Thursday, May 31, 2012

Europe's Favorite Nineteenth Century Turkish Delight

By Stephen J. Gertz

Harem scene.

In 1842, Amadeo Preziosi (1816-1882),  from a noble and wealthy Maltese  family  and a graduate of the Paris Academy of Fine Arts, packed up his paints and brushes and journeyed from Malta to Istanbul, the Gateway to the East and capitol of the Ottoman Empire.

Coffee House.

The lure of the Orient was no less compelling to Preziosi than it was for Eugene Delacroix, Alexandre Decamps,  Eugene Fromentin, and many other painters. European artists, writers, scholars and the simply curious few, entranced by the city's exotic reputation, flocked there. Istanbul was a theme park for tourists, right on Europe's doorstep.

In Sweet Waters, a park along the Bosphorus.

Most artists stayed for a few months, or perhaps a few years, to immerse themselves in Istanbul's vivid daily life, customs, people and architecture. Preziosi visited and never left. He married a Turkish woman of Greek extraction, had four children, and lived comfortably, with a vacation home in the countryside.

In a Bazaar.

Though known for his private commisisons he introduced his Istanbul to the European public at large with his extravagantly beautiful series of chromolithographs Stamboul Souvenir d'Orient (Lemercier, 1858, reissued by Lemercier in 1861, and published in a second edition by Lemercier in 1865). Containing twenty-eight stunning plates, a fine copy of the second edition has just some into the marketplace.

Turkish Ladies Walking.

Preziosi "notes in his memoirs that his original intention had been to stay for two years, but so absorbed did he become in the sights and bewitching atmosphere of this city that it held him like a magnet, and he hardly noticed the passing of the years. Sketchbook under arm he wandered its streets, caught up in an increasing love for the city and its people. Istanbul returned Preziosi’s affection, and he was welcomed everywhere, in tiny back street shops, coffee houses, hamams (Turkish baths), and places of worship. In his canvases he immortalised the humdrum sights of daily life: a street seller, a dancing bear, a woman filling her water jar at a street fountain. Through his eyes we also see the blue waters of the Bosphorus with caiques gliding along, pavilions and palaces. His paintings sold well among local and foreign customers alike, who hung them on the walls of their grand houses and palaces" (A Maltese Painter Of Istanbul Scenes: Amadeo Preziosi).

Mevlevi Dervish.

French art historian and critic Victor Champier (1851-1929), in his Forward to the third edition, retitled  Stamboul, Moeurs et Costumes (Canson: 1883), wrote of Preziosi and Istanbul:

"Istanbul… This word sounds to the ear like a battle cry or a song of victory. Istanbul is the name given by the Turks to this glorious city, once known as Byzantium and today also as Constantinople. It is Istanbul, with its winding streets, markets, picturesque excursion places and curious sights, whose life and true substance Monsieur Amadeo Preziosi presents to us in his watercolours. Certainly one rarely encounters an artist who has left his homeland at a young age, and made a home for himself in the bosom of a civilization little known even in Europe. This is an artist whose eyes have been rinsed in the splendid light of the Orient, enabling him to capture the depth of its meaning and enjoy the happiness of sensing the strength and capacity of its spirit."

Druggist's Shop.

From the 15th through the 18th centuries, Turquerie was an Orientalist style imitative of Turkish culture and art. Increased diplomatic and commercial ties to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey its center, created a passionate fascination with Eastern exoticism. An English translation of The Arabian Nights appeared in 1706 and stoked the fire. By the nineteenth century, Romantic Orientalism had developed into a distinct literary genre with writers such as Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley captivated by the  region's perceived sensuous rhythms and color. The mysteries of veiled women and the harem stirred the senses. Europe's fascination with the Orient would continue to grow throughout the century.

Given this attraction, with its distinct sensual undercurrent, which Preziosi so keenly captured in his portraits of the women of Istanbul (featured in over half of the chomolithographs), it is no surprise that a genre of erotic literature developed to satisfy the European man's desire to learn what went on behind the harem's doors when the veils were removed. Thus The Lustful Turk (1828) and  A Night in a Moorish Harem (c. 1900), bookends to the height of Europe's fascination and grand amour for the exotic Orient and the Muslim world.

The West's distorted perspective of the Orient wrought by the Romantics haunts our relations with the East to this day.

PREZIOSI, [Amadeo]. Stamboul. Souvenir D'Orient. Paris: Imp. Lemercier, 1865. Second edition. Folio. Tinted pictorial title page, engraved list of plates, twenty-eight (28) chromolithographed plates mounted on card.

Bobins III, 1098. Blackmer 1353. Cf. Atabey 999 (1861). Cf. Colas 2422 (1858). Cf. Lipperheide 1440 (1858, 1861).

Images courtesy of Shapero Rare Books, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Knorr Shows Sea Shells By The Sea Shore

By Stephen J. Gertz

In Nuremberg, 1757 through 1772, Georg Wolfgang Knorr (1705-1761), an engraver of great skill who, through self-study, learned a great deal about art and the natural sciences, published Vergnügen der Augen und des Gemüths, in Vorstellung einer allgemeinen Sammlung von Muscheln und andern Geschöpfen welche im Meer gefunden werden (Pleasure of the Eyes and Mind in a General Collection of Shells and Other Creatures Which Are Found in the Sea).

In six parts containing 190 hand-colored copperplate engravings of great beauty the book was an artistic triumph if not one of science; Knorr's casual approach ignored scientific order. The book was a simple - albeit magnificent - record of sea shells found in collections in Holland and Germany, including that of Martin Houttuyn, a doctor in Amsterdam whose collection contained many rare species.

It was soon issued in a French translation, Delices des yeux et de l'esprit... (1760-1773) and, later, an edition in Dutch by the heirs of Houttuyn as Verlustiging der oogen en van den geest... (1770-1775), a copy of which has recently come into the marketplace offered by Shapero Rare Books of London.

Nuremberg was, at the time, the European center for finely illustrated natural history books, led by J. Trew, a wealthy Nuremberg physician who organized and encouraged a salon of artists and scientists, including Knorr who earned his first major success with his illustrations to  Johannes Jacob Scheuzer's Physica Sacra (1731-1735) in which he depicted the solar system with the zodiac as the sphere of stars. Many of the shells that Knorr depicted in Vergnügen der Augen und des Gemüths... came from Trew's personal collection in addition to Martin Houttuyn's.

Whether in German, French, or Dutch, Knorr's book of shells became an enormous popular success. It will come as no surprise that copies were broken up and the stunning hand-colored plates - which often exceeded the beauty of the shells in nature - sold separately. There is no shortage of modern reproductions currently offered for sale.

Curiously, Knorr, whether in German, French or Dutch, neglects to illustrate one of the Muscheln closely associated with him, the Creamy Garlic Shell found strewn upon the shores of grocery store shelves throughout the Western world. We rectify that omission here:


KNORR, Georg Wofgang. Verlustiging der oogen en van den geest: of verzameling van allerley bekende hoorens en schulpen, die in haar eigen kleuren afgebeeld zyn. Amsterdam: By de Erven van F. Houttuyn, 1770-1775. First edition in Dutch. Six parts in two quarto volumes (26.1 x 20.5 cm). Six letterpress titles and 190 hand-colored copperplate engravings by J.A. Joniger, J.A. Eisenmann, A. Hoffer and others after Knorr, C. Dietsch, J. Wartenaar, and others.

Landwehr 96. Nissen ZBI 2236. Cf. Dance, Shell Collecting, pp. 156-157.
Images courtesy of Shapero Rare Books, with our thanks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Splendid $200,000 Album of Early 19th Century Chinese Export Watercolors

By Stephen J. Gertz

A remarkable early to mid-nineteenth century Chinese album, containing 141 full-page watercolors of exceptional quality, journeyed from the Celestial Kingdom to the library of a British noble thence disembarked to rare book shop in London where it is now being offered for sale. The asking price is $195,768 (£125,000).

Depicting the various ranks of Chinese society, including royalty, mandarins and other officials, warriors and archers, along with costumes of different provinces, as well as various trades and industries, the watercolors, created for export, are vivid and often highlighted with gilt.

Noteworthy are the large number of subjects pictured, the unusually large size of each painting, and the use of very fine, thin and delicate paper.

Later collections of Chinese export watercolors were routinely executed on less expensive, stronger and thicker "pith" paper (made from the pith of a plant related to ginseng); the demand in Europe for small, inexpensive, and easily transportable art souvenirs had grown huge and earlier watercolors of the finest quality, as here, were not practical to produce on the necessary scale to satisfy what had once been carriage-trade items but had evolved into a mass middle-class market.

The album thus represents an earlier, more prestigious style of export watercolor paintings specifically meant for wealthy Europeans. These are Chinese watercolors of the highest quality, designed and executed to the highest standards.

The album was once owned by Annie Pearson, Viscountess Cowdray (1881-1931), Steward of Colchester and wife of Lord Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray. She likely acquired it from a previous owner.

“'Export' paintings, mainly oil paintings, as well as watercolours, gouaches on paper, board and glass, started in the mid eighteenth century and reached their climax in the mid nineteenth century but declined when photography became fashionable...

"In order to satisfy the great demand of the market...Guangdong painters opened workshops in the area of the Western factories (or 'Hong') where foreigners lived. They employed painters specialized in different sections and made many imitations with Western materials, paper and silk. After the Opium War between China and Britain in 1840, China was forced to open ports. When Shanghai was opened as a port in 1843, Great Britain, the United States and France established 'concession zones' in the city between 1845 to 1849. In the same way as had happened in Guangzhou, Guangzhou 'export' painters, among other Chinese painters, thrived in the new commercial emporium by producing 'export' paintings...

"'Export' painters, at the same time, produced lots of commercial paintings of the popular themes about the Chinese society. Since the purpose of producing 'export' paintings was entirely commercial, most artists rarely signed their works or, at the most, just added to them a monogram identifying the pictorial workshop to which they belonged" (Export Paintings, Civil and Municipal Affairs Bureau of Macao S.A.R.).

[CHINA SCHOOL Watercolors of Chinese Costume and Trade]. N.p. [Guangzhou?]: N.p., n.d. [c.  early-mid 19th century]. Large quarto (38.4 x 32 cm). 141 full-page watercolors on thin Chinese paper, some with gilt highlights, nearly all captioned in Chinese in ink in lower right corner. Each mounted on paper, recto only.

Bound in mid-nineteenth century half morocco, gilt, with spine compartments decorated in gilt. Bookplate of Annie, Viscountess of Cowdray.

Images courtesy of Shapero Rare Books, with our thanks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rare Wizard Of Oz Movable Book Pops-Up In Marketplace

By Stephen J. Gertz

A scarce, complete, first edition, first state copy of The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book (1934) - one of the rarest of all movable books - has come into the marketplace.

Inside rear cover. Note band covering envelope with ramp.

Not only are all six waddle figures present, four of them have not been punched-out from the background sheet and are as new. The accompanying yellow brick road ramp for Dorothy, the Wizard, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and Toto to waddle upon is also present. This is extraordinary; the figures and ramp usually wound up as confetti within days after children got their hands on them.

The Scarecrow.

The illustrations are by renowned American artist W.W. Denslow (1856-1915), who collaborated with Oz creator L. Frank Baum on many books.

The Cowardly Lion.

When the figures are punched-out, assembled with their hinged legs, and placed at the top of the ramp, they "waddle" down the incline as paper action figures. The Cowardly Lion, presumably, needs encouragement to take his first step on The Yellow Brick Road. A metaphysical nudge from behind should suffice; "Boo!" will do.


The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book is actually a reprint of the fifth edition of the first book in the classic series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), which, in its second edition, was retitled, The New Wizard of Oz (1903). The text points are similar to the fifth edition (printed 1920s-30s), second state, but with a new title page, an additional entry at the end of the Contents for the instructions, and with the instructions bound at the rear as pages 209-211.

The color plates have text printed on the versos. In the book's first state, as here, the punch-out waddle figures are printed on sheets of heavy card stock which are mounted on bound-in perforated stubs. In its second state, the waddle figures are not mounted on stubs but, instead, enclosed in the envelope along with the ramp. The second state of the cloth is light olive rather than bright green.


Bobbs-Merrill, who published The New Wizard of Oz, leased the plates to Blue Ribbon Books, a division of Doubleday, Doran, for the Waddle Book. Bobbs-Merrill had earlier gained possession of the plates from the original publisher of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Geo. M. Hill Co., through Baum & Denslow, after Hill went into bankruptcy in 1902.

"Copies with the Waddles are rarely found," (Greene & Hanff). Copies with the Waddles unassembled and remaining firm in their sheets are miraculous, only seen when monkeys have wings and water is lethal to witches of a certain direction.

BAUM, L. Frank. Wizard of Oz Waddle Book. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, n.d. [1934]. First edition, first state. Quarto. [1]. 210, [1] pp. Eight color plates by W.W. Denslow, six with die-cut figures. Original pictorial envelope a rear enclosing ramp and fasteners. Green cloth with pictorial onlay. Dust jacket.
Greene and Hanff p. 35-36.

Of related interest:

How Much Is An L. Frank Baum Inscribed Wizard Of Oz Worth?

L. Frank Baum Tells How To Read The Wizard Of Oz.

L. Frank Baum Remembers Mama, You'll Remember the Price.

Images courtesy of Aleph-Bet Books, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rarest, Most Desirable Book By John Lennon Comes To Auction

By Stephen J. Gertz

"We're all in a bag, you know?...I was in a pop bag, going round and round, in my little clique. And she was in her little avant-garde clique, going round and round. So we just came up with a word. If you'd ask us what Bagism is, we'd say, 'We're all in a bag, baby'" - John Lennon, Avant-Garde, March 1970.

A scarce, complete, unnumbered and out-of-sequence first edition copy of John Lennon's Bag One, his 1970 collection of lithographs limited to 300 examples, is being offered by New England Book Auctions on Tuesday May 29, 2012. It is expected to sell for $20,000 - $30,000.

The only other copy to ever sell at auction fell under the hammer at Sotheby's twenty-four years ago, in 1988, for $12,155.

Bag One is a series of fourteen signed original lithographs originally conceived and executed in 1969 to commemorate Lennon's wedding to  Yoko Ono and their subsequent honeymoon  in Amsterdam.

The lithographs were scheduled for a two-week exhibition at London Arts Gallery at 22 New Bond Street on January 15th 1970.  On the exhibit's second day, however, Scotland Yard raided the gallery and confiscated eight of the fourteen lithographs on the grounds that they were obscene and "exhibited to public the annoyance of passengers, contrary to Section 54(12) of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, and the third schedule of the Criminal Justice Act 1967."  

Text leaf.

The case was later dismissed when the magistrate hearing the case determined that they were unlikely to deprave or corrupt.

The lithographs were soon afterward exhibited by Lee Nordness Galleries in New York City, February 7 through February 28, 1970.

"The American opening of Bag One was a lavish affair... I flew over on John's behalf to film the proceedings. The whole of the New York art scene and all the 'beautiful people' turned out. Dali came with his pet ocelot on a leash. The lithographs were on view in a specially created environment, where spectators were asked to remove their shoes. The next month's issue of the prestigious Avant Garde magazine featured the Erotic Lithographs on the cover and as the major inside spread" (Anthony Fawcett. One Day at a Time, pp. 164-173).

Cinnamon Press of New York issued the first edition in 1970 simultaneously with the exhibitions. Laurens A. Daane of Amsterdam published a subsequent edition afterward in the same year.

The whole, inside story of Bag One, from conception through exhibition and publication, was related by Lennon and Ono's personal assistant, Anthony Fawcett, in his 1976 biography, John Lennon: One Day at a Time. A Personal Biography of the Seventies. You can read that section here.

A copy of Bag One was offered in the Rock & Roll Pop Culture Auction held by Gotta Have Rick and Roll in December 2011. It was estimated to sell for between $75,000 and $100,000, with minimum bid $72,500. It did not sell, "irrational exuberance," evidently, not limited to the financial markets.

The auctioneer, high-as-a-Mr. Kite, it seems, was, apparently, under the influence of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, rather than Lovely Rita, down-to-earth meter-maid, when conjuring up that strictly from Alpha Centuri estimate.


LENNON, John. Bag One. New York: Cinnamon Press, 1970. First edition, limited to 300 copies. Folio. Title page, text leaf, and fourteen SIGNED in pencil lithograph prints ( 58 x 76 cm) on BFK Rives paper, loose as issued in white vinyl portfolio with black lettering and three ribbon ties, here foxed and stained.

Images courtesy of New England Book Auctions, with our thanks.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Charles Bukowski, Artist

By Stephen J. Gertz

From: All the Assholes in the World and Mine (1966).

In 1966, after enduring a hemorrhoid operation, Charles Bukowski, America's poet laureate of the depths, published a commemorative short story. All the Assholes in the World and Mine featured a drawing by Bukowski, a Posterior-Impressionistic portrait of proctology's finest hour as a  team of crack surgeons removes a bunch of wrathful grapes from Bukowski's butt. 

A richly inscribed copy has come into the marketplace, addressed to the publisher, Doug Blazek of Open Skull Press, a prolific underground poet, key figure in the scene, publisher of the legendary literary chapbook, Olé, and one of the first publishers to recognize the rough, uncut diamonds in Bukowski's early work. The inscription reads: 

"To Doug Blazek - As if a man don't have just enough fucking pain just looking out the window - But, no, there are always the little extras, one of which appears in this story - The poor asshole: Charles Bukowski Oct. 26, 1966."

From: Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Sleep With Beasts (1965).

A year earlier, in 1965, Blazek published Bukowski's Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Sleep With Beasts, which introduced the author'a alter-ego, Henry Chinaski, to the world, and featured a cover illustration by Bukowski.

This copy is inscribed, "For Doug Blazek - Doug - You know / what I mean - / that where almost all  / men have fallen apart / under the smallest / circumstances, / you've held to it / kept it / like a sugar cube / in a vase. / O, tough young bastard of / holler, true son of / truth, - my remains of / love, / Buk 1-25-66."

Below the initial salutation is an original drawing, perhaps of a face, that covers Bukowski's false start to the iniscription.

This copy also includes two pieces of original Bukowski artwork to the final two blanks, "Hangover and First Drink"...

...And "Dream of the Insect."

(I suspect, however, that the true dream of the insect is to be able to sit down and read a good book - 

...or suck up a good book's words).

Factotum (1975).

A thousand hardcover copies of Bukowski's Factotum were issued upon its publication in 1966.

250 of those copies were signed and numbered.

From: Factotum.

Seventy-five copies were signed and numbered, and included an original watercolor painting by Buk.

Recently, Loren Kantor, an artist located in Los Angeles who publishes Woodcuttingfool: Journal of a Carving Enthusiast, created the above portrait woodcut of Bukowski. Those interested in acquiring a print may directly contact the artist.

BUKOWSKI, Charles. All the Assholes in the World and Mine.  Bensenville, IL: Open Skull Press, 1966. First edition, one of approximately 400 copies. Octavo (8.5 x 5.5 in.). [12] pp. Illustrated saddle-stitched wrappers.

BUKOWSKI, Charles. Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Sleep With Beasts. Bensenville, IL: Mimeo Press / Publisher's of Ole, 1965. First edition, one of approximately 500 copies. Octavo (8.5 x 5.5 in.). [24], [2, blank] pp of alternating colored leaves: maize, white, and pink. Illustrated saddle-stitched wrappers.

BUKOWSKI, Charles. Factotum. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1975. First edition, one of 75 copies (out of a total of 1000) signed and numbered by the author and with an original painting by Bukowski,

Book and art images courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books, currently offering these items, with our thanks.

Bukowski woodcut image courtesy of Loren Kantor, with our thanks.

Reading bug image courtesy of EmpireOnline, with our thanks.

Of related interest:

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