“On Paper” Gets a Makeover

After the 2013 publication of Nick Basbanes’s On Paper, book artist Tim Elycalled the author and requested the unbound sheets of the book, just as they appeared off the press. Basbanes’s editor kindly obliged, and off On Paperwent to Washington State to Ely’s art studio where he forges one-of-a-kind, handmade books that have been compared to illuminated manuscripts for their impeccable detail and expression. Photo credit: Nick Basbanes

Basbanes didn’t hear from Ely for five and a half years, but, considering that Ely’s work is found in private collections as well as the Library of Congress, Yale University, Smith College, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Lilly Library, and the Boston Athenaeum, there was hardly any rush. Then, earlier this spring, the artist sent Basbanes a note saying the book was ready, and had it shipped to Massachusetts under the most careful of conditions.

Unwrapped, Basbanes came face-to-face with his book, now clad in a creamy off-white clamshell box with marbled borders. The book itself is now bound with strips of handmade Japanese paper, papyrus strips, and leather. Peppering the front and back boards are Ely’s own glyphs–symbols the artist calls “cribform” that take on different meanings depending on their placement and the tool used to create them. It is, said Basbanes, “a most exquisite piece of art.”

 

Ely, who had been doing what he called “a slow deep read of On Paper,” set himself a goal to “require every self-proclaimed book artist to read it and know it,” likening the use of paper to the “idea of drawing as a major expression,” finding inspiration in using paper as “a medium for telepathy.”

Spine of "On Paper." Photo credit: Nick Basbanes

“Beyond deep reading, I have found that the best way to become informed about an event or gather a bit of enlightenment is to make an expressive book,” Ely said a few years back. Indeed, his work is a kind of bookmaking alchemy, fusing the ancient art of monastic manuscript binding with contemporary expression.

PHOTO CREDITS: NICK BASBANES

Something Wicked This Way Comes: “Macbeth” Hits Stages from Coast to Coast

Could Macbeth be to Halloween what A Christmas Carol is to Noël? Based on the number performances starring the Thane of Cawdor this month, all signs seem to point to yes. Among the various renditions, Shakespeare’s tragedy exploring the darkest and bloodiest elements of human nature appears in wildly different venues on either ends of the country this month.

 

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Starting October 20 and running through November 3, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles opens its “immersive” production of Macbeth. Directed by former Royal Shakespeare Company member Kenn Sabberton, The Tragedie of Macbeth is set in a haunted house where audience members walk through the play as it is happening. The show starts in the Shakespeare Center’s parking garage, which stands in for the mysterious witches’ heath, then winds its way through the castle. Pared down to seventy minutes with nine actors playing everyone from Macbeth to Banquo, the intimate nature of the show limits fifty spectators per performance.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, catch a glimpse of Macbeth through the fog art installation currently set up at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. Fog x Macbeth takes place on Sunday, October 21 at 5 pm, and like the Shakespeare Center’s adaptation, it is an abridged portrayal. This show is part of a larger exhibition by Japanese fog artist Fujito Nakaya, whose five fog sculptures situated in and around Boston are helping celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of the Emerald Lake Conservancy, a group dedicated to conserving the area’s century-old park system created by Frederick Law Olmstead.

 

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The Actor’s Shakespeare Project  (ASP), a Boston-based theater company whose mission is to share Shakespeare’s immortal words with contemporary audiences, uses an adaptation by playwright Migdalia Cruz, whose full play is on stage now through November 11 at Brookline’s United Parish.

 

Meanwhile, with jets of gray mist pulsing at various intervals as the backdrop, Sunday’s free presentation will take place on the lawn next to the arboretum’s Hunnewell building. Audience members are welcome to bring lawn chairs or blankets and are encouraged to dress for the elements.

 

And finally, Macbeth was recently staged at a place where both actors and audience members deeply related to the characters they portrayed: Twin Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, Oregon. One of the actors portraying Macbeth is currently serving life in prison for murder. (Reporter Noelle Crombie at the Oregonian goes into great detail about the performance and the organizations that bring acting programs to inmates.)

 

“I have done the deed” takes on new meaning, doesn’t it?

 

Photo credit: Nile Scott Shots

Get into the Giving Mood by Donating to Booklyn’s Kickstarter

The year-end fundraiser to keep Booklyn in Brooklyn is nearing its final days. Founded in 1999, the non-profit artists and bookmakers association has promoted, documented, and distributed artists’ books to the general public and educational institutions, dedicated to education through the exhibition and distribution of art books and prints. (For a thorough examination, read A.N. Devers’ piece about the nonprofit here, from the Fine Books & Collections Spring 2015 issue.)
Having long ago grown out of its 600-square-foot studio in Greenpoint, the organization has been on the hunt for a new home, and was recently invited to take up residence at ArtBuilt Brooklyn, a 50,000-square-foot art community at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. There, Booklyn will have a production studio, art gallery, event space, and an office to continue producing artists’ books.

To fund the move, Booklyn went to Kickstarter. Read the rest of the story on the Fine Books Blog. Then see all the goodies available to donors here.

 

images courtesy of Booklyn

Boston Rare Book Week Preview: Blake Etchings

The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair opened Friday, the perfect prompt to preview one of the show’s incredible highlights, courtesy of John Windle: two original etchings from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and a single relief etching of the poem “Holy Thursday.”

First, a little background: In the 1780s, Blake revived the art of manuscript illumination, believing, in part, that the Industrial Revolution had degraded an art form into nothing more than a simple commodity. In response, Blake and his wife Catherine painstakingly printed, bound, and hand colored each book he produced. Few originals survive–only nine copies of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell are known to exist, for example. Slightly more endure–forty, to be precise–of Songs of Innocence, the first of Blake’s illuminated works and is a celebration of youthful innocence.  Find out more, and how much these treasures cost, at the Fine Books Blog.

New Biography on Bernard Rosenthal Makes the Case for Close Reading

In January, bookseller Bernard Rosenthal passed away in Oakland, California, at the age of 96. Fellow bookseller Ian Jackson recently wrote a biography on Rosenthal–read all about it at the Fine Books Blog.

In January, bookseller Bernard Rosenthal passed away in Oakland, California, at the age of 96. Rosenthal was born in Munich in 1920 into a family of booksellers known throughout the industry as the “Rosenthal Dynasty.” Part of the massive exodus of Jewish antiquarian booksellers from Germany during the Nazi regime–the “gentle invaders” as Rosenthal called them–he ended up in New York, where he set up shop in the 1950s. Rosenthal eventually moved to Berkeley, where he focused on medieval manuscripts and early printed books. (For more on Rosenthal and fellow emigré booksellers of the early 20th century, read Nick Basbanes’ chapter “Hunters and Gatherers” in Patience & Fortitude.)

Rosenthal’s catalogs became the stuff of legend in the antiquarian world, in which he described easily overlooked details and craftsmanship that only came to light after careful examination of the item at hand. “We have committed the cardinal sin of the bookseller: we have READ most of these books…which has, however, brought some surprising results,” Rosenthal wrote in one of his early catalogs.

Fellow bookseller Ian Jackson recently wrote a biography on Rosenthal–read all about it at the Fine Books Blog.

Witchcraft Exhibition on Display at Cornell University

Witchcraft Exhibition @Cornell @finebooks #Halloween #witches http://bit.ly/2zqww8R

Fittingly, a new exhibition on witchcraft opened on Halloween at Cornell University. Pulled from the university’s Witchcraft CollectionThe World Bewitch’d spans five hundred years of witch-related material: trial documents, religious texts, spells, and even confessions explore a group of people, often women, marginalized and ostracized from society, with the core of the material hailing from Germany and France. The highlight of the show includes the first book on witchcraft ever printed, as well as handwritten transcripts from European witchcraft trials. Throughout history, witches were often portrayed as either ugly old hags or as alluring seductresses, and the show explores how that view has changed–or not–with the passage of time.  Read more on the Fine Books Blog.

Printing in Paradise: The Earliest Printing in Hawai’i (and Why Massachusetts Matters)

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Massachusetts has an over two-hundred-year connection with the Rainbow State. Back in the early 1800s, missionaries sailed from Boston to Hawai’i, determined to convert the locals and also to bring the wonders of print to those distant shores. Along with religious fervor, the missionaries also brought a second-hand printing press, kickstarting an impressive outpouring of printed material in Hawai’i. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog.