The item featured in this week’s blog post is on display as a spotlight exhibit through the end of August.
French book artist Didier Mutel, inspired by Forbes Magazine’s annual listing of the world’s wealthiest people, created a portfolio called The Forbes simulachres: historiées faces de la mort, autant elegammẽt pourtraictes que artificiellement imaginées(Images and Illustrated Aspects of Death, as Elegantly Delineated as They Are Artfully Imagined). This 75-sheet portfolio, generously sized at 62 x 45 cm, comprises 36 pairs of woodcuts. Each duo consists of a full-page illustration of a skeleton, accompanied by text naming an individual from Forbes’ 2009 list of billionaires.
Mutel’s inspiration for this work was the iconic “Dance of Death” woodcuts created by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). The Dance of Death (danse macabre in French, Totentanz in German) is part of the medieval tradition of memento mori (contemplation of death). Its visual representation typically pairs a living person with a skeleton, reminding the viewer that death comes to all, regardless of their worldly circumstances. Holbein depicted this theme in woodcuts which he completed in 1526 while living in Basel. They were first published, however, in 1538 in Lyon, France.
In the Forbes simulachres, Mutel portrays skeletons in a variety of settings. Some are engaged in recreational activities such as skiing or surfing while others are shown in more mysterious and threatening circumstances. Every skeleton is paired with a plate of text accompanied by biblical verses in early French, and each references Forbes by giving individuals’ names and ranks on its annual list of the wealthy.
Didier Mutel, born in 1971, is an engraver and printer who specializes in book arts. He studied at l’École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (1991-1993) and l’Atelier national de création typographique (1994-1995). He has received numerous awards including a “Grand Prix des métiers d’art de la ville de Paris” in 1997 and was named artist in residence at Rome’s Villa Médicis from 1997 to 1999. Since 2003 he has taught engraving and drawing at l’École des beaux-arts in Besançon.
When Mutel returned to Paris from Rome, he joined the workshop of a master artist, Pierre Lallier, whom he had met in 1988. Lallier’s workshop originated in 1793 and was the oldest continually operating etching studio in France. After Lallier’s retirement, Mutel continued his work, maintaining legacy equipment and original printing techniques.
Mutel often revisits historical creations of music and literature. His inspirations range well beyond Forbes Magazine and include TheMetamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In 1994 he published a noteworthy interpretation of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The library’s copy of the Forbes simulachres is number 6 in an edition of 42 and is signed by the artist. Its case is unusual in having been fabricated from one of the woodblocks used to produce the text for plate number 6 featuring Karl Albrecht.
Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:
Wednesday, August 22 at 3:00pm | “The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia.” A public talk by Jeff Peachey (Independent Book Conservator, New York City). The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.
Friday, September 7 at 1:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Illustrated Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition” by David Plunkert (artist and illustrator for The New Yorker). Operation Frankenstein is a semester-long series of interdisciplinary events taking place at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s novel.
Bringing together his interests in Africa and artistic skills as a printmaker, Tom Killion issued his beautiful, hand-printed Walls: A Journey across Three Continents. Gracing the one hundred sixteen pages of hand-made Japanese Torinoko paper—a lustrous, smooth paper with texture and color resembling a hen’s egg—are the author-artist’s travel log and sixty-five original illustrations.
Before Killion conceived Walls, he had planned to “reproduce an illustrated travel diary from a journey [he] made in 1976-1977” (Walls, colophon) through parts of North America and Europe. Various demands on his time interrupted that project—establishing his own private press (Quail Press in Santa Cruz, CA), earning a PhD in African history from Stanford University, creating woodcut prints of the California landscape, working in Sudan as an administrator for a medical relief program, and traveling through war-torn Eritrea with a group of nationalist rebels. Finally, in 1988, Killion returned to his original idea of producing Walls, but now he broadened the scope of his project to include his travels in Africa, documenting the many types of walls he encountered there as well.
As an artist from the recently colonized land of North America, where social boundaries are defined by wire fences and rivers of moving cars, I was struck by the stone walls which dominated the landscape of Europe and Africa: walls that were built to keep people out, to keep people in, to hide and sleep behind, to throw down and rebuild. These walls were laid across fields and mountains, across rivers and marshes, and in places they clawed at the sky (Walls, 4-5).
Killion commences his journey from California’s western shore. Traveling north for Puget Sound by train, Killion found himself five days later looking upon the Olympic Mountains, clear and cold, glittering above miles of dark forest.
Nearly six months later, the young traveler sat beneath the Eiffel Tower chatting about the city with a young Algerian. Then over the next two months, he traveled through the French countryside, Switzerland, and then into Italy.
Aboard a train on his way to Athens, Killion met an Ethiopian student headed to medical school in Thessalonika. From this young man, Killion became fascinated with the Ethiopian Empire and how it faced a revolution that overthrew the emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, a power struggle between student revolutionaries and the military, and rebels trying to gain independence for Eritrea from Ethiopia.
By November 1976, Killion wound up his travels in Europe and departed Marseilles for Tunis and spent just over a year in Africa, traveling across the Sahara. This trip fed his interest in Africa. As a doctoral student at Stanford, Killion returned to Africa in the early 1980s to conduct research on the Ethiopian labor movement and the national liberation movement in Eritrea (Walls, 89-1) and then went back again and spent from 1987 to 1988 at three Ethiopian refugee camps in Eastern Sudan working as an administrator for medical relief programs. In the midst of the war in Eritrea, Killion documents the struggles—the civil war between the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), EPLF’s revolt against Ethiopia, the conditions of the Eritrean people, continued air raids, and death.
Killion’s images reveal his synthesis of techniques that draw on nineteenth-century Japanese ukiyo-e landscape artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige, and twentieth-century American and European wood engraving techniques. The color prints in Walls are produced from woodblocks. Killion began carving the woodblocks for the prints in Walls in 1981 and continued to do so sporadically until the book was completed in 1990. The process to create the final version of each print is lengthy and involves multiple steps (Killion demonstrates this process in a YouTube video). To create the woodblock image, the artist takes his sketch of a scene, reverses it onto a block called the key block. This block contains all of the visual information needed to make the rest of the blocks used to print the various colors in register for the final image. Killion carves the reverse image into the block. He then transfers this image to several more blocks and carves the image into those blocks. Once completed, either a single color or combinations of colors (to show gradations) are rolled onto a block.
Printing the image begins with aligning the first color block that is inked with the lightest color with the key block. Killion then uses his Asbern proof press (a type of press with a fixed bed and rolling carriage made in Augsburg, Germany in the 1960s and 70s) to print the image on hand-made Japanese Torinoko paper. He pulls sheets equal to the edition number plus a few extra just in case. Then this process is repeated with each color block, with one to two days between each printing to allow the color to dry. Each copy of Walls required one hundred ninety-nine pulls to produce.
In addition to sketching the images, transferring them to and carving them into blocks, and paying meticulous attention to setting and printing the images, the production of Walls involves a series of other artistic choices. In addition to selecting the type of paper on which to print, Killion chose the typefaces Centaur and Arrighi (the italic of Centaur) with which to print the text of Walls. He then bound the printed text block in raw half-linen and Niger goatskin, and enclosed the finished piece in a matching linen slipcase.
Tom Killion’s Walls is a recent addition to Special Collections’ modest artist’s books collection. For more information about this, please contact Special Collections.
Next week the university will confer the 2018 Rev. Paul J. Foik Award posthumously on David Dressing, who was Hesburgh Library’s Latin American Studies Librarian from 2011 through 2017. We’d like to mark the occasion by highlighting a remarkable collection David purchased jointly with the American History Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC). It is an assemblage of pen and ink caricature drawings and watercolor paintings that show scenes captured by travelers to Latin America and the United States during the middle decades of the nineteenth century.
John Bateman (b. 1839) was a young Englishman from a wealthy, landowning family in Staffordshire when he traveled to the United States and Latin America around 1860. He created a series of drawings in ink of scenes he observed along the way, to which he added wry descriptions. An example, shown here, from June 1860, depicts Bateman’s version of a vulgar American—a gun-toting, spitting, overly-familiar buffoon who complained about the new Republican Party’s opposition to slavery’s extension in the west. The young traveler created a funny and alarming image of American political affairs a few months before Lincoln’s election in 1860 and the start of southern secession. Bateman made caricatures like this one as he traveled through Central America and the Caribbean.
Even more intriguing, however, is the fact that Bateman’s collection includes a second group of visual works: a handful of watercolor paintings signed simply, “G.U.S.” They date from between 1838 and 1840 and depict Central and South American people and scenes.
Highlighted here are three vivid paintings of veiled women of Lima, Peru. One is depicted kneeling in church, another is shown from the back, and the third is in the typical tapada pose, her head veiled, mysteriously and coquettishly revealing a single eye. Each wears the traditional saya, an overskirt showing the feet and ankles, and manto, a thick veil secured at the waist and raised to cover the face. The latter was popularly used, even among married women of Lima, as a prop with which to flirt.
G.U.S.’s paintings are reminiscent of those by the famous mulato painter of Lima, Pancho Fierro. Albums of Fierro’s drawings were marketed to tourists in Lima from the 1840s to the 1860s, so G.U.S. could have known Fierro’s work and incorporated it into his own pieces.
The presence of G.U.S.’s paintings in the Bateman collection raises intriguing connections for further study of related items held in Special Collections. We hold a copy of the French painter, A. A. Bonnaffé’s “Recuerdos de Lima” album (1856), which he sold to tourists and which features the tapada of Lima. More elaborate and detailed than the small depictions by G.U.S., these wonderful images highlight even more flirtatious poses, including a woman (shown here) who intentionally drew the viewer’s attention to her exposed and slender ankle.
The Bateman collection and Bonnaffé album are just two examples of David Dressing’s thoughtful and expert acquisitions for RBSC over nearly a decade. His work has made an enduring contribution to research, teaching, and scholarship at Hesburgh Libraries and the field of Latin American Studies.
The Game: An Occasional Magazine was first issued in 1914 by Eric Gill, Edward Johnston, and Hilary Pepler. This publication became the main forum for members of the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic.
The Easter 1917 issue featured here is from the Eric Gill Collection. It contains Eric Gill’s woodblock prints, “The Resurrection” and “Paschal Lamb” accompanied by text from The Easter Sequence by Wipo (d. 1048).
Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed in observance of Good Friday on March 30. We will reopen at 9am on Monday, April 2, 2018.
Happy Easter to you and yours from Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Notre Dame.
Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894) was a distinguished scholar of early Christian archaeology. Born in Rome, he attended the Collegio Romano and La Sapienza, earning a doctorate. After finishing his studies he was appointed scriptor at the Vatican Library, where he cataloged manuscripts. In addition to his expertise in archaeology, de Rossi was skilled in epigraphy and was an authority on the topography of ancient and medieval Rome. His studies of the apse mosaics in Roman churches continue those of the seventeenth-century scholars Jean l’Heureux and Giovanni Giustino Ciampi. He travelled widely, and was acquainted with the foremost European scholars of his day.
De Rossi was a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Antiquarian Society. A devout Catholic, he heard Mass every day. As his health failed, Leo XIII gave him use of an apartment at Castel Gandolfo, where de Rossi died in 1894.
De Rossi published a number of works in the second half of the nineteenth century, among which is this recent acquisition by the Hesburgh Libraries. The Musaici cristiani e saggi dei pavimenti delle chiese di Roma anteriori al secolo XV [“Christian Mosaics and Specimens of the Floors of the Churches of Rome Prior to the 16th Century”] originally was published in 27 fascicles between 1872 and 1896. The Libraries’ set is bound into two folio volumes, the first being the text and the second featuring 53 plates of illustrations. William Jackson of Aberdeen, Scotland was responsible for its binding. This set was presented to a monastery library by Lady Cecil Kerr (1883-1941), a Catholic author who wrote historical and devotional works.
The illustrations in the second volume are fine examples of chromolithography, which was a technique developed in the nineteenth century for the mass production of color images. The process of chromolithography used multiple blocks or stones, each of a different color, which were printed successively to develop each image. The Libraries’ copy includes some highlights in gold.
Ancient Japan, samurai warriors, and your casual spider—casual, that is, until nightfall. According to ancient Japanese legend, these ordinary spiders would morph as dark night enveloped the landscape. Menacing pincers, bulging eyes, and even taking on human form to deceive unsuspecting victims—like the samurai in the tale below—these goblin spiders wreaked terror.
Lafcadio Hearn brings this ancient tale, one of many in the Japanese tradition of ghost stories known as kaidan, to English readers. The Goblin Spider is lavishly illustrated in Takejiro Hasegawa’s five-volume set of crepe-paper books. These brightly colored illustrations are hand-printed using wood blocks on textured pages.
Hearn, Lafcadio. The Goblin Spider. Kobunsha’s Japanese Fairy Tale Series. Second series. No. 1. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1899.
Happy Halloween to you and yours from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!
We join the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Sergio Sánchez Santamaría is a printmaker, illustrator, and muralist who was born in Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico. Also trained in Mexico, Sánchez Santamaría has exhibited his work throughout Latin America and Europe, in the United States, and in Japan and China.
Among Sánchez Santamaría’s collections of linocut prints is a small volume called 500 años, México, printed at the San Jerónimo workshop in Tlayacapan. The 14 impressions comprising this piece offer a visual history of Mexico, from the age of the Mexica (Aztecs) to the late twentieth century. A jaguar and feathered serpent are among the engravings representing the nation’s indigenous past. Also portrayed are major figures historical figures such as national hero and president, Benito Juárez (in office 1858-1872), and the best-known female intellectual of the colonial era, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Rare Books and Special Collections holds the second of the six copies of 500 años, México produced by Sánchez Santamaría. Depicted here are two images from this copy.
Both prints illustrate the deep relief and heavy ink on cartridge paper characteristic of Sánchez Santamaría’s work. The style and the subject matter of his work tie him to the Taller de Gráfica Popular, a well-known artists’ print collective formed in 1937 that produced artwork designed to promote and advance the causes of the Mexican Revolution.
Sánchez Santamaría’s work often treats topics in Mexican history and popular culture. In 2016 he released a series of linocuts entitled Personajes de Morelos depicting figures central to the history of his home state. This collection was also printed in Tlayacapan. Rare Books and Special Collections holds copy fourteen of this collection, along with an actual linocut created by Sánchez Santamaría, shown below.
This image and linocut – number fourteen within this collection – depicts Zapatista colonel, Cristino Santamaría. According to Sánchez Santamaría, Cristino Santamaría, a musician and leader of the Banda Brigido Santamaría, fought alongside Emiliano Zapata during the Mexican Revolution. Santamaría’s face is obscured by his oversize sombrero, from under which his trumpet emerges. He is flanked by two figures wrapped tightly in traditional serapes. The print’s heavy lines contrast boldly with the white cartridge paper background.
Close examination of the linocut reveals something of Sánchez Santamaría’s technique. Cuts are of varying depth, to achieve different sorts of impressions. Outlines of the figures and blue pen shading can also be discerned.
Oscar Wilde’s book for children, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, published in 1888, has attracted many artists and printers over the years. The stories have also been adapted for stage performances including, as I discovered recently, a ballet which will be performed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2018.
Wilde’s stories, in the tradition of literary fairy tales such as those of Hans Christian Andersen, depict poverty, suffering, cruelty and arrogance, with sacrifice or martyrdom occurring more than once. In the title story, the statue of a prince who had been sheltered in luxury while he lived, could now view from his pedestal the poverty and suffering in his city, and so he convinced a swallow to carry each of the statue’s jewels to someone in need. The Happy Prince and Other Tales consists of the following five stories: ‘The Happy Prince’, ‘The Selfish Giant’, ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, ‘The Devoted Friend’, and ‘The Remarkable Rocket’.
Wilde published a second collection of fairy tales, The House of Pomegranates in 1891. These stories are generally more complex and dark, but over the following century many books have included a selection drawn from both books. Out of the four stories in this book, ‘The Star Child’ and ‘The Young King’ are more likely to be included in selections intended for children. ‘The Fisherman and his Soul’ and ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ are rarely considered suitable for child readers.
A glance at the editions in our collection, with their range of illustrations and book production styles, demonstrate ambivalence in terms of identifying the appropriate audience for Wilde’s stories. Illustrators Walter Crane and P. J. Lynch both illustrated the book for a child audience, while many editions produced in the intervening century are more appropriately seen as gift books for adults.
The Happy Prince and Other Tales was first published in 1888 by Alfred Nutt and is illustrated throughout. The frontispiece is by Walter Crane, as are a plate illustrating ‘The Selfish Giant’ (shown below) and one illustrating ‘The Remarkable Rocket’. Crane (1845-1915) is frequently cited along with Randoph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway as one of the premier illustrators of children’s books in Victorian Britain.
Small illustrations by illustrator and engraver Jacomb Hood decorate the head of each story. The stories are also richly decorated with vignettes or small decorations.
Another early edition was illustrated by Charles Robinson (1870-1937), one of three brothers who were all prolific book illustrators. This 1913 edition includes eleven color plate illustrations in addition to the frontispiece. As these plates are tipped-in, or attached to pages of the book, it is rare to find an original copy with all plates intact.
With over fifty pages decorated by Robinson, this is what booksellers would call a ‘lavishly-illustrated book’, and these illustrations are reproduced in many later editions and adaptations.
The Overbrook Press produced a limited edition of The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde with wood engravings by Rudolph Ruzicka. This 1936 edition is part of the Hesburgh’s collection of 135 books from the Overbrook Press of Stamford, Connecticut.
Another fine printing, clearly not intended for the hands of children, is the silk-bound edition published by Kurt Volk, New York, in 1955. This book includes the title story, a short essay on ‘Oscar Fingall O’Flahertie Wilde’, and a slightly abbreviated version of W. B. Yeats’ introduction to a 1923 edition of The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales. [i]
One of the most recent editions is illustrated by leading Irish illustrator P. J. Lynch, also known for the award-winning book The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and his recent book The Boy who Fell off the Mayflower. This edition of Wilde’s Stories for Children, published in 1990, includes ‘The Young King’ in addition to all five stories from The Happy Prince. Lynch has not placed ‘The Happy Prince’ in first place—rather, the book begins with ‘The Selfish Giant’.
Authors of introductions range from W. B. Yeats, who knew Oscar Wilde, to Stephen Fry, the actor who played Oscar Wilde in the film Wilde.
The bibliography below lists the editions held in the Hesburgh Library’s Special Collections.
[i] The full text of this introduction is online in The W. B. Yeats Collection (a Chadwyck-Healey subscription database) which includes the following source information: Introduction to Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales (1923). According to catalog records such as in the Hathi Trust, this appears to be volume 3 of a multi-volume collection of the works of Oscar Wilde.