Category Archives: Illustrated books

illustrated books

Pages inédites sur la femme et la guerre

In December 1915, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) composed Élégie, pour piano for a memorial album, Pages inédites sur la Femme et la Guerre, dedicated to Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, and honoring the contributions of women during World War I. Debussy was one of thirty women and ninety-two men who participated in the project, offering images, stories, songs, poetry, facsimile letters, and other materials in French and English. Contributions came from France, England, United States, Canada and Russia, featuring such distinguished names as Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936); Auguste Rodin (1840–1917); Robert de Montesquiou (1855–1921); Marcel Prévost (1862–1941); Gertrude Atherton (1857–1948); Maria Vérone (1874–1938) and many more. Proceeds were used to help children who were orphaned during the war.


Pages inédites sur la femme et la guerre, livre d’or dédié avec sa permission à Sa Majesté la reine Alexandra et publié par Madame Paul Alexander Mellor au profit des orphelins de la guerre en France ; préface par Maurice Donnay = Unpublished pages on women and war, guestbook dedicated with her permission to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra and published by Madame Paul Alexander Mellor for the benefit of war orphans in France; preface by Maurice Donnay (Paris: Devambez, 1916). Copy 251 of 1000. Graphic Arts Oversize 14094.409.631q

The book is dedicated to Queen Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925), Queen of the United Kingdom, and the British Dominions and Empress of India from 1901 to 1910. The project was supervised and edited by Mary Mellor (1865-1929). Rose ornaments were designed by Madeleine Lemaire (1845–1928).

Maria (Mary) Mathilde Stern (1865-1929) married Paul Alexander Mellor (born about 1850), who changed their last name in 1915:
“Paul Alexander Mellor … of 22, Rue Octave Feuillet, Paris, born in Petrograd of Danish origin, but naturalized as a British subject in the year 1880, Hereby give public notice that I have formally and absolutely renounced, relinquished and abandoned the use of my said surname of Moeller, and have assumed and adopted, and have determined henceforth on all occasions whatsoever to use and subscribe the name of Paul Alexander Mellor instead of the said name of Paul Alexander Moeller. … Paul Alexander Mellor.”– The London Gazette, 25 June, 1915.



C.E. Brock’s illustrations for Austen’s Persuasion

C.E. Brock (1870-1938), “Politely Drew Back and Stopped to Give Them Way” watercolor, signed & dated. Provenance: Chris Beetles. Exhibited at The British Art of Illustrations 1870-2010.

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired two watercolors by C.E. (Charles Edmund) Brock (1870-1938), illustrations to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, her last novel, originally published in 1816. A complete history/bibliography of Charles and brother Henry Brock’s illustrations for the Austen novels has been written by Cinthia Garcia Soria, “Austen Illustrators Henry and Charles Brock,” and can be read here:

This is a brief exert:

…However, by 1898 a new printing technique that allowed inclusion of illustrations in colour had emerged—lithography, and Dent asked both Charles and Henry to create a new set of illustrations for the six Jane Austen novels.

The brothers agreed to share the task in equal parts: five volumes each, six illustrations per volume, one as frontispiece. Charles was in charge of Sense and Sensibility (volumes 1 and 2), Emma (volumes 7 and 8) and Persuasion (volume 10), while Henry was responsible for Pride and Prejudice (volumes 3 and 4), Mansfield Park (volumes 5 and 6) and Northanger Abbey (volume 9).

Thus the new 10-volume set of Jane Austen’s novels by J.M. Dent with illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock appeared in 1898 with great success. These “pen and ink drawings tinted in watercolour” gave a more exact and detailed period representation than ever before. It is classified by Gilson as E 90 and as he clearly notes, each volume included a frontispiece and five inserted plates, all in colour. They are bound in a now green-greyish gilt cloth and the covers presents a girl in Regency attire.

…The American reproduction of the 1898 illustrations took eight years to appear. In 1906, they were issued in New York by Frank S. Holby, also in ten volumes—since the publisher used the same text setting by Dent—but with an introduction by William Lyon instead of R. Brimley Johnson. This edition is also known as “The Old Manor House Edition” and Gilson catalogues it as E 106.


C.E. Brock (1870-1938), “Lady Dalrymple & Miss Carteret Escorted by Mr Elliot & Colonel Wallis” watercolor, signed & dated. Inscribed with publication details below mount. Provenance: Chris Beetles. Exhibited at The British Art of Illustrations 1870-2010.




Carroll, Laura and John Wiltshire (2006). “Jane Austen Illustrated” in Johnson, Claudia and Laura Tuite (eds.), A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture, 56). Wiley-Blackwell, Singapore.

Gilson, David (1997). A Bibliography of Jane Austen. New Introduction and Corrections by the author. Delaware : Oak Knoll Press.

Gilson, David (2005). “Later publishing history, with illustrations” at Todd, Janet (ed.). Jane Austen in Context. New York : Cambridge University Press.

Kelly, C.M (1975). The Brocks: A Family of Cambridge Artists and Illustrators. London & Edinburgh: Charles Skilton Ltd.

Parker, Keiko (1989). “Illustrating Jane Austen” in Persuasions, no. 11. December, 1989. USA. JASNA. Available on-line at:

Rogerson, Ian. Entry for the “Brock family” in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Southam, Brian (2006). “Texts and Editions” in Johnson, Claudia and Laura Tuite (eds.), A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture, 56). Wiley-Blackwell, Singapore.



Happy Birthday Little Red Lighthouse


One hundred years ago, a little red lighthouse was taken out of storage, re-assembled, and put to work at Jeffrey’s Hook along the Hudson River in northern Manhattan. After operating for only ten years, the George Washington Bridge was built on top of the lighthouse, dwarfing the 40 foot structure and making it obsolete.

Hildegarde Swift wrote and Lynd Ward illustrated a book in which the GW Bridge asks the lighthouse for help and by doing so, shows the small structure that it wasn’t obsolete and even small things have their place. Thanks to the public’s love for this book the lighthouse was saved, given to the NYC Parks Department, and added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

Happy 100th birthday to the little red lighthouse.


Female Equitation

Mrs. Stirling Clarke, The Ladies’ Equestrian Guide, or, The Habit & the Horse: a treatise on female equitation, with illustrations lithographed by Messrs. Day & Son, from photographs by Herbert Watkins (London: Day & Son, [1857]). 9 plates, tinted lithographics by Day & Son after photographs by Herbert Watkins (1828-1916). Graphic Arts Off-Site Storage 2021- in process.

Nannie Lambert Power O’Donoghue (1843-1940) and A. Chantrey Corbould (1852-1920), Riding for Ladies, with Hints on the Stable (London: William Clowes & Sons for W. Thacker & Co., Calcutta, Thacker, Spink, & Co., and Bombay, Thacker & Co., 1887). Woodburytype frontispiece. Graphic Arts Off-Site Storage 2021- in process


The Graphic Arts Collection is fortunate to have acquired two works by female authors concerning horsemanship for upper class women in the 19th century. It is unfortunate that the earliest by a Mrs. Clarke cannot be identified with her own name but only by her husband’s. Written in 1857, Clarke’s book comes a full twenty year before that of Nannie Power O’Donoghue’s work. It is a thorough discussion of horsemanship including notes on stabling, training, shoeing, and doctoring, by and for women.

Mrs. Stirling is a mystery beyond her marriage, she even leaves her name off the title page, preface, or introduction. Her preface begins by assuring any man reading the book that he need not worry. She has no desire to “trench upon ground hitherto trodden by the more privileged sex” nor does she offer “any suggestion for their enlightenment.” So, if you are of the male sex, shut your computer and stop reading.

Stirling continues, “I write exclusively for the guidance of my own sex, well knowing the vast importance to the fair novice of a manual which brings her acquainted with that equal pride of prince and peasant—the horse—and with the fascinating and elegant science which teaches how to guide and govern him, and how to guide and govern herself with respect to this noble creature.” Riding well needs training, as Stirling quotes, “True knowledge comes from study, not by chance, As those move easiest who have learned to dance.”



Riding was in the mid-nineteenth century a regular activity among women, as she comments: “Some years ago, riding was by no means general amongst the fair sex; then ladies on horseback were the exception and not, as now, the rule, but “grace à notre charmante Reine,”

“Whose high zeal for healthy duties
Set on horseback half our beauties,”

there is now scarcely a young lady of rank, fashion, or respectability, but includes riding in the list of her accomplishments; and who, whether attaining her end or not, is not ambitious of being considered by her friends and relatives, “a splendid horsewoman.’ Yet how few can really claim this envied appellation! Habit may do much, and, coupled with science, a great deal more; but good riding, with very few exceptions, is neither a habit nor an instinct. Dancing we all know to be an instinctive motion, a natural expression of joy ; but mark the dancing of the rustic milkmaid, and that of the educated and accomplished lady; the one is an untutored, clumsy bound, the other the very poetry of motion ; and the latter should riding be.”


The second acquisition by a woman for women is Nannie Lambert Power O’Donoghue‘s Riding for Ladies [top] with illustrations by A. Chantrey Corbould (1852-1920). Perhaps it was her athleticism that allowed Power O’Donoghue, also known as Ann Stewart Lyster Lambert, to live to be 97 years old. While she wrote many books, she was best known for Ladies on Horseback, followed a few years later by Riding for Ladies (1887).

Originally published in a series of articles in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and Lady’s Pictorial, Riding for Ladies brought her writing together in a book so popular it is recorded as selling “more than 94,000 copies.” Unlike Stirling, her name is proudly announced on the title page and the book is filled with her many achievements and personal stories.





Henry Martin (Class of 1948, 1925-2020) Man playing croquet (no date). Graphic Arts Collection GA 2011.00360. Gift of David Reeves, Class of 1948.


A simple question about James Tissot’s Croquet drypoint today [see below], led down a rabbit hole to many other croquet references.

According to The Lewis Carroll handbook (1962), Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), wrote Croquêt Castles. For Five Players in May 1863 while the Christ Church Mathematical Lecturer. He was also a founding member of the Overland Mallet Club and an avid croquet player. In Dodgson’s version of the game, each player has two balls, which are maneuvered through eight arches and four pegs. Unlike Alice in Wonderland, players take turns rather than playing simultaneously. More rules can be read here:

This copy of Dodgson’s pamphlet (one folded sheet) is from the Morris L. Parrish library, now at Princeton rather than Oxford, where it was “decided that the items constituted a shrine rather than a comprehensive collection of original artifacts. They turned [Parrish] down, declaring that theirs was an educational institution rather than a museum.” – Alexander Wainwright, “The Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 62, no. 3 (Spring 2001)


Croquet achieved enormous popularity in the 1860s, first mentioned at Princeton in 1868 when a student wrote, “Croquet has lately been brought into the campus and become quite fashionable. Games may be seen at any time during the day, surrounded by a little crowd of admiring spectators.” —Nassau Literary Magazine June 1, 1868.

Nassau Literary Magazine June 1, 1870

Daily Princetonian April 30, 2015

The National Croquet Association (NCA), founded in 1879, held its first national tournament in 1882. By April 30, 2015, the Daily Princetonian noted their club was playing in a national tournament.


Horace Elisha Scudder (1838-1902), The Game of Croquet: its Appointments and Laws; with descriptive illustrations by R. Fellows [psued.] (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1866). Frontispiece by Augustus Hoppin (1828-1896). Graphic Arts Collection Hamilton 883




In 1936, H.G. Wells (1866-1946) wrote a ghost story called The Croquet Player, illustrated by Harold Jones (1904-1992). Goodreads describes it:
“This allegorical satire about a man fleeing from his evil dreams was written under the influence of the Spanish Civil War. The croquet player, comfortably sipping a vermouth, listens to the strange & terrible tale of the haunted countryside of Cainsmarsh–a horror which broadens & deepens until it embraces the told to a cocktail drinking croquet player.”
Published London: Chatto & Windus, 1936). Ex 3982.95.3275 1936.


Laterna magica. Magic Lantern. Lanterne Magique ([Germany?] : E. P. [i.e. Ernst Plank], [1900?]). Metal lantern with 12 glass slides, col. ill. Cotsen Children’s Library Opticals 22898.



James Tissot (1836–1902), Croquet, 1878. Etching and drypoint. Museum purchase, Felton Gibbons Fund (2013-112) Princeton University Art Museum


An Outline of Society in Our Own Times

When asked recently whether George Cruikshank’s print “An Outline of Society in Our Own Times,” from his rare four volume Our Own Times (1846), was an etching or a glyphograph, we pulled both of the sets in Graphic Arts, as well as a scrapbook of Cruikshank illustrations. The plate is a glyphograph, one of 34 in the whole book, with a single etching in each volume and 6 woodcuts throughout.

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), “An Outline of Society in Our Own Times,” from Our Own Times ([London]: Bradbury & Evans, 1846). No. 1 (Apr. 1846)-no. 4 (July 1846). Graphic Arts Collection Cruik 1846.2


How can you tell an etching (intaglio) from a glyphograph (relief)? Look for the absence of a plate mark. On poor or cheap printing, you will also see some ink in the white areas, where the pressure has pushed the paper below the metal relief line.


The print features four women, beginning at the top center, personifying Science, Industry, Folly (seen above blowing bubbles), and Crime, with children of the various attitudes surrounding each. Cruikshank was still a heavy drinker in 1845-46—signing a vow of abstinence in 1847—and so the lower portions of society ruled by folly and crime still seems quite appealing.


We are fortunate to have a number of scrapbooks holding illustrations, proofs, newspaper clippings, letters, and more Cruikshank material. The one pictured here “Scrapbook of illustrations, 1839-1865” has 394 p. in a half morocco binding 57 x 38 cm. It was a gift from Alex van Rensseler, Class of 1871. The spine lists a few of the books contained inside. Unfortunately the paste used to fix the print to the album page is in many cases eating into the sheet and leaving intrusive marks.

Here are some additional pages from the scrapbook of Cruikshank illustrations.

Note in “The Triumph of Cupid” not only several self portraits of Cruikshank but enslaved European, African, and Middle Eastern men in chains at the bottom of this imaginary scene.


Steal This Post

Fifty years ago, when Steal This Book was published by Abbie Hoffman, Peter Vandevanter, Class of 1973, checked to see if the bookstore would carry it. He shared his findings in the Daily Princetonian (March 18, 1971): “Princeton’s book store seems amused and un-intimidated by the new book. ‘I definitely couldn’t put a book like that out on the shelves, because I’m afraid someone would steal it,’ commented Ralph Shadovitz, the buyer for the Princeton Book Mart on Palmer Square. But he does plan to stock the book behind the counter if it receives sufficient advertising. The Princeton University Store has ordered the paperback, which will be ready for sale in mid-April. The Resistance Book Store has no knowledge of the new Hoffman book, according to co-manager Mary Ann Bacon. ‘If Abbie Hoffman will send it to us free, we’ll be glad to put it on the shelves for anyone to take free.’”

At the time, neither Princeton University Library nor the Library of Congress added the book to their holdings. Today, a section from the book can be read in Princeton’s copy of “The Best of Abbie Hoffman.” Both Harvard and Yale have a copy locked in the non-circulating rare book vaults. No copy is available on Googlebooks or HathiTrust, although a portion of the study guide for students is available online (listed as a nonfiction classic). If you are a member of the Internet Archive, you can log in and read it, otherwise only the first few pages are visible.

Although the book was published in April 1971, it wasn’t until July that Dotson Rader reviewed it for the New York Times, beginning “If you are a teenage runaway on the lam, or a 50-year-old executive finally gone bananas and about to drop out, then what you should probably read is Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. It will tell you how to live for free and survive.”



In his introduction, Norman Mailer writes, “this book is a remarkable document, is, indeed, the autobiography of a bona fide American revolutionary . . . . Of course, we all think we know the sixties. I always feel I can speak with authority on the sixties and I never knew anybody my age who didn’t feel the same way (whereas try to find someone who gets a light in their eyes when they speak of the seventies). Yet reading this work, I came to decide that my piece of the sixties wasn’t as large as I thought. If we were going to get into comparisons, Abbie lived it, I observed it.”

Index to Princeton’s Aubudon “Birds”

A Princeton University class is going to be using Princeton University Library’s 4 volume, double elephant copy of the Audubon/Havell Birds of America, (Oversize EX 8880.134.11e), watching as we turn the pages live through a hovercam (placed as high as possible). There was a question about which birds were in which volumes, someone saying that ours were bound slightly different than others. So an index was made to the plates and where they are bound in our set, confirming there are only slight differences with, for instance, Pittsburgh’s online set. Here is the index: PUL Audubon Birds. Volume and plate are obvious. The “No.” is the package that was shipped to subscribers with 5 plates to a package: one huge, one medium, and three small birds all printed on the same size paper.



While the volumes were open, very quick jpgs were taken of a few thumbnail details. These are not formal or professional but it’s hard to resist. Here are a few examples.






The Princeton copy “was presented … in 1927 by Alexander van Rensselaer (class of 1871), a charter trustee of the University. It had formerly belonged to Stephen van Rensselaer (Princeton, class of 1808) of Albany, New York, one of the original subscribers to the work. The latter’s name appears as no. 32 in Audubon’s list of subscribers.” — Howard C. Rice, An Aububon Anthology, page 16.








Gaston or Augustus Fay?

In Early American book illustrators and wood engravers, 1670-1870 and his supplement, Sinclair Hamilton lists a 19th-century wood engraver named Gaston Fay and credits any illustration using the single name “Fay” to Gaston. Yet, New York directories, magazine advertising, and other sources reveal that Augustus Fay had a greater presence in the commercial publishing world of the mid-19th century.

The life dates for Augustus Fay are unknown. He is listed as age 26 in 1850 and 45 in 1870, so he was born in the early 1820s. Throughout his career he is known as both an engraver and a designer, a slighly high position than engraver alone.

Listings here are from Robert Macoy, How to See New York and Its Environs, 1776-1876 (1875) and The Trow City Directory … of New York City (1866 – ), along with an Ancestry census page.



In the late 1850s or early 1860s, Augustus Fay joined forces with Stephen J. Cox to form Fay & Cox located at 105 Nassau Street in lower Manhattan. Their logo [below] was found in the autobiography of the popular magician and ventriloquist Signor Blitz, published in 1872.

An online biography of True Williams notes that the artist “returned to New York was hired by a graphics firm owned by Augustus Fay and Stephen J. Cox in New York City. It was in fact the first syndicated illustration business in America. The firm produced illustrations and engravings for the subscription publishing companies located in Hartford, Connecticut.”–

Below is a partial list of books with illustrations provided by the company of Fay & Cox, including several suggesting they were written and published by the company. Another two dozen or so, not listed here, were illustrated by Augustus Fay individually. This puts into question Sinclair Hamilton’s suggestion that any mention of the name Fay should be attributed to Gaston.


The New world in 1859: being the United States and Canada, illustrated and described in five parts … by Thomas Wightman; John William Orr; John Andrew; …; Fay & Cox… (London ; New York: H. Bailliere, 1859).

The J.L. Mott Iron Works. St. George Building, 90 Beekman Street, New York by Fay & Cox ([between 1860 and 1880])

The miner boy and his Monitor, or, The career and achievements of John Ericsson, the engineer by P C Headley; William Henry Appleton; Fay & Cox (New York: William H. Appleton, 1865, ©1864).

The hero boy, or, The life and deeds of Lieut-Gen. Grant by P C Headley; Fay & Cox (New York: William H. Appleton, 1864).

Life and naval career of Vice-admiral David Glascoe Farragut by P C Headley; William Henry Appleton; Fay & Cox (New York: William H. Appleton, 1865).

The patriot boy, or, The life and career of Major-General Ormsby M. Mitchel by P C Headley; Fay & Cox (New York: William H. Appleton, 1865. ©1864)

Old salamander: the life and naval career of Admiral David Glascoe [sic] Farragut by P C Headley; Fay & Cox (Boston: Lee and Shepard ; New York: Charles T. Dillingham, ©1865).

A youth’s history of the great Civil War in the United States from 1861 to 1865 by R G Horton; Fay & Cox.; Van Evrie, Horton & Co.; Smith & McDougal (New York: Van Evrie, Horton & Co., 1867, ©1866)

Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley; Moses Woodruff Dodd; Fay & Cox… (New York: M.W. Dodd, 605 Broadway, 1867).

Percy’s year of rhymes; Fay & Cox ([Cambridge, Mass.]: Riverside Press ; New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867, ©1866)

Paul and Virginia by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre; Augustus Hoppin; Fay & Cox (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867).

Pebbles and pearls for the young folks by Abby Sage Richardson; Edwin Forbes; H L Stephens; George G White; Henry Walker Herrick; Arthur Lumley; A C Warren;…; Fay & Cox (Hartford, Conn.: American Pub. Co. ; New York: Bliss and Co. 1868, ©1867).

Angel-dreams: a series of tales for children by Austin Carroll; Fay & Cox (New York: Catholic Publication Society, 1869).

Onward: a magazine for the young manhood of America by Charles L Schönberg; David L Schönberg; Arthur Lumley; Fay & Cox (New York: [Mayne Reid], [1869-70])

Impressions of Spain by Mary Elizabeth Herbert Herbert, Baroness; Fay & Cox (New York: Catholic Publication Society, 126 Nassau Street, 1869)

Beyond the Mississippi … by Albert D Richardson; Frank Beard; James Carter Beard; Joseph Becker; Albert Bierstadt …; William Warzbach; Carelton E Watkins; Alfred R Waud; Fay & Cox… (Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, ©1869).

Views of Native Americans by C Sohon; John Mix Stanley; N Fay; A W Warren; Bowen & Co.; Sarony, Major & Knapp.; Fay & Cox (approximately 1850-ca. 1870).

Roughing it by Mark Twain; True Williams; James H Richardson; Duffield Ashmead; …; Fay & Cox (Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1871).

Struggles and triumphs, or, Forty years’ recollections by P T Barnum; George Edward Perine; Fay & Cox (Buffalo: Warren, Johnson & Co., 1872, ©1871).

Life and adventures of Signor Blitz; being an account of the author’s professional life; his wonderful tricks and feats… by Antonio Blitz (Hartford, Conn., T. Belknap, 1872.

Wood’s illustrated hand-book to New York and environs ... by Fay & Cox (New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1873).

The adventures of the Bodley family by Horace Elisha Scudder; S B Barrett; Charles Whittingham; John J Harley; J Augustus Bogert; John Andrew; James L Langridge; Henry Walker Herrick; Felix Octavius Carr Darley; Thomas Nast; William J Pierce; Chiswick Press.; Fay & Cox (London: S.B. Barrett, 1876, ©1875).

Doings of the Bodley family in town and country by Horace Elisha Scudder; Henry Walker Herrick; Felix Octavius Carr Darley; Thomas Nast …; Annette Bishop; Fay & Cox… (Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Co., 1879).

. . . This otherness, this “Not-being-us”

In one small corner of the world, both the poem Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbery (1927-2017) and the Arion Press limited edition of Mirror, published in 1984 on the poem’s ten-year anniversary, are so well-known that some would find it shocking that Princeton University would not have already acquired them both. This has been rectified with the recent acquisition of the limited edition with its circular prints by Larry Rivers (1923-2002), Alex Katz (born 1927), Jane Freilicher (1924-2014), Jim Dine (born 1935), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007), Elaine de Kooning (1920-1989), and Richard Avedon (1923-2004).

The stainless steel pseudo-film canister binding with a cover convex mirror opens to reveal Ashbery’s lines radiating outward like the spokes of a wheel twirling as they are read. Each artist’s contribution is unique, printed as lithographs, woodcut, soft ground etching with aquatint tone, photogravure, and photolithographs on cream wove handmade Twinrocker Mill paper.

Princeton’s reading room will need to also acquire a 20th century record player to facilitate listening to the 33 1/2 rpm recording of Ashbery reading his poem but happily the foreword and essay by Helen Vendler (born 1933) is printed text, designed as liner notes. The record jacket reproduces the original reference for Ashbery’s poem, Francesco Parmigianino’s 1523-24 painting of the same name [below].


Kunsthistorisches Museum

Dozens of scholarly essays have been written about this poem and the corresponding publication, including one recently presented at the Gagosian Chelsea gallery: Best to simply let Ashbery say a few words:

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
In a movement supporting the face, which swims
Toward and away like the hand
Except that it is in repose. It is what is
Sequestered. Vasari says, “Francesco one day set himself
To take his own portrait, looking at himself from that purpose
In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . .

…For one to intervene? This otherness, this
“Not-being-us” is all there is to look at
In the mirror, though no one can say
How it came to be this way. A ship
Flying unknown colors has entered the harbor.
You are allowing extraneous matters
To break up your day, cloud the focus
Of the crystal ball. Its scene drifts away
Like vapor scattered on the wind. The fertile
Thought-associations that until now came
So easily, appear no more, or rarely. Their
Colorings are less intense, washed out
By autumn rains and winds, spoiled, muddied,
Given back to you because they are worthless.


See also: John Ashbery (1927-2017), Self-portrait in a convex mirror: poems (New York: Viking Press, 1975). Rare Books PS3501.S475 S4