Collector’s condition???

In the 6th edition of John Carter’s essential ABC for Book Collectors (1980), it is noted on p. 67 that the word “condition” in book collector’s mind “means a good deal more than the volume’s superficial, physical appearance; for the term covers the completeness and integrity of the contents, a proper degree of margin, etc., as well as the beauty or appropriateness or originality, and the state of preservation of the covering.”

Children’s books obviously weren’t on Carter’s radar screen, because if you want to collect historical children’s books, almost nothing comes up to his gold standard.

"Nye Billed=A,B,C for Børn," page 1 with 'annotations'

“Nye Billed=A,B,C for Børn,” page 1 with ‘annotation’

Take the Danish alphabet book, Nye Billed=A,B,C for Børn [New Illustrated ABC for Children] (Alborg, 1778), in the Cotsen Children’s Library. It is one of the earliest alphabets of proper names I’ve ever seen and unusual for having been designed as a set of little picture cards, which were probably supposed to be cut apart by little learners.   It passes the rarity test: when I couldn’t find a description of it, I wrote to a Danish colleague for help.  She was absolutely thrilled to learn of its existence, because she had never heard of it either.

Many collectors I know would never consider giving shelf space to a scruffy pamphlet bound in wrappers of a thickish paper the color of burned porridge.  To add injury to insult, most of the pages have been scrawled upon by disrespectful young persons.  None of it could be graced with the term “marginalia.”  But look closely at the “annotations” and you will find some absolutely delightful stick figures interacting with the illustrations.  If given a choice between a pristine copy and this one with all the doodling, there’s no question in my mind which one is in superior condition…

Page 3: The letter J, as annotated.

Page 3: The letter J, as ‘annotated.’

Page 3: More 'annotations'

Page 3: More ‘annotations.’

Page 4: Even more 'annotations'

Page 4: Even more ‘annotations.’

 

Detail of 'annotation' for the Letter N

Page 4: The Letter N, as ‘annotated.’

Grimm, an artist’s book and more

 

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Cotsen unprocessed items 6903748 & 6903746 respectively

Above are two recently purchased acquisitions. The larger object, featured here with its brown cloth silk-screened slip case, stamped title piece, and twine ties, is the artist’s book Grimm, created by Mikhail Magaril and Victor Bogorad (New York: Summer Garden Editions, 2012). The work consists of twelve pasted together 23 x 14.5 inch folio leaves (in this way each full page spread is in fact one large single sheet). Nine of these are solely devoted to a different Grimm tale or theme. Every page is Illustrated throughout by Magaril’s iconic ink blots, printed in letterpress, and silk screened in both black and brown; the work is truly unique (it is actually the first of only ten copies).

We are fortunate to have this very haunting, and very Russian, interpretation of the Grimm fairy tales and their more nefarious aspects. As the artists explain in the book’s afterword, this work is a reflection upon the artists’ childhood experiences of the Grimm world, which they read, and the real world in the USSR, which they lived: “Life there [the USSR] had much in common with the world of Grimm fairy tales. . . The nightmarish regime badly affected the psyche of children and caused the impressionable young minds to see something sinister in every ink blot” (folio page 11). As you can see for yourself, the book is a truly harrowing and fantastical homage to the Brothers Grimm.

cover

Cover

Endpapers

Endpapers

Title page, spread 1

Title page, spread 1

Spread 2

Spread 2

Der Kleine Däumling (The Little Thumbling), spread 3

Der Kleine Däumling (The Little Thumbling), spread 3

The Brother's Grimm have been included interacting with the fairy tales themselves throughout the work.

The Brother’s Grimm have been included interacting with the fairy tales themselves throughout the work.

Silkscreened image and text of Frau Trude (Mother Trude) notice the brothers again, spread 4

Silkscreened image and text of Frau Trude (Mother Trude) notice the brothers again, spread 4

Spread 5

Spread 5

Spread 8

Spread 8

Hansel und Gretel, spread 10

Hansel und Gretel, spread 10

 

Close up juxtaposition of the two sets of siblings found above.

Close up juxtaposition of the two sets of siblings found above.

Jovial portraits of the artists, Bogorad and Magaril respectively, spread 11

Jovial portraits of the artists, Bogorad and Magaril respectively, spread 11

Authors' signatures and copy number, spread 12

Authors’ signatures and copy number, spread 12

The small black cloth box with linen ties (you thought I forgot didn’t you?) is a related treasure to the already prized first item. The title and key to the contents is supplied by the henna inked calligraphic top card:

Sketches for the book Grimm by Mikhail Magaril

Sketches for the book Grimm by Mikhail Magaril

Once opened, one is greeted by a grand total of 87 (15 x 10.5 cm) unnumbered deckle edged cards. Though 27 cards are blank, the remaining 60 cards include a vast array of draft illustrations for Grimm by Magaril.  The illustrations, executed exclusively in blue and black ink, have been cut out and pasted onto the decorative cards.  Below is a small sampling, notice that some of the proofs were not featured in the final product:

Examples, two of which feature two cards bound together.

Examples, two of which feature two cards bound together.

This large collection of small cards grants us unique access into the creation of the book Grimm. By viewing these proofs, we are offered a little window with which to view the draft processes and production choices of a very talented contemporary artist: Mikhail Magaril.

Not quite the final illustration

Not quite the final illustration

For more work by Magaril held at Princeton, check out this blog post by our colleague Julie Mellby, the curator of Graphic Arts: Mikhail Magaril