February 2008 Archives

The First Comic Strip Published in America

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Rodolphe Topffer (1799-1846), The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck (New York: Wilson and Company, 1842). GAX Oversize Cruik 1842.7
Rodolphe Topffer, The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck (London: Tilt and Bogue, [1841]). Title page by Robert Cruikshank. GA Cruik 1841.5

The Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846) was a pioneer of the sequential image format that we think of today as the cartoon or comic strip. His first cartoon sequence Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois was drawn in 1827 and very quickly followed with others, to the delight of his friends. Goethe had a particular fondness for Töpffer’s drawings and there is an article on his work in the last issue of Ueber Kunst und Alterthum (no. 6, 1832), the journal Goethe edited, entitled “On the Pen-Drawings of Rodolphe Töpfer [sic].” Rare Books (Ex) 3445.392

Töpffer’s first published book Histoire de Mr. Jabot appeared in 1833 followed by Histoire de Mr. Crépin and Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois (or Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois) in 1837.

Bootlegs and redrawn fakes were numerous because of the popularity of his work, in particular by the Paris publisher Aubert. The first English language edition came in 1841, entitled The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck produced at Woone’s Gypsography, copied from Aubert’s unauthorized French edition. Robert Cruikshank did the English language title page. In 1842, this edition was reprinted in the United States as a supplement to the magazine Brother Jonathan.

A detailed chronology of Töpffer’s life can be found at: http://leonardodesa.interdinamica.net/

Several completely digital versions of the books are at: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/collections

Raphael's Bible

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Francesco Villamena (ca. 1566-1624), La Sacra Genesi figurate da Rafaele d’Urbino nelle Logge Vaticane, intagliata da Francesco Villamena ([Rome]: s.n., between 1593 and 1621). GAX NE662.V56 R36f

A painter, architect, and supervisor of Roman archaeology research, Raphael (1483-1520), was a leading figure of the Italian High Renaissance. In 1510, he was called to Rome by Pope Julius II to create frescos for a room in the Vatican. He returned at the invitation of Leo X to decorate the walls and ceilings of the Loggie, the Papal palace. Raphael’s elaborate plans included designs for 13 ceiling vaults, 52 ceiling frescoes predominately portraying Old Testament scenes, and 28 pilaster frescoes for the walls. Much of the actual work of was ultimately accomplished by his assistants. This project has come to be known as Raphael’s Bible.

In the early years of the seventeenth century, the engraver Francesco Villamena reproduced Raphael’s biblical designs in 20 copper plate engravings (plus an engraved title page), published in at least three editions. The original prints of Princeton’s copy have been trimmed and glued to a new series of pages. The prints begin with “Confusam corporum molem Deus ex nihilo” (God creating heaven, Genesis i) and end with “Christus Dominus die tertia a mortuis resurgit” (The Resurrection, Matthew, xxviii). Also pictured here is “Diluuio totus terrarum orbis inundator” (The Deluge, Genesis vii).

Eggs, Nests, and Beaks


Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio. Texts by Howard Jones and illustrations by Virginia Jones. (Circleville, Ohio, 1886). GAX 2008- in process.

“Nest and Eggs” is a beautiful color-plate book that began in 1877 as the project of Genevieve Jones and Eliza Shulze, two young women in Circleville, Ohio. Jones’ father offered to finance the publication and to collect the birds’ nests for the girls to illustrate. None of them had any previous experience but it was their hope to produce a scientific work in twenty parts, illustrated with hand-colored lithographs, which would sell for $5.00/part.

According to the research of Ernest Wessen, published in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 47, no. 3 (1953), some of the production and most of the credit for the publication was taken over by Genevieve’s younger brother, Howard. Even their mother, Virginia, who help out after 1879, received more credit than her daughter.

Regardless, the production of the book was exceptional. Adolph Krebs, a professional lithographer, shuttled 65 pound stones back and forth between Circleville and his studio in Cincinnati. Josephine Klippart, a professional colorist, was paid $3/print. Robert Clarke, a Cincinnati publisher, printed the text and wrappers.

The first part was released in July of 1879 and the final part in December of 1886. In the end, the biggest loser might have been Dr. Jones, who put up $13,181 for the edition of 90 copies (23 parts, 60 plates). Records indicate sales over ten years returning just $2,000. The Smithsonian has digitized all the plates at www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/nestsandeggs/

Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), American ornithology; or, The natural history of the birds of the United States (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1808-25). Rare Books (Ex) Oversize 8880.975q

At the other end of the spectrum, is Alexander Wilson’s color-plate book American Ornithology, published from 1808 to 1825. Under the instructions of his neighbor, the naturalist William Bartram, Wilson began painting birds of the area. Engraver Alexander Lawson was employed to translate the designs to engravings. Either dissatisfaction or lack of funds led Wilson to fire the colorists and he did most of the hand-coloring himself.

In a recent exhibition at the Library Company of Philadelphia, curators presented the discovery that Wilson also used some color printing to supplement the hand work. If this is the case, Wilson’s Ornithology is the first American book with plates printed in more than one color.

To see more on Wilson and his coloring, go to www.librarycompany.org/

Brody Neuenschwander, Calligrapher

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Princeton University alumnus Brody Neuenschwander, class of 1981, has a new book, Textasy (Ghent: Toohcsmi, 2007), which is reviewed in the most recent issue of baseline magazine (Paul Shaw, “The Work of Brody Neuenschwander,” baseline 53 (autumn 2007) Firestone Oversize Z250 .B37q). The book is in process and will be housed in Marquand Library.

Born in Houston 1958, Neuenschwander was appointed University Scholar while at Princeton, a position that allowed him to devote almost all his time (when he wasn’t rowing) to art history. He graduated in 1981 with high honors for his thesis on the techniques of medieval manuscript illumination. His graduate work was completed at the Courtauld Institute in London, writing on the methodology of German art history.

More importantly, while in London, Neuenschwander began studying calligraphy at the Roedhampton Institute. It was as a calligrapher, rather than an art historian, that he made a career for himself.

Over the last two decades, Neuenschwander collaborated on numerous projects—films, operas, and installations—with the English film director Peter Greenaway, including “Prospero’s Books”, “Pillow Book”, “Flying over Water”, “Bologna Towers 2000”, “Columbus”, and “Writing to Vermeer.” Greenaway contributed one of the essays in Textasy, noting that the artist stretches the boundaries of calligraphy, “exploring the possibilities of text in motion, and of writing as a filmed performance.”

Russian Graphic Arts During the Revolution 1917-1922

Aleksei Alekseevich Sidorov (1891-1978), Russkaia grafika za gody revoliutsii, 1917-1922 (Moskva: “Dom pechati”, 1923). in process GAX 2008-

Miró/Eluard Exhibition Now Open

This spring, we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of À toute épreuve, one of the most beautiful books of the twentieth century, created by the French poet Paul Éluard and the Catalan artist Joan Miró. The entire unbound volume is on exhibit in the Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts, Firestone Library, through June 29, 2008.

The exhibition opening will be celebrated on Sunday, March 9, 2008, with Elza Adamowicz, Professor of French and Visual Culture, School of Modern Languages, Queen Mary, University of London, presenting the talk “The Surrealist Artist’s Book: Beyond the Page” in the Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture, at 3:00. A reception will follow at 4:00, in the Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts on the second floor of Firestone Library.

Paul Éluard (1895-1952). À toute
épreuve. Gravures sur bois de
Joan Miró
. Première édition
illustrée. Geneva: Gérald Cramer, [1958]. 79 woodcuts by Joan Miró, printed in Paris at Atelier
Lacourière; text printed by Marthe Fequet and Pierre Baudier. Image: © 2008 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

From its humble beginnings in 1930 as a plain paper miniature, this simple collection of poems was transformed into an extraordinary deluxe edition folio. The cries of loneliness expressed in Éluard’s verse, “Je suis seul je suis seul tout seul” (I am alone I am alone all alone), are answered on each page with the buoyant companionship of vibrantly colored prints, resulting in a new sense of wholeness and optimism. The title of the work, roughly translatable as “ready for anything” or “foolproof,” conveys a sense of durability and perseverance. Éluard’s poems represent strength in the face of emotional turmoil just as the book survived production challenges and setbacks to become a monument to the art of bookmaking and the possibilities of collaboration.

The project began in 1947, when the Swiss publisher Gérald Cramer approached Éluard with the idea of publishing an illustrated edition of his poetry. For the art, Éluard suggested his friend Miró, with whom he had already collaborated. It took Miró eleven years to create the 233 blocks needed to print 79 woodcuts. He used planks of wood collaged with plastic, wire, old engravings and bark paper to achieve images that practically dance across the page. “I am completely absorbed by the damn book,” wrote Miró to his publisher, Gerald Cramer, “I hope to create something sensational… .” The final volume has a brilliance of invention and a vitality of form and color, rarely found inside the cover of a book.

Special thanks go to Ainsley Brown, Ph.D. candidate, Department of French and Italian, for her work on all aspects of this exhibition and its keepsake. In the gallery, we will offer English language translations of the poetry, some by Ms. Brown and some by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, who was a great admirer of Eluard’s work. Here is a sample:

Villages de la lassitude
Où les filles ont les bras nus
Comme des jets d’eau
La jeunesse grandit en elles
Et rit sur la pointe des pieds.

Villages de la lassitude
Où tous les êtres sont pareils.

Paul Eluard
Villages of weariness
Where the arms of girls are bare
As jets of water
Where their youth increasing in them
Laughs and laughs and laughs on tiptoe.

Villages of weariness
Where everybody is the same

Translation by Samuel Beckett

Pre-revolutionary panoramas

William Burgis, The South Prospect of the City of New York, in North America. Engraving, depicting 1717-1745; issued August 1761 by London Magazine. GA2008.00187

George Heap. The East Prospect of the City of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania. Engraving, issued October 1761 by London Magazine. GA2008.00188

Four large colonial prospects, or prospectus views, were engraved at various times during the pre-revolutionary era in the United States. The view of New York was first, then Boston, Charleston, and finally Philadelphia. Each includes a bustling river view with the major architectural landmarks depicted in considerable detail. Although they look similar, they have different artists, printers, and publishers, and do not constitute a set.

South Prospect of New York was designed by William Burgis, engraved in London by John Harris, and issued in 1717. The final print measured over six feet in length, printed from four separate copper plates. The harbor is seen from Brooklyn Heights and might better be called a southeast prospect. The occassion depicted is thought to be a celebration of King George’s birthday.

Burgis’s print was reissued in 1746 by London printseller Thomas Bakewell, with an updating of the skyline. In 1761, the Bakewell reissue was once again revised and re-engraved in a reduced format for the Auguat 1761 issue of London Magazine. This is the print we hold at Princeton, seen above.

In October of that same year, London Magazine printed a prospect of Philadelphia. The original was designed by George Heap in 1754 in the style of William Burgis, but Heap fell ill and died before it was completed. The surveyor for the project, Nicholas Scull, had the engraving finished in London by Gerard Vandergucht. This view measured over seven feet, out-doing Burgis by a foot. A smaller version was completed by Vandergucht in 1755, which included a small section of the Jersey shore in the foreground.

A number of variations of the Scull and Heap view exist, usually based on the second second state. Princeton’s copy, published by London Magazine, was a gift of Alfred E. Kay, class of 1912.

Anamorphic Self-Portrait by Chuck Close


Chuck Close. Self-Portrait (anamorphic), 2007. Publisher: Two Palms. Edition: 4/20. Engraving with embossment on black Twinrocker handmade paper, mounted on wooden box/platform, with polished stainless steel cylinder. 24 x 24 x 12 inches. Printer: Douglas Volle. Acrylic printing plate: David Lasry. GA 2008.

For more than 600 years, artists have been experimenting with spatial illusion to the great delight of the viewing public. A wonderful timeline of experimentation in perspective theory and spatial illusion has been mounted by the Getty at: http://www.getty.edu

One optical technique is the anamorphic or distorted image, meant to be understood only when viewed at an acute angle or through a reflective cylinder. Some well-known examples of anamorphosis in art are the drawings in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks or the skull in the foreground of Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting The Ambassadors (1533, National Gallery, London). More recent examples can be seen painted on the stairs leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the stairs leading out of Pennsylvania Station in New York City.

Last fall, American artist Chuck Close created his first two anamorphic portraits at Two Palms studio in New York, http://www.twopalms.us/, utilizing a complex system of laser engraving and embossing. His Self-Portrait (Anamorphic), now in the collection of graphic arts, is a perfect example of the artist’s belief that “how an artist chooses to do something is often as important as what the artist chooses to do.” The image begins, like all his work, with a straight photographic portrait. His friend Phillip Glass once commented that for Close, the photograph “is simply the carrier for the idea; the occasion for the work to take place.”

Close divided the photograph into sections and painted each section abstractly and yet, when viewed at a distance the image reads as a realistic portrait. Then, a set of these portraits was distorted into a circular pattern, which was engraved by laser onto an acrylic plate. Once inked, the plate was pressed into hand-made paper using an overhead hydraulic press that can exert up to 750 tons of vertical pressure evenly on the paper and plate. The final image can only be seen realistically through a polished cylinder placed in the center of the design.

The graphic arts division at Princeton holds a wonderful collection of optical devices together with a collection of the optical prints and photographs to be used with each device. A small selection is currently on view on the second floor of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library.

A New Translation of Jayadeva's "Gita-Govinda"

The Gita Govinda or Song of Krishna is considered by many experts to be among the finest examples of Sanskrit poetry. It was written in the 12th century by the great poet, Jayadeva, and describes the relationship between the Krishna and his lover, Radha. The poetry is organized into 12 cantos or chapters, each sub-divided into 24 divisions called Prabandhas, containing couplets grouped into 8, called Ashtapadis.

Kamini. A Cycle of Poems from Jayadeva’s Gita-Govinda. Translated by Andrew Schelling. Designed and printed by Ken Botnick (St. Louis: emdash, 2007). Edition: 65. GAX 2008

The first English translation of Jayadeva’s 1000-year-old songs was by Sir William Jones in 1792. This new translation was completed by the contemporary poet, Andrew Schelling, who selected 29 poems from the 12 cantos to create a suite of poetic images of desire and longing, embracing both introspection and eroticism.

Schelling lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he teaches poetry, Sanskrit, and wilderness writing at Naropa University. He was the 1992 recipient of the Academy of American Poets award for translation and received a Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry grant in 1996 and 2001. For more of his translations, see: Amaru, Erotic love poems from India. A translation of the Amarushataka by Andrew Schelling (Boston; London: Shambhala, 2004). Indo-European Philology Coll. (Indo). Firestone, PK3791.A43 A812 2004

Printed at emdash Press, Kamini employs 20 colors to capture the various blue manifestations of Krishna. The text is printed in English and Sanskrit, hand-set in Dante type on Bugra paper. The images, photographed by Ken Botnick last spring during a trip to India on a Fulbright grant, were transfered to photo-polymer plates and printed with the letterpress text.

Botnick is professor of visual communications and director of the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book, at Washington University in St. Louis. He is also the director, designer, and master printer of emdash Press. His career began at the University of Wisconsin, where his classmate Steve Miller had just launched Red Ozier Press. In the fall of 1979, Miller and Botnick received an NEH grant and moved the press New York City, where it ran successfully until 1988. Miller went to the University of Alabama as director of book arts, while Botnick joined Yale University Press as head of art book design and production. In 1997, he moved to St. Louis and Washington University.

Graphic Arts holds a number of Red Ozier editions and two other recent emdash books: Kavya (2003), a series of classical Sanskrit poems collected by Octavio Paz; and In Defense of the Book (2001) by William Gass. These wonderful books are available, without appointment, in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collection reading room.

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of the Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize. The $2,000 first prize goes to Laura Fitzpatrick, Class of 2008, for her essay, “‘Love goes towards love’: Collecting Romeo and Juliet,” in which she explores used copies of Shakespeare’s play and the marginal notes left by other readers. “My books are a key,” she writes, “to understanding the passion that brings readers like myself coming back for more.”

In a tie for second place, both Caroline Hayley Crowell, Class of 2008, and Ian Segal, Class of 2008, will receive a $1,500 prize. Crowell’s essay, “New Orleans on My Mind: Books of the Big Easy,” focuses on her native New Orleans and the books that “help keep alive for me a city that is struggling to rebuild itself.” Each time she opens one of these volumes, she listens to hear the rhythm, the cadence and the accent of her home.

In “Irish Poetry and Its Contemporary Context,” Segal makes a case for examining Irish poetry “against the hurdling innovations and destructions of our contemporary era.” In this way, he begs to allow a curatorial gesture in which international writing finds itself reconsidering its own postcolonial contexts.

The Friends awarded the $1,000 third prize to Efe Murat Balikcioglu, Class of 2010, for his essay, “Major Poets of Czech and Polish Literature,” in which he grapples with verse written in languages he has not mastered. “To understand a poem does not mean to understand solely the language itself,” argues Mr. Balikcioglu. “There is a transcendental moment in which the reader’s feelings coincide with what the poem tries to convey.”

Each winner received a certificate from the Dean of the College and a new book chosen specifically for her/his collection, donated by Princeton University Press. Laura Fitzpatrick’s first prize essay will be published in the Princeton University Library Chronicle and will also be submitted to the National Undergraduate Book Collecting competition sponsored by Fine Books & Collections Magazine.

Flowers for the Faculty

Count Franz Pocci (1807-1876), Viola tricolor: in picture and rhyme (New York: Stroefer & Kirchner, [1876]). Chromolithographs. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0315Q

Franz Pocci, a high official in the Court of King Ludwig I, was also a musician, artist, and writer. He collaborated with “Papa Schimid”, founder of the Munich marionette theater, designing and painting the sets, curtains, and props, as well as writing a number of the stories. Pocci went on to publish many illustrated children’s books, which can be found in the Cotsen Library and the Graphic Arts division here at Princeton. In Viola tricolor, printed in astonishing chromolithography, Pocci replaces all the faces with flowers. He is responsible for both the art and the verse.

Faculty Professors
Here stand the University chaps,
In their grand official gowns and caps;
And thinks full sure, each learned elf:
“The cleverest here? - ‘tis I myself!”

The Painter at His Easel
Thus many a painter once gay and glad,
Sits before his picture, and says full sad:
“Oh had I but turn’d this work in to cash!”
“But nobody buys since the last great smash!”

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