Category Archives: Artists’ books

Artists’ books

Grant Strudwick’s Black Power ABC’s and much more

The Graphic Arts Collection has acquired a small selection from Tia Blassingame’s collection of modern prints, artist’s books, and zines by Black artists. As the director of Primrose Press (and a member of Princeton Class of 1993), Blassingame is intimately acquainted with many of the Black artists, printers, writers, and authors producing work in the United States. Through her assistance and scholarship, we hope to fill Princeton’s rare book vault with important limited editions by these talented artists.

It is our goal to make this the first of a continuing, perhaps annual, acquisition program. Most titles discuss the experience of being Black or explore some aspect of African American history, while others are brimming with bold, beautiful images.

The 2021 collection includes 41 artists’ books and zines, along with 7 prints/broadsides. Some of the artists represented are Antonio Benjamin, Maya Beverly, Lukaza Branfman-Verussimo, Brianna Rose Brooks, Diasporan Savant Press, Kimberly Enjoli, Jen White Johnson, William Lofton, Arial Robinson, Clarissa Sligh, Grant Strudwick, and of course, Tia Blassingame.

Highlighted here, just for fun, are two of the alphabets: Grant Strudwick’s Black Power ABC’s Card Set [above] and [below] Arial Robinson’s Modern Day Black Alphabet.

All these new acquisition will be catalogued and available for classes beginning in a few weeks. Our sincere thanks to Tia.

Althea Gyles

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), The Harlot’s House: a Poem; with five illustrations by Althea Gyles. Deluxe issue, one of fifty copies “With the illustrations in duplicate, the further set being proofs on India paper mounted, with black marginal borders, and the text printed on Japanese vellum with the plates in Folio. Original cloth portfolio (London: Imprinted for subscribers at the Mathurin Press, MCMIII. [1904]). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired the 1904 pirated edition of Oscar Wilde’s poem The Harlot’s House, published by Leonard C. Smithers (1861-1907) under a fictitious imprint and accompanied by five photogravures reproducing drawings by Althea Gyles (1868-1949).

“A strictly limited edition … issued with the illustrations printed on plate paper and the text on hand-made paper, enclosed in a portfolio … This is no. … / Fifty copies printed as an Édition de luxe with the illustrations in duplicate … and the text printed on Japanese vellum. This is no. … / Twelve copies are printed as an Édition de grand luxe on pure vellum. This is no. … “–Page [2].

The book is described in the Oxford DNB by Warwick Gould:

In Paris early in May 1899 Gyles agreed to illustrate Wilde’s The Harlot’s House for the publisher, pornographer, and patron of Aubrey Beardsley, Leonard Smithers (1861–1907). Soon they were caught up in an ostentatious affair. She executed five coloured drawings which Smithers described as ‘weirdly powerful and beautiful’ and eventually published in the pirate edition in 1904 (Sherard, 342). At the height of her energies, postponing all other work to finish the illustrations for The Harlot’s House, she was plainly in love with ‘so excellent a person as Mr Smithers’ (Finneran and others, 56). Martin Secker would often see them playing chess in the domino room at the Café Royal. The gold-stamped covers for Ernest Dowson’s Decorations followed in December 1899, using a stylized rose, which Yeats identified as her ‘central symbol’, on the white parchment top board, and a pattern of thorns and foliage on the back. Four swirling birds pecking at a heart between a sun and moon surrounded by stars form the top board of John White-Rodyng’s The Night (1900).

“Miss Althea Gyles’ five beautiful and bizzare illustrations to, or rather interpretations of, Wilde’s beautiful and bizarre poem make this edition of it a notable contribution to Wilde literature, and one which collectors of his strange haunted work will greatly value. “The Harlot’s House” was one of the earliest, in fact I think the actual first, of Wilde’s poems to find its way into print, and Wilde used laughingly to tell an amusing story about its original publication. Wilde was quite a young man when it was first printed in an English weekly called The Sporting and Dramatic News, and, as with all young writers, “Oscar’s” first published poem was something of an event in the family. Hearing indefinitely that he had achieved the dignity of appearing in print, a certain distinguished and pious old lady relative of his had congratulated him. “I hear, Oscar,” she had said, “that you have had a poem published.” And then, much to Wilde’s embarrassment, she had continued, “And what is the subject of the poem?” How Wilde evaded the dilemma I forget, but I remember that even his superb presence of mind was sorely taxed to avoid shocking the good old lady with a title hardly suggestive of the innocent first fruits of a boyish muse.”–J. Fuchs, review The Harlot’s House in The International 1910

We caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.

Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The ‘Treues Liebes Herz’ of Strauss.

Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.

We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille,

Then took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.

Then, turning to my love, I said,
‘The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.’

But she–she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.

Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.

“The Harlot’s House,” published in April 1885 in the Dramatic Review.

8 Souls in One Bomb, an Explosive Novel

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944), 8 Anime in Una Bomba. Romanzo esplosivo [=8 Souls in One Bomb. An Explosive Novel] (Milan: Edizioni Futuriste di “Poesia,” 1919). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


Beginning with F.T. Marinetti’s manifesto in 1909, the male artists and writers of the Italian Futurist movement are the ones who made it into the history books. Often forgotten is an important figure within Futurism in general, and Marinetti’s work in particular, the author Rosa Rosà (born Edyth von Haynau; 1884–1978). The two were introduced during World War I, at which time she changed her name “to express this dual identity and to play with Futurist ideas of movement, while simultaneously punning on the traditional female name, “Rose/Rosa.” During the war, Rosa began to write in Italian for the Futurist journal L’Italia Futurista, where she published a myriad of articles, black and white drawings, short poems, and poetry.” –Lucia Re, “Introduction to A Woman with Three Souls,” California Italian Studies.

In 1917, while recovering in a military hospital, Marinetti wrote an enormously popular and presumably humorous book Come si seducono le donne (How to Seduce Women). The assertive Rosa Rosà responded with a number of articles and then, a short novel, Una donna con tre anime (A Woman with Three Souls, 1918), which critics called a visionary “futurist-fantastic narrative with elements of both realism and science fiction” (re-publishd in 1981 by Edizioni delle donne). Within a matter of months, Marinetti published his own visual and textual presentation of souls entitled: 8 Anime in Una Bomba. Romanzo esplosivo (8 Souls in One Bomb. An Explosive Novel).


1st soul: The war piano
2nd soul: Letter from Bianca, plump virgin and professor of botany, to a futurist
Response of the futurist
3rd soul: The sick cow and the young heroes
4th soul: First quality of rubber: Elasticity-contradiction, Caporetto-Vittorio factory Veneto
Letter from the retreating 3rd Army
5th soul: Lust; Formulas; 4 floors of sensuality in an establishment of bathrooms
Nocturnal dialogue in the Observatory of 8th Bombarde Battery in Zagora
6th soul: The frightening tenderness
7th soul: Genius-revolution ; In prison for interventionism
8th soul: Purity
Mixture of 8 explosive souls
Chorus of the 8 explosive souls
Parable and explosion of the bomb

Each chapter of 8 Souls has different typography and layout, some with the visual poetry reminiscent of Zang Tumb Tumb and earlier futurist narratives. Other chapters are psychological, fictional descriptions of one of the eight identities. Over the years, various names have been given to each section–Heroism, seduction, creativity, aggression, and so on–although Marinetti keeps the titles ambiguous.

In the end, all eight souls unite in an explosive mixture of a 92 kg bomb, directed at “cholera lice moralistic priests spies professors and policemen…”. Although there is no correspondence to link them, at this same time James Joyce was publishing Ulysses in parts from March 1918 to December 1920. Joyce wrote 18 episodes, each chapter with a different literary structure or narrative format.





Printing in Offenbach: the Art of a Craft and the Craft in the Art

Reminder: Registration is open for the Association of European Printing Museums (AEPM)’s annual conference 2021: Printing in Offenbach: the Art of a Craft and the Craft in the Art, a free, online conference 20-22 May 2021.

AEPM is an international printing heritage network that shares knowledge, experience, initiatives, and resources in all fields of the graphic arts as they have been practiced from the time of Gutenberg until the present day.

See the full program here:
The speakers:
Joseph Belletante, curator of the Museum of printing and graphic communication, Lyon, France // Françoise and Johannes Despalles-Strugalla, Despalles éditions, Paris (France) and Mainz (Germany) // Dr Eva Hanebutt-Benz, former director of the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, Germany // Martyn Kramek, Book Art Museum, Łódź, Poland // Walter Raffaelli, Raffaelli editore, Rimini, Italy // Stefan Soltek, director of the Klingspor Museum, Offenbach, Germany // Christina Wildgrube, visual artist, printer, Leipzig, Germany

The event is being hosted by the Klingspor Museum and the Offenbach Local History Museum (Haus der Stadtgeschichte). Exceptionally this year it is being offered as a Zoom conference. The talks will be live streamed from Offenbach, complemented by various recorded visits to local places of printing and heritage interest. Participation is free of charge, though a donation to the host museums to help defray costs will be gladly accepted.

One special event is the presentation of Jean Miró’s Macimono (1955), a transverse scroll, ten meters long, created by the Spanish artist Joan Miró. Executed as a lithograph, with individual passages added in woodcut, the extreme format offered Miró a unique terrain for unfolding the quasi-metabolic features of his language of form and color in never-ending imaginative abundance. On the occasion of the AEPM conference, the roll will be given to the Klingspor Museum by its owner as a permanent loan.

The conference also wants to set an example by looking at how the City of Offenbach am Main is redefining itself as a place of printing on the basis of its long tradition in the field of the graphic arts, and at how local citizens and cultural policy-makers have come to see illustrious printing personalities such as Johann André and Alois Senefelder (lithography) on the one hand and Karl Klingspor (type founding) on the other as two complementary facets of a single historical narrative – that of the City’s contribution to the development of visual communication.

Discussions will turn around two main themes this year:
The first is the technology of the printing press, which will be encountered first hand in the form of the reconstruction of Senefelder’s original ‘pole press’ for lithographic printing which is conserved in the Haus der Stadtgeschichte, and the Manroland presses built in Offenbach that have had a significant influence on sheet-fed offset printing worldwide.
The second theme is that of the artists working in print media and the important patrons and producers who have promoted the work of these artists. Both themes will be displayed and discussed at the conference with speakers from Poland, Italy, France and Germany evoking a wide variety of related topics.

On Saturday Uta Schneider and Ulrike Stoltz, the two artists who co-founded Unicat T and later USUS, along with Dominik Gussmann the workshop manager, will take us away from the lectern of the previous day’s talks and into the Museums’ new printing workshop. They are among the most important personalities working across the entire diversity of printing in and outside the book, and can report on this field on the basis of the many talks which they have given at universities, the Stiftung Buchkunst (Book Arts Foundation), etc.

The Association of European Printing Museums (AEPM) was founded in Grevenmacher (Luxembourg) in February 2003 with the aim of encouraging co-operation among European printing museums and promoting printing heritage as an important part of European cultural heritage. It was originally an informal group formed around a project entitled “Preservation of historical printing skills”, whose purpose was to bring together museum specialists with a view to preserving traditional printing skills and techniques.

Membership in AEPM is open to all print-related museums, heritage workshops and collectors actively involved in preserving the heritage of the printing industry. Don’t forget the AEPM’s wonderful museum finder, which includes Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection:

Taller Movimiento Gráfiko Mayahuel

Gráfica Palabra Zapatista (México: Movimiento Gráfico Mayahuel y Libertad Bajo Palabra, 2019). Book divided into 2 parts, text and plates, bound dos à dos. A second copy of each print is loose in the chipboard box 34 x 53 x 10 cm along with a handkerchief and 1 corked glass bottle. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


Prints: Libertad by Agüita Gómez del Payán; linografía — La lucha inconclusa by Amarildo Olmedo; xilografía — Zapata 100 años by Ana Lilia Viveros Cázares; grabado en pvc espumado — La tierra es quien la trabaja by Ana Rojas; linografía — ¿Por qué la lucha sigue? by Brigada Cultural Subversiva; linografía — Somos el mañana by Eduardo Palma Santiago; xilografía — Tierra, corazón e historia by Eduardo Robledo Romero; relieve en pvc espumado — A cien años by Eric Pozos Vázquez; linografía — La luz de la flama by Gabino Morales; xilografía — La autonomía by Gera Cristobal; linografía — El Atila del Sur by Iván Míchel Franco; xilografía — [untitled] by Mario Martínez; serigrafía — Sólo la muerte nos hará libres by Nahual Grafico; litografía y linografía — Cien años by Orquidea 5 Vocales; linografía y relieve en pvc espumado — Zapatero, la lucha sigue! by Zamer Zamer; linografía — Tenemos la fierza de un volcán by Zum; linograbado y stencil — Nuestra lucha es por la vida by Movimiento Gráfiko Mayahuel; linografía

Read more from the Taller Movimiento Gráfiko Mayahuel,



Buy the Book Painted or Unpainted

If you are on the West Coast, Hauser & Wirth gallery is now open with an exhibition of books by Richard Jackson. The gallery text notes: “Beginning in the early 1970s, lifelong Californian Richard Jackson’s Wall Paintings, Stacks, and Room-themed installations gave rise to a series of landmark innovations in painting, sculpture, performance, installation, and the relations between them. Jackson’s interest in the larger possibilities of artmaking and how it can be done extends to books, as well.”

In 2020, a monograph on Jackson’s life and work was published by Hauser & Wirth, written by John C. Welchman and Dagny Janss Corcoran, which can be purchased from various art book stores. Or you could purchase a painted copy like the one presented in this film “Painted Monograph.” Princeton University Library owns an unpainted copy.

Produced by Dagny Corcoran. Directed by Derek Kinzel. Edited by Zack Campbell.

“On the occasion of ‘Richard Jackson: Works With Books,’ Dagny Corcoran produced a film of Richard Jackson creating a new artwork for the presentation. In ‘Painted Monograph,’ Jackson painted all 480 pages of ‘Richard Jackson,’ the monograph authored by John C. Welchman and with a chronology by Corcoran, released by Hauser & Wirth Publishers in 2020. During the creation of this work, which is itself related an idea Jackson initially conceived in 1977—‘Paint every page of each book, / while still wet stack the books filling a room, / wall to wall, floor to ceiling’—Jackson discusses with Corcoran his philosophies on art, life, and book-making as they relate to the books and printed matter on display.”



John C. Welchman, Richard Jackson ([Zürich]: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, [2020]). Marquand Library use only N6537.J313 W45 2020. Unpainted copy.


Hedi Bak’s Song of Songs

Hedi Bak (born Germany, active United States and Africa, 1927-2010), The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s (Chicago: [Printed and Published by Studio 22 Inc.], 1969. 30 woodcuts. Issued in portfolio. “Thirty original woodcuts by Hedi Bak. 100 copies … numbered and signed 1 to 100 …”. One of 10 artist proof copies on Kumoi paper, a soft Japanese paper which takes fine impressions. (The edition of 100 copies was printed on Rives BFK.) The quotation is from the Holy Scriptures, as used with the permission of the Jewish Publication Society of America. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

With little else to document of life and work of Hedi Bak, here are a few paragraphs from the Bak Art Legacy Project, a virtual museum to present the works of Bronislaw and Hedi Bak.

“Hedi Bak was a prolific printmaker, painter and educator. While working as a conservator at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, she was tasked with printing the first edition of prints from the newly rediscovered illustration blocks of the Luther Bible. Bruno and Hedi’s lives intersected World War II, immigrant life of artists in America – the south and the midwest and in Hedi’s case even Africa.”

“The origins of the project began in 1984, shortly after Hedi Bak suffered a massive stroke and lost her ability to walk. It was only a few years since Bronislaw died unexpectedly from a heart attack, and she was in danger of losing her home and studios right off the campus of Georgia Southern in Statesboro Georgia. With hundreds of works of art in danger, a committee was formed led by many faculty members, friends and neighbors. Clemens Bak, the son of the artists was elected secretary and represented the family. An agreement was struck with the College, to move the work into temporary storage on campus. The Library at Georgia Southern offered to keep Bronislaw’s papers and also ended up with a considerable collection of prints and several paintings. The rest was moved to Atlanta, where Hedi and her sons and their families settled.”

“In the 1960’s [Bak] managed Studio 22 and produced a volume of prints; both her own and in collaboration with Bronislaw. Later, when Bronislaw’s health gave out, the couple moved to Europe where she was employed, doing preservation work at the Gutenburg Museum in Mainz, Germany. In 1972 they returned to America and established studios in Statesboro, Georgia. Hedi continued to teach until 1980. In 1982 the year after her husband died, Hedi suffered a serious stroke while undergoing surgery. Told that she would never walk again, she struggled to regain her life. The next year her youngest son, Pieter died in a car crash.”

“In 1990, Hedi married another very talented artist, Charles Counts, a renowned potter, painter and poet from Tennessee. Charles had been teaching and living in Nigeria for many years. He took his wife back to Maiduguri in Northern Nigeria where he encouraged her to take up writing as well as her art, resulting in two delightful books, many stories and prints from her time in Africa. She spent many of her happiest years of her life with Charles, until he died unexpectedly in 2000.”



This is a biographical video about Bak’s husband Bronislaw.

A biography of her childhood: Hedi Bak, Mazel ([Place of publication not identified] : Rosedog Press, 2005).

Found in The Seed 4, Issue 4 (08-15-1969):

Odysseas Elytes and Costa Coulentianos

Odysseas Elytēs (1911-1996), Θάνατος και ανάστασις του Κωνσταντίνου Παλαιολόγου [= Thanatos kai anastasis tou Kōnstantinou Palaiologou = The Death and Resurrection of Constantine Palaiologus] (Chavannes-sur-Reyssouze, 1971). Blind embossed engravings by Costa Coulentianos (1918-1995). Acquired with matching funds provided by the Program in Hellenic Studies with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


“On May 29, 1453, the Ottoman army, led by Mehmed the Conqueror, seized Constantinople, putting a violent end to one of the longest-lasting empires in history. Along with it, the seizing of the great city also ended the life of the last emperor of Byzantium, Constantine Palaiologos.

The legends that sprang up around the Fall of Constantinople are a large part of Christian Orthodox and Hellenic tradition. Even after the liberation from the Ottomans — even today, to be honest — there are Greeks who continue to believe that one day Consntantinople will become Greek once again.”— Greek Reporter July 6, 2020

Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytēs (1911-1996) drew on the mythology of Constantine Palaiologus for his epic poem Death and Resurrection of Constantine Paolaiologus, which in turn was the inspiration for the Greek sculptor Costa Coulentianos’ blind embossed artists’ book. Written in modern Greek, printed by Duo d’Art in Switzerland, and published in France, this is truely an international publication.


Μανιφέστο του Κομμουνιστικού Κόμματος

Herbert Sandberg (1908-1991), Μανιφέστο του Κομμουνιστικού Κόμματος / Χαρακτικά [= Manifesto of the Communist Party = Bilder zum Kommunistischen Manifest] (Κωδικός προϊόντος, unknown). Acquired with matching funds provided by the Program in Hellenic Studies with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process.



The Graphic Arts Collection acquired this rare modern Greek edition of the German artist Herbert Sandberg’s satirical manifesto, containing the full text of Karl Marx’s Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), with graphics by Sandberg. A complete chronology and biography for the artist can be found here:

The artist’s website explains his intentions with this manifesto:

Für viele ein veraltetes Buch mit 7 Siegeln, für einige die gelungene Kapitalismuskritik schlechthin: Das “Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei”. Sandberg, der bereits kapitalistische Lebensverhältnisse selbst miterlebt hatte, wollte mit seinen Decelithschnitten die Gedanken von Marx und Engels aus seiner ganz eigenen Sicht neu anschaulich machen.

Viele der Themen sind heute aktueller denn je. Themen wie “Bourgeoisie und Produktionsmittel”, “Rüstung und Öl” und “Die Proletarier haben nichts zu verlieren als ihre Ketten” haben sicher so manchen Wirtschaftsboss und Politiker in Weißglut gebracht.

Aber keine Angst: die Verblödung der Menschheit geht so rasch vonstatten, dass in einigen Jahren sicher keiner mehr das Buch kennt… Oder ?

A Hepster’s Dictionary

–Music & Lyrics by Al Sherman & Harry Tobias from the film Sensations of 1945.

Cab Calloway (1907-1994 ). The New Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: A Hepster’s Dictionary. 2nd revised ed.  ([New York?]: Privately published by the author, 1939). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


The first Black American musician to sell a million records from a single song, Cab Calloway (1907-1994) was also the first to write a dictionary. Working with his manager, Irvin Mills, Calloway recorded the unique lexicon he and his fellow musicians had developed and published it in June 1938 as Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: a Hepster’s Dictionary. It was so successful a second revised edition was published the following year as The New Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue, with a foreword by Ned E. Williams (managing editor of Downbeat magazine). Seven more editions followed through 1944.

Calloway’s foreword to the 1944 volume began: “Some six years ago I compiled the first glossary of words, expressions, and the general patois employed by musicians and entertainers in New York’s teeming Harlem. That the general public agreed with me is amply evidenced by the fact that the present issue is the sixth edition since 1938 and is the official jive language reference book of the New York Public Library. … Many [words] first saw the light of printer’s ink in Billy Rowe’s widely read column “The Notebook,” in the Pittsburgh Courier.”

He wasn’t kidding. According to the New York Daily News, June 3, 1944, “The New York Public Library announces that it will use Cab Calloway’s Hepsters’ Dictionary as the official jive reference book…”

This wonderful radio program from the BBC will tell you everything:


Armstrongs are the musical notes in the upper register and friskin’ the whiskers means the musicians are warming up. A barbecue is a girl friend and if you need a match you would say, Boot me that match.”

[Newark, Ohio] 17 June 1938: 4.



Calloway and his orchestra played at Princeton many times, but he never left a copy of his dictionary.


Minneapolis Tribune 18 June 1944: 32.