Book Porn, no.5


Masterpieces of Etching, selected by Laurence Binyon; Gowans & Gray Ltd., London – Glasgow (1914).  I’ve lauded the large, but the smallness of small books is praiseworthy too.  While not the littlest volume in our library, this one is a near-miniature.  Why anyone would produce an art book on such a scale is a good question.  The images are only a few inches tall. Still, there are some lovely pictures.

Take, for example, the etching on the right by Wenceslaus Hollar, a Bohemian artist and illustrator who lived in London before and after the English Civil War.  It reads: “The Winter habit of an English gentlewoman.”  The oversized muff consuming her left arm and the mask over her eyes I find strange and strangely appealing.  I imagine Samuel Pepys stepping over beggars in the lane to make her acquaintance.  Hollar was so poor at the end that he supposedly had to plead with creditors not to seize his deathbed before he was finished with it.

Here are two portraits by Anthony Van Dyck, after whom the famous style of goatee is named.  “Van Noort” is on the left, and that’s “Vorsterman” leering at him from the right.  All the men in Van Dyck’s portraits wear Van Dykes, which, if it was really so common, makes you wonder why the style was named after him alone.  But maybe it wasn’t popular at all and Van Dyck only added it to his portraits the way a ten-year-old draws moustaches on the faces of people in magazine advertisements.

Here is a man in need of no introduction: Charles Mingus!  …Thanks to his generous narcissism, Rembrandt left us with an awful lot of self-portraits.  He looks something between Socrates and Falstaff, I think (plus a little Mingus).  But if I had a mug like his and could paint like he did, posterity might find itself with a surplus of my self-portraits too.

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8 Comments

Filed under Book Porn

8 responses to “Book Porn, no.5

  1. God, stop it with all the book porn, Ian, you’re getting me hot. And Hollar yet. By the way, they let him keep the bed just long enough. Not like today—the bankers have all our beds.
    TOG

  2. Ian Wolcott

    It’s all about constant titillation here at The New Psalmanazar.

  3. Ah, I see. I missed the “beginning” of your blog, so I’m assuming these are all yours. How long have you been a collector?
    TOG

  4. Ian Wolcott

    A collector of books? I’m not a real collector – very few first editions and that sort of thing. I just live with a lot of them.

  5. Well said. They seem to have taken over my own abode. I even find them hiding in the kitchen sometimes.
    TOG

  6. Your Book Porn #5 sent me to my own shelves to see what little I could find. The smallest is a 36-page volume called “Robert Frost’s White Mountains” (1974), by David Tatham. It measures 4.5 cm by 6.5 cm. The frontispiece is the 10 cent stamp issued to honor Frost, pasted into a small inked-in frame. The book is not much more than twice the size of that stamp. The cover is green leather. It was set in Baskerville type, printed in Holland and bound in France, as the back flyleaf informs me. 500 copies were issued. A dear friend gave this book to me, locked in a small plastic case. I definitely need my bifocals to read it.

    It had never occurred to me that Rembrandt looked rather like Mingus. You twigged it, Ian.

    (P.S.: As of this writing anyway, the two illustrations posted above are identical–the Van Dycks. I’d like to see that “English gentlewoman” in her “winter habit.”)

  7. Ian Wolcott

    Now that sounds like a very special small book.

    Strange about the images being the same. It looks right from where I’m sitting… I’ve tried three different browser to be sure. Maybe WordPress had some issues during the night.

  8. I think WP may have had some, because I see it fine now–the first image. For which having posted it in the 1st place, thanks.

    Mark

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