Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Five Great 20th Century Bindings

by Stephen J. Gertz

Five exquisite bindings recently jumped out of a rare book dealer's catalog, grabbed my eyes and wouldn't let go. Now I'm blind-stamped and bowled-over by them but can't complain; "it is beauty that captures your attention" (Oscar Wilde). It'll capture yours, too.

BRAQUE, Hesiode. Theogonie. Eaux-fortes de Georges Braque. Paris: Maeght Editeur, 1955. Limited to 150 copies o papier d'Auvergne à la main, signed by Georges Braque. Folio. 78 pp. Twenty original etchings (seventeen full page).

Full dark chocolate crushed morocco by Cubism/Surrealism-influenced binder, Paul Bonet (1889-1971), arguably the most celebrated  French binder of his era, with his signature gilt, large curvilinear excised section from front and rear boards with onliad black and white polished calf sections and additional onlaid sections of shaded yellow and green crushed morocco to form two large vignette motifs, onlaid title to spine in Greek, yellow and green suede doublures.

"Born in Paris in 1889 to Belgian parents, Bonet rose to become the leader of French binders. Two particular styles of his work are known as "irradiante," which consists of massed gilt lines giving a three-dimensional optical-illusion effect, and "rayonnante," a sun-burst effect" (Morgan Library).

ALBISOLA, Tullio (poet and designer). MUNARI, Bruno (illustrator).  Poeti Futuristi. L'Anguria Lirica. Presentazione di [Filippo Tommaso]  Marinetti. Roma: Edizioni Futuristi di Poesie, 1934. Limited to fifty copies for sale, of a total edition of 101. Square octavo. Twenty-one metal leaves with lithographic text by d'Albisola and eleven color lithographed plates by Bruno Munari. Typography and mise en page by d'Albisola.

One of three rare and important Futurist metal books (the first, Parole in libertà futuriste, tattili-termiche-olfattive, published in 1932; Libro di latta aggressivo e contundente, published in 1933), a monument to Futurist book production. Binding in full lithographed metal by  Lito-Latta Nosenzo of Savona, a manufacturer of metal storage boxes, after design by Albisola.

MAILLOL, Aristide. HORACE. Odes d'Horace. Texte Latin et Traduction en Vers par le Baron Delort. Gravures sur Bois d'Aristide Maillot. Paris: Philip Gonin, Editeur, 1939.  One of fifty édition de tête copies on papier de chanvre et lin with a suite of all the plates in black and a suite in color, initialed by the publisher on the colophon of each volume and on the wrappers to each suite. Two octavo volumes. 179; 278 pp. Frontispiece,123 woodcut text illustrations.

Full green polished calf by Pierre-Lucien Martin (1913-1985), boards and spines with onlaid section of pale green calf to form two-tone mirrored decorative scheme.

"Pierre-Lucien Martin (1913-1985) ranks high among the outstanding French design binders of the last half century. Trained at the École Estiènne in Paris, he gained experience in several binderies before emerging as a designer in his own right after World War II. His designs are characterized by understated color, impressive three-dimensional effects, and intricate but highly logical applications of geometry" (Six Centuries of Master Bookbinding at Bidwell Library).

ERNST, Max. PÉRET, Benjamin. Je Sublime. Paris: Editions Surrálistes, 1936, 30 June. One of twenty-five hors commerce numbered examples on papier le Roy Louis' tiente Normandie, of a total edition of 241 copies. Octavo. 24 ff. Four original color frottages on cream paper by Max Ernst.

Full white crushed morocco with alligator patterning by Georges Leroux, ruled in blind and applied in cross-grained sections, boards with onlaid lozenges as eyes with applied sections of white and green morocco as pupil and iris, title to spine in green and black.

Georges Leroux (1922-1999), one of the most accomplished and esteemed French binders of the twentieth century, began his career as a poet before becoming a binder in 1959. Marked by the use of exotic materials, inset metal plaques and strong polychromatic color, books from the early stage of his career (as here) were designed and executed (rather than simply designed) by Leroux.

SCHMIED, François-Louis (illustrator and binder). MARDRUS, J.C. Le Livre de la Verité de Parole. Transcription des Textes Egyptiens Antiques. Paris: Chez F.-L. Schmied, 1929. :Limited to 150 copies signed by Schmied, with two suites of the illustrations on Japon, in b&w and color. Quarto. Twelve wood cut illustrations.

Bound in full Jansenist brown crushed morocco by François-Louis Schmied (1873-1941) over beveled wooden boards, with doublures in matching morocco, each decorated with a inlaid lacquer panel, the first representing a falcon in salmon and gold, the second an eagle with wings spread above orange flames, each lacquer panel bordered by inlaid gold bands, with a double set of silk endpapers, one aubergine, the other cardinal red.

"Francois-Louis Schmied [was] a highly accomplished printer [publisher/binder/illustrator] best known today for his de luxe editions of classic works of literature…Based in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and in Morocco in the late 1930s…, Schmied's books' sumptuousness defies easy description and evidences a singular mastery" (Garabedian, M. The Printer in Paris).

"On their first exposure to one of François-Louis Schmied's productions, most Americans…are apt to declare that they have never seen anything like it" (Tabor, S. The World From Here: Treasures of the Great Libraries of Los Angeles, p. 136).

Images courtesy of Sims Reed Rare Books, with our thanks.

Of related interest:

Three Must-See Bindings.

Three More Must-See Bindings.

Five Must-See Modern French Bindings.

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