The Art of Noises in a silent gallery

There is nothing so wonderful as having a museum to yourself.

Colleagues in the Kandinsky Library at the Georges Pompidou Center, also known as the Musée National d’Art Moderne (MNAM), not only welcomed a few visitors by pulling treasures from their vaults but also led a tour of the stunning, newly hung galleries of the museum’s permanent collection.


One feature of the museum’s new interpretation of their collection are the works on paper interspersed throughout, this year highlighting the relationship between art and music in the 1900s.

Paintings, books, sound, and documents are intertwined in cases and on the wall, such as the work of Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951), who was both a painter and a composer, and that of painter and philosopher Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

Their books are seen side by side, with the proofs marked up by Schönberg.

Another section explores the many artists’ balls held regularly in Paris, including invitations, posters, paintings, photographs, and this pochoir program from one evening’s entertainment.


In another corner is Luigi Russolo’s Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises, written in a 1913 letter to Francesco Balilla Pratella and published in 1916. Russolo argues that we have become accustomed to urban industrial sounds and so, they should be incorporated into our music. The museum presents both the visual and the audio documents of the movement. See an English translation here:

Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori (Milan: Edizioni futuriste di Poesia, 1916). Marquand Library (SAX): Rare Books ML3877 .R87 1916


Cabinet d’arts graphiques at the Musée d’Orsay

The collection of the Musée d’Orsay on Rue de la Légion d’Honneur focuses on arts from the second half of the 19th century. François Mitterrand inaugurated the new museum in December of 1986 but the archive and the library were created before the museum opened to the public. Extensive resources are freely accessible to researchers working on the period working between 1848 and 1914.

One of the highlights in the Cabinet d’arts graphiques is the record of the kickstarter-type campaign to acquire Gustave Courbet’s enormous painting The Artist’s Studio, one of his most mysterious composition.

“It’s the whole world coming to me to be painted,” he declared. “On the right, all the shareholders, by that I mean friends, fellow workers, art lovers. On the left is the other world of everyday life, the masses, wretchedness, poverty, wealth, the exploited and the exploiters, people who make a living from death.”

Many patrons, artists, writers, and other friends contributed funds and recorded their own name on the subscription list (seen to the left). Happily the campaign was successful.
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), The Artist’s Studio, a real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life, between 1854 and 1855. Oil on canvas. Paris, musée d’Orsay© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)

It was good to see the rooms in the museum before the curators, registrars, archivists, and others move down the block in approximately two years to a beautiful townhouse along the Seine.

Visit to the INHA

The only original facade remaining at the Site Richelieu de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Below are personifications of two departments, manuscripts on the left and prints & drawings on the right.

This morning a small group visited the Library of the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), at 58 rue de Richelieu, where INHA offers its services and its collections in the Labrouste Reading Room within the BnF Richelieu. Built for the national library by the architect Henri Labrouste between 1860 and 1866, these prestigious spaces have been under renovation since 2011 and only reopened at the end of 2016. Note the use of delicate cast iron columns and enormous windows to provide natural light, as Labrouste would not allow gas light in the room.

Created in 2001, the INHA revived the project of the fashion designer and patron Jacques Doucet (1853-1929) who, by founding the Library of Art and Archaeology in Paris in 1908, dreamed of building an institute dedicated to resources and to research. The INHA is responsible for developing academic activity and contributing to international academic cooperation in the fields of art history and heritage.

INHA now includes collections of the Bibliothèque centrale des musées nationaux and a selection of the print collections from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, totaling more than 1,800,000 documents, 230,000 open-access books, and the compacity to welcome up to 411 readers. The library of the École nationale des Chartes and the special collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France remain on site. The INHA also works in collaboration with Parisian establishments such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée des Arts décoratifs and the École du Louvre.

This is the small area of the Labrouste room used by the collection of prints and photographs for general researchers while its permanent rooms are being renovated. For restricted materials, arrangements are made in a part-time shared space under staff supervision. Prints and photographs should be complete and reopen in another two years.

For our visit, an amazing selection of treasures were shown, including drawings by Albrecht Dürer, a Victor Hugo family photography album, and a selection of the thematic albums the BnF created to classify its early collections.

22 Kupferstiche

Born in 1943, the Germany printmaker Baldwin Zettl studied from 1964 to 1969 at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (The Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig), one of the oldest art colleges in Germany.

Zettl’s limited edition portfolio of engravings inspired by Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle was recently moved from the Mendel Music Library to the Graphic Arts Collection. This, as with most of Zettl’s work, is designed entirely in black and white.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen: 22 Originalkupferstiche; mit einem Text des Künstlers und einem Geleitwort von Wolfgang Wagner (Leipzig: Sisyphos-Presse, 2001). Limited edition of 100 copies, printed at Elmar Faber’s Sisyphos Press in Leipzig. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

See Zettl’s work also in: Volker Braun (1939- ), Das Mittagsmahl; mit Kupferstichen von Baldwin Zettl (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 2007). Firestone Library (F) PT2662.R34 .M58 2007

The Shakespeare that almost didn’t happen

The newspaper headline read: “Spruce Street fire, Monday night, set accidentally by a porter in the basement of the building owned by Newell and Company, were insured.”

In the fall of 1845, the wood engraver and manager of the printing office at Spruce Street Nathaniel Orr wrote to his fiancé, “Here I am, not dead but alive and kicking . . . I had a pretty narrow escape last night. But thanks to my “guardian angel” I made my exit from the burning [building] with scarcely a bruise. Just my luck. My loss will be but trifling. Though [Henry W.] Hewet paid me twenty dollars per week. I have already had offers equally as lucrative.”

“The Harpers tell me all will be right as soon as Hewet returns. I wrote to him last night and shall expect him tomorrow morning. When I found my passage completely cut off by the falling of the stairs I most assuredly thought my time had come. Oh, a thousand thoughts rushed upon my mind in a moment. I thought of you, of my bright hopes, of the horror of perishing in the flames. It was life or death, so I made the leap and here I am your own.”

A week later, Nathaniel wrote again to say that “Every article in our office was entirely destroyed and when I think of my own narrow escape I can but attribute it to a most merciful providence . . . I passed three windows (four stories from the ground) on the outside that I might get in a position for jumping on a small outhouse, two stories from the window. Had I [fallen] there I should not only have been killed but burned to ashes in the ruin. . . . The first John [Orr] knew of my adventures was on his way home, some four or five hours after I had astonished the natives, he met an acquaintance who inquired if I had been found! When he called on me I was asleep, preparing to repeat my leap to the tenor of the spectators.”

By mid-November, Nathaniel wrote to say “the cloud that hung over me for a few days after my late exit from the third story window . . . has entirely disappeared, and I now find myself most delightfully situated in splendid rooms at 289 Broadway under the patronage of Hewet, or more properly, Harper and Brothers, for they have concluded to have all the plates that were destroyed at the late fire reengraved forthwith. It will probably take us eighteen or twenty months to complete the work. So, you see, Phoenix-like I rise again . . . .”


William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Shakespeare’s Plays. With his life. Illustrated with many hundred wood-cuts, executed by H.W. Hewet, [and Nathaniel and John Orr], after designs by Kenny Meadows, Harvey, and others. Ed. by Gulian C. Verplanck, LL. D. (New York: Harper & brothers, 1847). RECAP 3925.1847

Letters by Nathaniel Orr in Orr Family Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.


Severo Sarduy list

Kamel Ouidi, Portrait of Severo Sarduy, ca. 1980. Gelatin silver print. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2012.02149


Our collection of visual art by poet, playwright, and novelist Severo Sarduy (1937-1993) has received so much attention in the past month, we are posting a PDF of the collection with images and call numbers to make patron requests easier. sarduy list with call numbers.

This can, of course, be searched through our online catalogue but given the abstract nature of these works and the lack of any individual titles, the list might prove more helpful.

The collection came to Princeton University with the assistance of the Executive Committee for the Program in Latin American Studies in 2011. Also included are artifacts from his studio, along with several works by his friends Roland Barthes, Jorge Camacho, and José Luis Cuevas.


Severo Sarduy (1933-1996), Triptyque I, II, III, 1990. Gouache, watercolor, coffee, and various other mediums. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2012.02170



The Parthenon of Books

This weekend, the second half of Documenta 14, entitled “Learning from Athens,” opens in Kassel, Germany following the exhibits in Athens, Greece, which have been on view since April. One of the highlights will be the installation of Marta Minujin’s “The Parthenon of Books” on the Friedrichsplatz opposite the Fridericianum, a recreation of her 1983 “El Partenón de libros” shown in Buenos Aires.

The books came from a public call last October to donate nearly 100,000 formerly or currently banned books from all over the world. At the end of the exhibition, the books will be removed and given to visitors, returning them to circulation.

Minujin’s installation commemorates the 2,000 books that were burned by the Nazis at this location in Kassel on May 19, 1933, during the so-called “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” (Campaign against the Un-German Spirit). Press information reminds us also that “in 1941, the Fridericianum—which was being used as a library at the time—was engulfed in flames during an Allied bombing attack, and another collection of about 350,000 books was lost.” The list of forbidden books was compiled in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Nikola Roßbach, guest professor Dr. Florian Gassner, and students of the University of Kassel.

Several other works focus on books, including Maria Eichhorn’s installation of books stolen from Jewish collections, still held in the state libraries of Berlin.

Geography of the Heavens

A missing section of the southern sky from Elijah Hinsdale Burritt’s 1833 Atlas, Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens, was recently found and returned to its portfolio. Each map is delicately hand colored in pastel shades of yellow, pink, and blue. Curiously, some of the sections are square, some oval, and some round. It is possible that the engraved plates from the various editions (Princeton has 7 paper copies) have been mixed over the years.

Geographicus Rare & Antique Maps posted a nice biography of the original engraver Thomas Illman, repeated in part here: Thomas Illman (died 1858) attended Trinity College, Oxford, where he received a degree in theology but never pursued it as a career, turning instead to the art of engraving. His first professional work was illustrating Thomas Carlyle’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

Illman emmigrated to New York City in 1828, almost immediately partnering with Edward Pilbrow, advertised as Illman and Pilbrow. David H. Burr used them to engrave maps for his Universal Atlas and when Burr took a position as topographer and cartographer for the United States Post Office, the project was finished by their firm.

Outside the parnership, Illman pursued his own art, which included engraved portraits and landscapes. At some point he may have relocated to Philadelphia where his sons, H. Illman and G. Illman joined the business in 1845 as Illman & Sons.

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas, designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens … (Hartford: Published by F.J. Huntington, 1833). 1 atlas (VII leaves of plates): all ill. (some col.); 39 cm. Maps are hand colored engravings by Illman & Pilbrow after the author’s drawings. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0162F

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens … Edition New edition. (New York: Published by Huntington and Savage, 216 Pearl Street, [1835?]). VIII leaves of plates (2 double-page): ill., star charts (col.); 42 cm. Engraved by W.G. Evans. Rare Books: Historic Maps Collection (MAP) Oversize 2015-0036F

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas, designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens…
Edition New edition (New York: Published by F.J. Huntington and Co, 174 Pearl Street, [1835?]). Engraved by W.G. Evans. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0163F

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), The geography of the heavens and class book of astronomy: accompanied by a celestial atlas. Edition 5th ed. with an introduction by Thomas Dick (New York: Huntington & Savage, 1843, c1833). RECAP 8407.229.11

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas: designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens.
Edition New ed., rev. and corr. by Hiram Mattison (New York: F. J. Huntington, 1850). RECAP 8456.228.11f

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), 1794-1838. Atlas designed to illustrate Burritt’s Geography of the heavens: comprising the following maps or plates …Edition New ed., rev. and corr. / by Hiram Mattison (New York: Mason Brothers, c1856). RECAP 8456.228f

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), The geography of the heavens, and class-book of astronomy: accompanied by a celestial atlas. Greatly enlarged, revised, and illustrated by H. Mattison, A.M. Edition New and rev. ed., cor. in 1873 (New York, Sheldon & company [c1873]). RECAP 8407.229

To Trenton, in search of the picturesque

As children, John William Orr (1815-1887, top right) and Nathaniel Orr (1822-1908, top left sitting upright) moved every few years from New York to Belfont, Pennsylvania; London Canada; Detroit, Michigan; and Perrysburg, Ohio. Their father died in Ohio and the family moved once more to live with relatives in Buffalo, New York. John was fourteen, Nathaniel was seven, and both dreamed of becoming artists.

To help support the family, John spent his teenage years working as a clerk in the Buffalo Post Office. This mundane work ended only a few days after his twenty-first birthday, when John left for New York City to study under the artist William C. Redfield, brother of the publisher Julius S. Redfield. At the end of the year, John returned to Buffalo and became a leading force in the local arts community, elected president of the Society of Fine Arts in 1839.

Meanwhile, his younger brother Nathaniel finished a Buffalo apprenticeship and was accepted as a student of John H. Hall, one of only five students of the earliest and best American engraver Alexander Anderson (1775-1870). Nathaniel moved to Albany where Hall lived and John soon followed.

Between 1838 and 1846, John Orr illustrated part or all of a series of guidebooks to Niagara Falls and upstate New York, including Settlement in the West: Sketches of Rochester (1838); The Falls of Niagara, or Tourist’s Guide to This Wonder of Nature (1839); The Travellers’ Own Book to Saratoga Springs, Niagara Falls and Canada (1842); Pictorial Guide to the Falls of Niagara (1842); The Picturesque Tourist: Being a Guide Through the Northern and Eastern States and Canada (1844); Peck’s Tourist’s Companion to Niagara Falls, Saratoga Springs, the Lakes, Canada, etc. (1845); A Picture of New-York in 1846 (1846); and Sketches of Niagara Falls and River (1846).

Little by little, Nathaniel took over the work being offered to J. H. Hall, including the wood engraving for J. A. Adams (1803-1880) and Harper’s Illuminated Bible (1846). Adams was impressed with Nathaniel’s work and encouraged the young artist to move to New York City, where he became the shop manager for Henry W. Hewet and his multi-volume edition of Shakespeare’s Plays (1847). Once again, John followed his younger brother, setting up a studio at 75 Nassau Street.

In 1851, Nathaniel received a commission to engrave the cuts for Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867), Trenton Falls: Picturesque and Descriptive and became acquainted with the wilderness across the Hudson River in New Jersey. At the same time, John engraved the blocks for George William Curtis (1824-1892), Lotus-Eating…, with chapters on the Hudson and the Rhine; Catskill; Catskill Falls; Trenton; Niagara; Saratoga; Lake George; Nahant; and Newport (1852).

As time allowed, Nathaniel and John, both ardent hunters and fishermen, journeyed out of Manhattan to explore the neighboring state. Fellow Harper’s artist John R. Chapin (1827-1907) who lived in Rahway, must have accompanied the men, finally recording and publishing their adventures in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine as “Artist-Life in the Highlands,” in April 1860 and “Among the Nail-Makers,” in July 1860.

In Chapin’s stories, John is called Neutral Tint, “a tired artist in search of relaxation from a period of close application.” Nathaniel is called “Snell,” and described as a bit of an artist as well as a follower of Izaak Walton (author of The Compleat Angler). The stories are good but even better are the visual portraits drawn of the two brothers, giving us insight into their physical character and relationship.

Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867), editor. Trenton Falls, picturesque and descriptive, The principal illustrations from original designs by Heine, Kummer and Müller. Engraved on wood by N. Orr (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1851). (F) F129.T7 W7 1851


Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (New York: Harper & Brothers, [1850-1900]). Recap 0901.H295



Liber Bilibaldi Pirckheimer

Early in the 16th century, the Renaissance humanist Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530) convinced his good friend Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) to design a bookplate for his extensive library. Although it is not signed, the woodcut holds the words “Sibi et amicis P[ositus]. Liber Bilibaldi Pirckheimer” (Bilibald Pirckheimer’s book. [Placed on?] oneself and one’s friends). The Graphic Arts Collection holds a metal relief plate reproducing Dürer’s woodcut (similar to other metal plates produced by Elmer Adler).

The design includes Pirckheimer’s coat of arms on the right (a birch tree) and the arms of his wife Margretha Rieterin on the left (the double-tailed mermaid). Above them are two angels holding a helmet and scepter, along with garlands and other decoration. At the top is inscribed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew: “Inicium Sapientice Timor Domini” (The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, Psalm 111.10).

Digitally inverted and laterally reversed.

Princeton has a copy of Dürer woodcut in this book originally in Adler’s library:

Junianus Maius, De priscorum proprietate verborum (Venice: Joannes Rubeus Vercellensis, 1490). Bookplate of Willibald Pirckheimer, designed by Dürer. In 1636 Thomas Howard, 2d Earl of Arundel, bought Pirckheimer’s library in Nuremberg. In 1667, through John Evelyn’s efforts the library was presented to the Royal Society by the Earl’s grandson, Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk. In 1925 the Royal Society sold its duplicates at auction. Also has the bookplate of the Royal Society below Pirckheimer’s. ExI copy is from the printing collection of Elmer Adler. Evidently purchased by Adler in 1925 (lot 122, Sotheby’s [London], May 4, 1925 sale). (RB) EXI Oversize 2529.611q