Category Archives: Books


What did W. C. Handy and ‘The New Cow of Greenwich Village’ have in common? Robert Clairmont

‘Father of the Blues’ William C. Handy (1873-1958) was introduced to a scruffy Greenwich Village poet named Robert Clairmont (1902-1971) in the spring of 1828. Handy had given a mutual friend, Abraham Brown, a tour of Harlem nightlife and Clairmont was hoping for a similar adventure. A few nights later, Clairmont returned the favor by taking Handy to see some of his favorite downtown spots and the two quickly became good friends.

One day Clairmont suggested Handy and his orchestra play a concert at Carnegie Hall, asking what he thought it might cost. Handy said an event like that might cost $3,000 and to his surprise, Clairmont returned the following day with a certified check for $5,000 to fund the concert. On April 27, 1928, the Handy Orchestra became the first Black band to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Many friends and colleagues were asked to play, including Fats Waller who performed “Beale Street Blues” on a pipe organ with a thirty-piece orchestra, directed by Handy himself. The high point came when Katherine Handy, his daughter, sang his best-known composition “St. Louis Blues.” The evening was a tremendous success, but while it cost around $3,800 to stage, they only grossed around $3,000. Clairmont never asked for anything in return.

[Program for the 1938 concert to celebrate Handy’s birthday]

[Above] Dan Morgenstern remembers Robert Clairmont, his friendship with Handy, and the parties he gave each month. (recorded April 20, 2017). [Below] The apartment where Clairmont’s parties were held on West 4th Street, just off Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

Their friendship continued over the next year, until the fall of 1929 when the stock market crashed. Clairmont lost $986,000 in a single day. This time it was Handy’s turn to help his friend, who he tracked down in a lower east side boarding house. Clairmont was taken home with Handy for a warm meal and they remained close until the composer’s death in 1958.



Only a millionaire for a brief time in the 1920s, Clairmont spent the money as quickly as it came. While working as a lifeguard one summer, he saved a wealthy businessman from drowning and was rewarded with $350,000 from the man’s will. This was soon doubled and then tripled in the stock market, leaving Clairmont the ‘millionaire playboy’ of Greenwich Village. He ran with a small group who called themselves the Greta Garbo Fan Club, publishing poetry journals during the day and discovering the latest speakeasy each night.

Clairmont was one of several writers published in the single issue of The New Cow of Greenwich Village, which he also funded, along with the poetry journal Pegasus, and several later compilations. The book Millionaire Playboy by Tom Boggs is a fictionalized account of his life.


William Christopher Handy (1873-1958), Father of the Blues: an Autobiography; edited by Arna Bontemps; with a foreword by Abbe Niles (New York : Macmillan Co., 1941). Ex ML410.H18 A3. Presentation copy to Miriam Holden with inscription by James H. Hubert.

Clairmont also published regularly with his friend Lew Ney (Luther E. Widen), the ‘Mayor of Greenwich Village’.

Macy’s Sells “Birds of America”


In 1902 R.H. Macy’ & Co. already known simply as Macy’s, moved their flagship store to Broadway and 34th street where they hoped to become the largest department store in the world. Ten years later an art gallery was added on the 6th floor, advertising in the New York Times “Choice Paintings” for half price.

Throughout the 1920s monthly art exhibitions were mounted and advertised alongside the prestigious Madison Avenue galleries, including lithographs by Henri Matisse, woodcuts by Rockwell Kent and Wanda Gag, and Bartolozzi engravings after Hans Holbein.

Beginning on May 18, 1931, Macy’s staged an advertising campaign that would last over ten years. The store would sell all 435 hand colored, aquatinted and engraved plates from a copy of John James Audubon’s four-volume double-elephant Birds of America, which they cut apart for this event. According to the New York Herald Tribune, “The New Macy Galleries Announce a unique and spectacular purchase—The Birds of America from original drawings (1827-1838) by John James Audubon.” Although some sources report that the store broke up three copies of the Havell/Audubon volumes, it may have only seemed that way because it took so long to sell the plates.

The rarity of these enormous volumes was used to promoted the sale: “Once, every four or five years, a complete set of Audubon’s Elephant folio volumes reaches the public. We are able to present this rare collection of 435 copper plate engravings in complete form. This folio was published by Audubon in four volumes; it was engraved by Robert Havell Jr., colored by hand from Audubon’s drawings. Audubon’s son, according to one statement declared that only 175 sets of the folio were ever printed. The prints will be sold individually—they range in price from $4.96 to $224.00. Some of the most famous plates are Canvasback Duck with view of the city of Baltimore $174.00. Mallard Duck $112.00. American Hen and Young $104.00”


Eighteen months later, on December 17, 1933 the Tribune advertised a special Christmas sale of “all original copper-plate engravings of great brilliance and connoisseurs will appreciate this—the first ten plats are engravings by Lizars; and many of the first plates are colored by Robert Havell, Sr. There are very few like these in existence.” But so important was the physical exhibition of the plates that Macy’s asked “our customers to let us exhibit these plates for two days after sale that others may have the opportunity of seeing them. No mail or phone orders.” Now 104 plates were priced under $10; 199 plates $12.89 to $24.39; 120 plates $29.75 to $99.75; and 12 plates from $124 to $594 (the most expensive being the “Wild Turkey”).

On April 26, 1935, in commemoration of the 150th birthday of Audubon, a lecture on “Birds” was delivered by Warren F. Eaton, President of the Montclair Bird Club. This accompanied the continuing “Unique Exhibition and Sale of The Birds of America published from original drawings 1827-1838. Once in a great, great while a complete set of Audubon’s Elephant folio turns up. We deem it a rare event to be able to offer the 435 copper plate engravings in complete form on this occasion and at these low individual prices. …On sale today! $4.96 to $394.00. No mail, telephone, or telegraph orders!”

The “rare event” of the Audubon print sale was advertised again on October 2, 1938 in both the Tribune and the New York Times, followed by more announcements until finally on March 16, 1941, the Times informed its readers that only 106 Audubon prints were still for sale at Macy’s, beginning at $13.97 (usually $18.74).

A “Picture Clearance” sale was held at Macy’s on April 18, 1943, in which Audubon prints are sold at $4.97, while sporting prints by Robert Havell Jr. are going for almost $20.

Happily, no such stunt has been tried lately.

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,



La Création. Bound by Marie-Jose Guian-Milliaud for her personal library.

La Création. Les trois premiers livres de la Genèse suivis de la généalogie adamique. Traduction littérale des textes sémitiques par M. le docteur J.-C. Mardrus (Paris: Schmied, 1928). Designed and illustrated by François-Louis Schmied. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


It is, perhaps, not surprising that French master binder Marie-Jose Guian-Milliaud chose this edition of Genesis, illustrated by François-Louis Schmied (1873-1941), to bind for her personal library. Her full brown calf binding with ivory-toned calf complements the artist by reproducing his plate XII of the biblical family tree on her cover [see plate below].

Schmied’s 42 beautiful color wood engravings are printed on Arches wove paper, many highlighted with gold and/or silver. The copy now at Princeton includes an additional suite of plates in black, bound at the back of the volume.



Born in Cairo, the translator Joseph Charles Mardrus (1848–1949) was also responsible for an important French translation of Les Mille et Une Nuits (Thousand and One Nights, 1899–1904) based primarily on the 1835 Egyptian edition of The Arabian Nights by Boulak. Writing for the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Anne Duggan notes:

“Mardrus studied classics and Arabic literature in Beirut, and went on to receive a doctorate in medicine at the Sorbonne in 1895. While working as a doctor on shipping lines, which took him from the Middle East to South-East Asia, he began to translate and publish Les Mille et Une Nuits, the revenues from which allowed him to settle permanently in Paris by 1899. Within Parisian literary circles, Mardrus frequented Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Valéry, Maurice Maeterlinck, André Gide, and Marcel Schwob, and dedicated to each of them a volume of his 16-volume work. Mardrus’s translation became the object of critical debate, which opposed the partisans of Antoine Galland, who claimed the superiority of the latter’s classical style, to those who favoured Mardrus’s more sensual, unexpurgated version. Unlike Galland, Mardrus did not Frenchify the Arabian tales but retained much of their cultural specificity.”


When the California book collector Ward Ritchie gave up the study of law to become a printer, he traveled to Paris hoping for an apprenticeship with Schmied. This led to his establishment of the Ward Ritchie Press in 1932. Later, Ward wrote the following description of his personal copy of Création:

“[This book is] a daring and innovative design with the copy of the first two books set in capital letters in narrow columns with decorative bars to fill out the lines where necessary. The small illustrations in the columns are brilliant in color. Dominating full-page illustrations break the continuity of the text. The format is completely changed in Book Three with a wider measure of type and the illustrations integrated with the text.”





Ulysses Ab Ex

James Joyce (1882-1941) and Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), Ulysses; Etchings by Robert Motherwell for Ulysses by James Joyce (San Francisco: Arion Press, 1988). 835 pages, 40 unnumbered leaves of etchings. Copy 142 of 150. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

“An edition of 150 copies for sale and 25 copies hors commerce, with 40 etchings by Robert Motherwell”–Limitation notice, p. [3]./ “Designed by Andrew Hoyem … ten extra printer’s copies are without illustrations and bear modified limitation and title pages”–Colophon./ Forty of the copies for sale and ten of the copies hors commerce are accompanied by an extra suite of twenty-two prints, numbered and signed by the artist. These are contained in a portfolio box (36 cm.)–with a title/limitation leaf: Etchings by Robert Motherwell for Ulysses by James Joyce./ The forty leaves of plates are joined as twenty pairs, tipped together at the fore-edge.


The artist said, “I found Ulysses at a time when I was searching for the key to a vaguely perceived modernist aesthetic that I knew I had to make my own. Joyce served my purposes then and now. If you have taken on the adventure of modernism as I have – and the history of it – there have to be a few prophets to help you when you get discouraged. You go back to them for reinforcement Joyce is permanently on my mind.”

Motherwell’s obsession with Joyce began with a painting titled Ulysses, which dates from the time he was living in East Hampton, New York. It is painted on a piece of cardboard attached to part of a wooden crate.

“The painting is named after James Joyce’s famous modernist novel Ulysses (1922) which Motherwell first read while travelling through Europe in 1935. Joyce’s style of writing, in particular his use of the technique known as ‘stream of consciousness’, had a profound effect on Motherwell, who believed that art should be an expression of the innermost thoughts and feelings of the artist. The art historian Dore Ashton has written: ‘It is no exaggeration to say that [Motherwell’s] discovery of Joyce was as important as his study of Picasso and Matisse, for Joyce revealed to him the infinite potential of free association’ (Dore Ashton, Robert Motherwell, exhibition catalogue, Padiglione d’arte contemporanea, Milan 1989, p.11).

Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), Ulysses, 1947. Oil paint on cardboard on wood. Tate Modern, London.

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.


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.



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):

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.