I Would Prefer Not To

Herman Melville (1819-1891) and Joseph Scanlan, Two Views (Brussels: Bartleby & Co., 2003). Copy 26 of 50. Graphic Arts GAX 2010- in process

This artists’ book includes the stories “Bartleby, the Scrivener” by Herman Melville and “Window Stunt” by Joe Scanlan, Professor of Visual Arts in the Lewis Center for the Arts and Director of the Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University. Scanlan first wrote this variation on Melville’s short story in the course of nine straight days, transposing the New York City narrative to Chicago where he was living. The 2003 volume marks his third refinement on Bartleby, this time moving the story to Brooklyn, as Scanlan rewrites the same story over and over again in an effort to make it perfect.

Mr. Scanlan writes, “I was delighted when Thorsten Baensch proposed to me the idea of Two Views. His books are so beautifully realized that I was able to overcome the absurdity of publishing a short story of mine alongside Herman Melville. Thorsten pays great attention to detail and insists on reading being a hands-on experience, from the handmade storage box to the tipped-in plates to the color of thread for the binding.”

“Of course the coup de gras is the stereoscopic viewer that is “hidden” under the cushion for the book. It was my idea to include it—I liked the obvious play on the idea of “two views”—but it was Thorsten who knew there was an extensive stereoscopic image archive at Williams Collge, so he went there and would not leave until he found an image of Wall Street from the same era as Bartleby the Scrivener.”