Author Archive

Cupid at the Clark

February 14, 2014

By Library Assistant Nina Mamikunian

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at the Clark! We love all of you book lovers, and to show our appreciation, here are a few of my favorites from Cupid and Psyche, wood engravings by William Morris from 1881.

Admirers of the beautiful Psyche neglect their worship of Venus. Offended, Venus commissions Cupid to enact her revenge.

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Cupid, in search of Psyche on a faintly moonlit night:
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Upon finding her, Cupid falls deeply in love:

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Morris engraved these images for a proposed edition of The Earthly Paradise.

Letters in the Landacre Archive

January 15, 2014

By Library Assistant, Nina Mamikunian

Over the Fall quarter I had the pleasure of working in the Clark’s Paul Landacre archive. Landacre, born in Columbus, Ohio in 1893, was a self-taught wood engraver and illustrator who was active in fine press printing in Los Angeles beginning in the 1930s until his death in 1963. He first showed his work in Jake Zeitlin’s bookshop, and over the years illustrated books for Zeitlin’s Primavera Press and the Ward Ritchie Press. Landacre’s engravings are incredibly detailed and his prints (he printed his work himself on a Washington hand-press) are stunning: dramatic and sultry, capturing both the tumult and serenity of the California landscape in stark black and white. Landacre’s skillful and patient hand is evident in each line.

My research focused on Landacre’s professional and artistic achievements but I couldn’t help but lose myself in some of more personal material contained in the archive. There was the lock of Margaret’s (his wife of nearly forty years) hair, the dance cards and track numbers from his college-athlete days, and scores of letters from friends from around the country. While not every letter related directly to my research questions, they helped immerse me in the Landacres’ world. One of my favorites came from Delmer Daves, writing from a hotel in Berlin. The text of the letter outlines a particularly visible watermark on the hotel stationery.

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Other favorites include a series of letters from a friend serving in the Navy in the 1940s who grew more and more exasperated with Landacre’s lack of letters. (And Landacre did procrastinate with his correspondence. The majority of his own letters start with some variation of “sorry I haven’t written to you yet”!)

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Dear “friend”, Do you have a broken arm? Or don’t you have a stamp?

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Dear Mr. Landacre, You make me mad. For godsakes, can’t you write?           

Also striking were letters that reflected some of the turmoil of the times, such as this letter expressing support for Sueo and Mary Serisawa, good friends to the Landacres. Sueo, a painter, was a Japanese immigrant, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Serisawas left California for a time for fear of internment.  In the letter, Landacre says “It is my hope that Mr. and Mrs. Serisawa be accorded courtesy and consideration under all circumstances. They deserve it.”

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I wish to assert emphatically that Sueo and Mary Serisawa are two of the finest people it has ever been my good fortune to know.

There are many more treasures in the Landacre archive. And for more info on Landacre, check out Clog posts, here and here!

Size Matters: A Moment with the Miniature Books by Library Assistant Nina Mamikunian

November 25, 2013

The miniature book collection at the Clark Library is probably one of our most eye-catching yet least-used collections. As much as I would love to see our scholars pore over these tiny tomes, magnifying glasses in hand, the fact of the matter is that the miniature books hardly leave their shelf. However, whenever there is a tour or a class visit, invariably there is at least one person who notices the cabinet and is instantly fascinated, asking “Are they real?” and “Can you actually read them?” I am here to tell you that yes, they are real books, and yes, you might have to squint, but you can read them.

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There are a few of the miniature books in the collection that I would like to highlight, particularly Barbara Raheb’s Oscar Wilde editions. Our Oscar Wilde collection is extensive (and well-used) but Raheb’s books are unlike any other, as they are only 24 millimeters tall. That’s slightly less than an inch!

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Raheb first came to miniature books by way of miniature dollhouse accessories. According to Robert C. Bradbury’s 20th Century United States Miniature Books, it was Queen Mary’s dollhouse at Windsor Castle that first captured Raheb’s attention, and she began producing miniature books for dollhouses in 1976 under the name Mudlark Miniatures. In 1980 she began using the imprint Pennyweight Press and focused her attention on books for miniature book collectors. Raheb’s prolific output (over five hundred miniature books according to Bradbury) and the high caliber of her work earned her the Miniature Book Society’s Norman W. Forgue award in 1995 for her outstanding contributions to the miniature book world.

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These miniatures are undeniably “real books.” Raheb’s books are bound in leatherette, have marbled endpapers and gilt titles on the covers and spines, are illustrated and have text. And as long as there have been books, there have been miniature books. A excellent overview of miniature book history can be found over at the Lilly Library’s online exhibit “4000 Years of Miniature Books” [http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/miniatures/index.shtml] But the miniatures are nearly impossible to read without a magnifying glass. And if books are meant to be read, what, then, is their appeal? For starters, they are easier to carry around (this was important for the traveling libraries) and they are sometimes easier to hold (and this was important for children’s books). Miniature books are also easier to conceal. The first book on contraception, Fruits of Philosophy; or, The Private Companion of Young Married People, by Dr. Charles Knowlton in 1832 was a mere 2 7/8 by 2 1/2 inches. (When Knowlton, who did not include his name on the book, was discovered as the author, he was briefly jailed.) [“Why Miniature Books?” By Anne C. Bromer, http://www.go-star.com/antiquing/miniature-books.htm%5D

But there is no need these days to conceal The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Selfish Giant and paperbacks are easy enough to carry aroundWhy mini books today and why so incredibly mini? As Doris Welsh points out in the The History of Miniature Books, miniature books are charming. They captivate the imagination. They are tiny marvels that take a tremendous amount of effort and time. For me, their tininess draws attention to aspects of bookmaking that I might overlook simply due to over-familiarity. I rarely think about font-size with most books, but show me a miniature book and suddenly I want to know how tiny the type is. (Raheb’s are done in 9-point font and then photographically reduced. In the nineteenth century, before the advent of photoreduction, typesetters and publishers cast incredibly tiny 2- and 3-point fonts.) Miniature books, such as “Thumb Bibles” and “lilliput dictionaries,” were often produced for their novelty and to show off the publisher’s skills. What’s striking to me when looking at pictures of miniature books in bibliographies or online is that — unless there is something else in the picture to show the scale — I would never be able to guess just how incredibly small and marvelous these books really are.

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Roads of Italy

November 5, 2013

By Library Assistant Karie Jenkins

Le porte-feuille necessaire a tous les seigneurs qui font le tour d’Italie(Roads of Italy: A guide book necessary for all gentlemen who do a tour of Italy…)

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This book acquisition by  the Clark Library was made to compliment the recent collection acquisition of twenty manuscript notebooks and journals of  eighteenth century science, travel, and culture by Louis-Benjamin Fleuriau de Bellevue’s Grand Tour of France and Italy, 1788-1791.

Fall has arrived at The Clark and many of us are mourning our summer vacations.  Just thinking about the possibility of taking time off to travel can make one absolutely wanderlust.  Some of the places one may wish to visit could be romantic and rich with history, or more picturesque and quiet.  Wherever it is we wish to go, we know transportation is reliable.  Traveling can be as simple as printing out tickets and jumping into a rental car with a built-in GPS.  Either way, traveling has become easy and efficient.  This level of advancement has caused the traditional use of maps and atlases to become antiquated. The maps and atlases of the past can tell us what travel used to be like back when these materials were essential tools for navigation.

Today I came across a bilingual travel atlas called “Roads of Italy,” published by Andrew Drury in London, 1774.  The atlas was printed in both French and Italian, as these were the primary languages of the time, and it was intended for the multilingual English traveler.  It has 27 hand-colored etched maps that fold out like mini-accordions.  The place names, cities, and landmarks were all printed in Italian.  According to the atlas, it can be assumed that being familiar with multiple, popular languages was crucial for navigation during the 16th century.

Roads of Italy Title Page

Aside from the maps, there is a section dedicated to the cost of room and board, and transportation.  Such questions are answered as will the English traveler be riding two horses or one?  What will the cost of lodging be and who are the most trustworthy innkeepers?  These questions of Drury’s travel atlas evoke a rather intimate relationship between person and object. The atlas is not simply a book, but a dependable guide that offers reliable information during moments of wanderlust or business travel.  The knowledge of the regions were reflections of Drury and his contemporaries based on past experiences and word-of-mouth.

There is not much written about Drury’s life aside from the fact that he was a member of the Duke’s court and a publisher of various atlases, some of which are located at The Clark Library. We may not know who the atlas was printed for specifically, but we can certainly understand how people during the late 18th century approached travelling by analyzing these books.  Today, Drury’s “Roads of Italy” can be seen as a tactile narrative of London’s history of navigation.  No longer used for a utilitarian purpose, the atlas has transcended into an eminent relic, which pronounces how immensely difficult traveling was and how courageous the men and women were to pursue such a feat.

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Clark Library Call Number:

DG424 .P84 *