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A Legendary Antiquity – The Kelmscott/Goudy Press

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment
kgpress_depol

Engraving of the KG press by John DePol from American Iron Hand Presses by Stephen O. Saxe

My first look at the famed Kelmscott/Goudy press owned by J. Ben Lieberman was in March of 1997 when I was invited by his son, Jethro, to buy many of the books in Ben’s  library. There it was, standing in all his historic beauty, in a separate room. I knew all about this legendary press from Neil Shaver (Yellow Barn Press)’s The Liberty Bell on the Kelmscott Goudy Press, authored by Ben in 1996. I bought all the books along with the 20-some four drawer file cabinets that contained his detailed correspondence with fellow printers and his extensive files on all aspects of printing history and modern technology. The file cabinets went en masse to the University of Delaware who have organized them for interested scholars. The press was not for sale.

Now fast forward to March 2013 when I got an email from Jethro asking me if I would be interested in purchasing the remaining books that they had kept out from the 1997 sale. Rob and I went to New York and went through the books in detail and bought them (see the collection on our website). These were the books that had been kept out of the first group as they had more sentimental value to the family. And there standing beside the bookcases during our entire visit was the famous Kelmscott/Goudy press that I had seen 16 years earlier. When Jethro told me that he was retiring and wanted to move, I asked him what was going to happen to the press. It was to be sold! I lusted for the opportunity to be part of the sale of that press and told him that I thought it would bring a hefty price because of all the sentimental value attached to it. It was not to be. Jethro decided to let Christie’s handle the sale and they did a great PR job.

 Standing this week in the atrium of Christie’s Rockefeller Center gallery, the press — a thing of dark, Dickensian iron musculature — looked like a rough guest who had shown up for tea. The great platen, with its clawlike flanges, was suspended at rest. But a glance at the pistons above made clear how much force that platen could exert on the paper and printing plate below.

-from the New York Times article that ran the day before auction

The press has just sold for $233,000, a spectacular amount, but then how can you determine a value for such an emotionally stimulating piece of antiquity?  And I got to touch it!

-Bob

 Here’s the listing on the Christie’s website. The press’s new home will be at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT, where curator Steven Galbraith promises it “will have an active life… not simply as a museum artifact, but as a working press accessible to students, scholars and printers.” Read RIT’s press release about the acquisition.

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Some great reviews

August 1, 2012 1 comment

It’s been a while since we’ve showed off the great reviews our books continue to get, and we have quite a stack for you to read. We’ll post half today and half tomorrow. These reviews have been featured in some of the leading journals in the field of books.

Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography by C. Edgar Grissom

One of the most significant decisions on the part of Grissom and the publishers was to take advantage of the benefits of modern technology and include a DVD-ROM with over 2,000 color images of various details such as dust jackets, covers, dummy copies, copyright pages, pages of text, slipcases, spines, and frontispieces. These high quality JPEG images allow one to make in-depth comparisons between different copies and in so doing offer an interesting glimpse into publishing practices at the time.

A writer of such stature deserves a comprehensive bibliography of his literary efforts, and this is exactly what Grissom has compiled. It is a masterful work of careful scholarship that will from time to time need to be updates, yet as a basic bibliography of Hemingway’s canon, it may never be surpassed.

-John Roger Paas, Wolfenbutteler Notizen zur Buchgeschichte

If your pulse quickens upon hearing that a new edition or printing or state has been discovered, then you should stop reading this review and lay hands on this new bibliography. You will find C. Edgar Grissom’s Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography to be the welcome product of a persistent and inquiring mind. One gets the sense that he has chased the sometimes confounding details of his tome to their source—or else pursued them as far as we could have possibly followed ourselves, leaving us with a trustworthy reference tool that answers, but also asks, questions.

The details and depth of this volume delight. Hanneman’s work may have been foundational for two generations of Hemingway scholars, but the foundation of Grissom’s work is Grissom’s work. He began over again, as it were, and concentrated. A self-taught bibliophile, he spent a dozen years at this task. What has resulted is not merely a description of historical artifacts, although it is precise and painstaking in its description. Grissom has produced the narrative of Hemingway’s primary bibliography by first describing, then annotating, and finally supplementing his text with appendices and illustrations. He observes in his introduction “a properly conceived and executed single-author bibliography chronicles the author’s writing career.”

Judged only by the virtues of the comprehensiveness and thoroughness of Grissom’s bibliographical descriptions, his work is without question the new standard for Hemingway scholars.

-Albert J. DeFazio III, The Hemingway Review

 The American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A Bicentennial History by Philip F. Gura

Philip F. Gura’s splendidly written bicentennial history is focused on an institution that has evaded fossilization. He describes the Society’s “evolution from a small library and cabinet museum started by local businessmen and scholars to an internationally renowned library and scholarly center”.

Gura’s chapters are full of such fascinating detail. They tell the tale of how, step by step, a provincial library became a mecca for scholars from all over the world.

William Baker, Times Literary Supplement

Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P. J. M. Marks

The eclectic, sensitive choice of materials makes this collection more interesting than similar works. The chapter content consists largely of illustrations of the bindings in full, and close-up. By Elizabeth Hunter, these photographs are stunning and evocative, encouraging the reader to pore over them for hours.

The work is beautifully printed on quality paper and solidly bound with a lovely dust jacket.

This is a worthy volume for study by scholars and students, and for the coffee tables of discerning laymen.

-G. E. Gorman, Australian Library Journal

This is the kind of book that even non-bibliophiles will look at and go: Wow. You can imagine then how much more of a delight it is to the connoisseur of the printed book, the lover of fine bindings.

This sumptuously illustrated book on bookbinding is also informed by fine scholarship. Most books on the subject of bookbinding tend to be either pretty pictures without the scholarship or scholarship (usually technical) without the nice pictures. By intelligently and deeply drawing from both, Beautiful Bookbindings becomes not just the most exciting, but also the most illuminating, introduction to the art and craft of fine bindings.

-Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu

 I Classici che hanno Fatto L’italia: Per un Nuovo Canone Bio-Bibliografico degli Autori Italiani by Fabrizio Govi

I Classici is a superb reference to be consulted repeatedly for its pithy insights.

Bibliophiles with knowledge of Italian undoubtedly will take delight in perusing this colossal accomplishment and identifying their own favorites.

-Madison U. Sowell, SHARP News

The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson

This meticulously documented and handsomely designed volume obviously belongs in most of the research libraries of the world concerned with fine printing, but it should be held more broadly than just in institutions whose acquisitions are guided by that subject interest.

They have created a fascinating survey of the major collectors of the period and the extended provenance of these volumes.

-Printing History

 A History of Longmans and Their Books, 1724-1990: Longevity in Publishing by Asa Briggs

This is a social history, anecdotal and familiar, of seven generations of a grand publishing house.

There are good reasons for adding the volume to a personal or institutional library, beginning with the fact that a well-designed and well-made book is always worth holding in one’s hands.

-Melvyn New, The Scriblerian

Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly: Book Collecting in a Golden Age by Joel Silver

It is another example of the fine printing and book design for which the Oak Knoll Press has a now well-established reputation. A word of praise for the outstanding dustcover with its excellent photos of Rosenbach and Lilly is appropriate.

Joel Silver writes in an engaging, readable style addressed to the ordinary reader. The result is pleasing in all respects and makes a gift to delight any booklover.

-R. L. Cope, Australian Library Journal

 Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissance by Stan Knight

Historical Scripts is an essential reference book for anyone sincerely fascinated by the history of Western letters.

-Paul Shaw, Codex

Some great new reviews

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

The spring 2012 issue of The Book Collector has some very nice reviews of our books!

The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson

It has been known for years that the Petersons were preparing a census of all known copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer, and I may confess that the idea puzzled me a little: who cares where they exist now, I wondered, so many of them, or what was paid? Half an hour with this immensely painstaking, beautifully organized book showed how wrong I was; for they had the vision to judge a unique situation in the history of printed books, and record it.

Several admirable decisions as to design were taken, converting what might have been mere reference into an enjoyable and charming work. No doubt its authors were largely responsible, but all praise to their publishers too. — Colin Franklin

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell distributed for The Caxton Club

Finely produced and edited — imagine producing a book with more than fifty contributors — and with well-chosen photographs, this is a work which will resonate with almost everyone interested in books and their history. Every book collector who opens it will find some book to covet, and something to learn. — Christopher Edwards

The Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem: History of the Atlas and the making of the facsimile distributed for HES & DE GRAFF

The book provides the general reader with a most informative and prettily illustrated introduction to the atlas and its place in the culture of its time and in the context of Van der Hem’s other collections of books, prints and drawings which were sold at auction in 1684. — Peter Barber

Field & Tuer, The Leadenhall Press by Matthew Young

Matthew Young’s researches into the Leadenhall Press have extended over many years, and his short introductory essay is detailed and informative. The checklist of the press, upwards of 450 items, is similarly instructive, as are the Tuer checklist, details of the ephemera, and notes on the various series. There is a useful bibliography, with a comprehensive Index. The illustrations, especially those in colour, provide an entertaining grandstand from which to consider the widespread curiosities of the press. Apart from its bibliographical detail, it must be said  that the present volume has had the considerable advantage of having been designed by the author, a typographer himself, so that the proportions of the text to the page are in perfect order, with balanced margins, and a seemly organization of the text matter. The binding is neat, with an elegant dust jacket.

This is a useful account of a press whose publications have largely lapsed from current view, Young’s essay bringing to life what proves to be a surprisingly long checklist. — David Chambers

A New Blog!

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll recently published The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson. The book locates and describes as many copies of the Chaucer as possible, reconstructing their history of ownership and supplying a narrative of each known copy that came off the press.

Now, to accompany this new publication, the authors have created a blog titled, The Kelmscott Chaucer. As the publication of their new book will undoubtedly bring even more copies into the open, the Petersons are using the blog to record new information and keep the book up to date. As an excellent venue for those interested in studying the Chaucer even further, the authors are welcoming additions or corrections to their Census and would love to hear your comments. Click here to check out the new blog!