of The Odyssey in high school so began to read. I asked her to help me select text and she sent some of his favorite passages, which I marked and posted in my copy of the book. She had also asked that Greek text be included and this was before everything could be found on the web. Fortunately a local theological school had a copy of The Odyssey in Greek.

Several years before the Portland show, I’d wanted to work large on paper but not have to frame under glass. I experimented with hanging accordion fold books and liked the relief of the form. After doing several, they seemed to look ‘old’ and I began weaving in strips of gold painted paper, now Tyvek, to give texture to the surface and to be like a new communication code. The little basketmaker’s twist gives the strips dimension but can still fold flat. The weaving was also a fitting reference for The Odyssey. The ink changes color to give more variety—and to try to keep doing something a computer can’t do. Robert Fagles gave me permission to use the translation and I’ve included passages in several pieces [in addition to Sing to Me].

Puckle’s Club in Satin

“In Wine [there is] Truth”
James Puckle (1667?-1724), The Club; in a Dialogue between Father and Son. Edited by Edward Walmsley ([London, Imprinted by J. Johnson, St. James Street, Clerkenwell] 1817). One of seven copies. Imperial paper watermarked “J Whatman 1817.” Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019- in process

This edition includes a frontispiece portrait of Puckle engraved by T. Bragg (active early 19th century) after an engraving by George Vertue (1684–1756) after a painting by John Baptist Closterman (ca. 1656–ca. 1713).

To pair with Princeton’s 1817 paper edition of The Club, the Graphic Arts Collection has acquired one of seven copies printed on satin and mounted within gold borders on rectos of Imperial paper watermarked “J Whatman 1817. The satin is pasted on the inside of the regular border, the joint being hidden by a broad gold line. It is bound in 19th century full red morocco, elaborately gilt, by Wilson, 19 Foley Place [Mary-le-bone, London], gilt spine in 6 compartments, wide inner gilt dentelles (probably John Wilson. See Charles Ramsden, London book binders 1780-1840 (London 1956), p. 151).

The illustrations by John Thurston (1774–1822) are wood engraved by Robert Branston (1778–1827), John Thompson (1785–1866), Henry White (ca. 1790–1861), William Hughes (1793–1825), Charlton Nesbit (1775–1838), Mary Byfield (baptized 1795–1871), G. Thurston, Jun. (active early 19th century), and William Harvey (1796–1866).

Inventory, lawyer, and author James Puckle (1667?–1724), wrote these dialogues between a father and son in 1711 (Gentleman’s Magazine, 1822, pt. i. p. 204). The son tells his dad about two dozen or so club members he met, each one described as a character type: antiquarian, buffoon, critic, rake, etc.  The father gives his son advice about each, adding a moral to every chapter.

It is, perhaps, surprising to see such a luxury edition of this work but the Puckle morals were extremely popular and the various editions widely distributed, this one printed by John Johnson and sold by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown; J. Major; John and Arthur Arch; and Robert Triphook (active 1814–23).