Dealers in rare books and manuscripts discuss the challenges and benefits of showing their works online and share advice for new collectors.
LONDON — A great drawing or painting isn’t always found in a frame: Sometimes, it’s bound in a book.
Original artworks in rare books and manuscripts dating back centuries will be among the items on digital display Thursday through Monday in this year’s European Fine Art Fair, known as TEFAF Online 2021. Organizers of the fair asked exhibitors to select up to three works that tell an interwoven story.
Four dealers in rare books and manuscripts shared the thinking behind their selections, some with price tags that top $1 million. They are Bernard Shapero and Stéphane Clavreuil, both based in London; Heribert Tenschert in Ramsen, Switzerland; and Jörn Günther in Basel, Switzerland.
Their comments, by telephone and email, have been edited and condensed.
How do you present rare books and manuscripts in a digital format?
STÉPHANE CLAVREUIL We provide the full description and as many photos as possible.
BERNARD SHAPERO We are lucky that books and prints are very conducive to online sales. We have been selling online for over 20 years, so we are well set up, with a finely tuned website and social media operating on a daily basis.
JÖRN GÜNTHER Although presenting the books and manuscripts digitally is very different to a physical fair, it is possible to get a feeling for the quality of the artworks through high-resolution images and the detailed descriptions in online viewing rooms. For TEFAF Online, we also publish a short video with commentary from our experts.
HERIBERT TENSCHERT One thing people really enjoy at an in-person fair is to be in the presence of these works of art. But with an online fair, we can engage the viewer with additional text, photos and videos to really tell the stories of these books in a multifaceted way.
So what are you showing this time?
SHAPERO We have gone with a mini theme around volcanoes, showing a unique Andy Warhol screen print of Vesuvius; a copy of the famous Sir William Hamilton’s “Campi Phlegraei,” which is considered one of the most beautifully illustrated books of the 18th century and the inspiration for tourists to start buying Neapolitan gouaches that became so popular in the 19th century; finally, a glorious, colored copy of Hamilton’s four-volume “Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities.”
GÜNTHER We are showing three outstanding books, each connected by their royal origins. These items give us an insight into the personal bookshelves of these European leaders, as well as the media used for self-promotion and information-sharing before widespread book-printing and modern mass media, like the internet. They are: a first-edition “Theuerdank” from 1517 made for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I; Jean Bouchet’s “Life of St. Radegund,” an illuminated manuscript on vellum for King Charles VIII and his wife, Anne of Brittany, circa 1496-98; and a compendium on vellum for Spain’s King Juan II of Castile and León from 1425.
CLAVREUIL A first-edition, inscribed copy of “Les Fleurs du Mal” by the French poet Charles Baudelaire; a first-edition, woodcut book printed by Jesuits in Beijing for the Kangxi emperor of China of his astronomy observatory and scientific instruments; and a rare 1485 edition of “Herbarius” illustrating 150 plants and their medicinal uses.
TENSCHERT We thought it fitting to evoke the most important private manuscript collection of recent times — that of Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) — with two fine medieval parchment manuscripts that he once owned. The first is a French Book of Hours (an illustrated prayer book) produced in 1425, then bound in around 1580, as a gift of Catherine de Medici for her relative, Marguerite of Lorraine, in golden-brown morocco leather with silver tooling. Our other manuscript is a Book of Hours made circa 1485 in Paris for a young woman, Françoise de Bellecombe, featuring more than 100 miniatures by one of the important royal illuminators. Her husband paid a sum that would be $4 million to $5 million today. What was your favorite find?
SHAPERO Not the most valuable of books, but one I liked very much, was a manuscript copy of the state of the French Navy prepared and given to Louis XVI and bound in green morocco with his coat of arms. He then gave it to Marie Antoinette. It was a personal gift from the king to his queen, a wonderful slice of history. I bought it in Paris when I was quite young in the trade, then sold it the same day and doubled my money immediately. I bought it back 30 years later and it’s now in my stock.
GÜNTHER Two items stand out to me. One, the Stammheim Missal (1170-1180), now resides in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I acquired it from a German noble family who had owned it for around 200 years, and sold it in the mid-1990s to the Getty. I still think it’s the best manuscript in their collection. Another favorite is the 10th-century Etymologiae written by Isidore of Seville. In the 19th century, a collector split the book into two parts, the second of which was passed down to a European collector. This collector came to me in the hope that we might find the first part and reunite the two. The missing half was found, and after 200 years, it was rebound and complete again.
TENSCHERT Having privately bought an incredibly rich 14th-century Book of Hours, illuminated throughout and with 60 (!) full-page miniatures by the so-called Martainville Master, we found out that this must have been the personal prayer book of Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. The manuscript sold immediately. I can’t share the name of the buyer or the price, only that it is an American customer. Americans are waking up to this kind of collectible.
Advice for starting a rare-book collection?
SHAPERO The only advice to any collector, in every field, is buy what you like. This does not mean that you should not do your research or educate yourself in this field — in fact, this is essential — but that however the value moves, up or down, you will always have that love and appreciation of what you own.
TENSCHERT Buy only the most beautiful object you can afford, weed out anything run-of-the-mill or in poor condition. As a lover of books, I must tell you to please keep away from single miniatures, let alone cuttings which remind you only of their being the slaughterhouse waste of once-complete manuscripts.
CLAVREUIL Whatever the budget is, visit as many bookshops as you can and meet the experts in order to figure out the kind of collection you want to build. Trust and learn from booksellers.
GÜNTHER There is no set of rules for collecting, but be clear in your motivations. You can decide that you only want books from one period, or one geographical region, then you can refine your eye through specific study. It’s possible to build a collection at any budget (within reason) and it will be something special if it has been driven by your passion.
The art of making art: Chuck Larson – Evanston RoundTable
As a tree grows, its trunk gets wider and longer. Chuck Larson’s interest and energy in wood craft has grown over time as well but is now narrower and more focused. Now that he is retired, he is spending time spinning his wood lathe making beautiful bowls, vases, and candleholders day and night.
While growing up, Chuck worked with his father using woodworking tools to make a wide variety of functional items, large and small. Over the past 15 years through YouTube videos and other media, along with his own experimentation, he has focused on the challenging craft of creating wood products using a lathe. He notes, “It is fun to be creative. It’s why I do this, and I take pride in what I do.”
Chuck’s wood passion took over his garage. He bolted his lathe—a motorized piece of heavy mechanical equipment for turning wood—to the floor and now heads to the garage to work on his creations whenever he feels like it throughout any given day. He can start and stop at will, leave the work as is, and pick up exactly where he left off without a lot of extra putting away and cleaning up.
What is woodturning? It is the process where raw, dried wood is placed and secured on a lathe. Then the lathe spins the wood at high speed, and an operator presses the edge of a metal gouge—a chisel with a shaped cutting edge— into the spinning wood which carves out portions of the wood to create symmetrical shapes. A common example of an item created on a lathe is a decorative table leg. But turning the wood is just one of the middle stages in Chuck’s overall process to complete a new wood craft.
His first step is to procure wood. He might find a fallen log near his home. He paints a waxy substance on the ends of the log to protect the open surface and sets them in his yard to dry for a few years. Chuck buys other wood pieces from a lumber company that specializes in global hardwoods. His favorite wood to use is walnut, but he has developed “a real fondness” for cherry. Oak is another wood he often uses, prized for its rough and sturdy nature.
When he chooses a fallen log for a project, it is usually in “terrible shape.” He typically must round it off a bit with a saw before it is put on the lathe. The danger of splintering wood is ever present when shaping wood, so a face shield is a must. Once on the lathe, it will stay there until the entire lathe operation is complete. As a result, Chuck only completes one piece at a time.
If he starts with purchased wood, he will cut flat layers and shapes of different woods and glue them together into patterns, like checkerboard, before he puts it on the lathe.
Whether a single, dried piece or a piece made up of glued layers, once it is on the lathe, Chuck turns the piece to make it smooth. His pieces are up to 12 inches wide which is the size limit of his lathe. It is only at this point, after smoothing the item down, that he decides what he will make based on the unique features of the wood that are revealed. If the wood is long, it may be a vase. If squat, a bowl. Using a variety of gouges, he shapes the wood inside and out as it turns on the lathe.
The next stage is to sand the item with an increasingly fine grit sandpaper while still on the lathe. Then, it is polished with a paste that has grit in it to make it ready for a finish. Chuck does not stain the wood so the natural colors will glow through the finished piece. He creates a hard finish with two to three coats of a wax emulsion with drying time between each coat. Finally, Chuck removes the piece from the lathe. It is complete and ready to add a little beauty and utility to someone’s home.
When you purchase any of Chuck’s wood craft products, you know it has received his undivided attention as he makes just one at a time with each unique in style and wood features.
If one were to look around his studio right now, you would see items in several different stages of the process. He has some new wood that he is prepping for vases and bowls for upcoming art fairs and Etsy. While some items take longer to create, he can usually complete one item a day in a good week. And if one were to look in Chuck’s kitchen, you would see his wood bowls being using functionally, not simply sitting on a shelf.
If you are interested in wood craft by Chuck Larson, look for him at woodcraftbychuck.com.
This article first appeared on the Evanston Made website.
Angela Merkel and the art of being ordinary – CBC.ca
German photographer Herlinde Koelbl still remembers her first photo session with a shy and awkward young woman named Angela Merkel back in 1991.
“I was struck by her power even though she was an inexperienced woman at that time,” said Koelbl.
“She was a scientist and then switched to politics. But even so, she already had a strong individuality and also a strong will. She already knew what she wants and doesn’t want.”
Koelbl, now in her 80s, was starting a project to document the impact of power on people over time. She would continue to photograph Merkel, who’s stepping down as German chancellor, on and off over the next 30 years.
When they started, Merkel was 37 and had been a member of Germany’s first post-unification parliament for just a year, and recently appointed minister for women and youth in the cabinet of Helmut Kohl, the father of German unification.
Other politicians in the project included Gerhard Schroeder, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005, and his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, in the late 1990s.
Schroeder is pictured with his trademark cigar while Merkel said she didn’t know how to sit or where to place her arms, recalled Koelble, who gave her subjects no direction beyond a request to be “open.”
But it is Merkel who has stood the test of time, rising to become one of the world’s best-known political figures, but also one of its most enigmatic.
That’s what makes Koelbl’s series of portraits so interesting: searching for the thread linking the awkward MP in her 30s to Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2015, with a cover headline that read: “Chancellor of the Free World.”
By then, Merkel had already been at the helm in Germany for a decade, and Koelbl had started taking her picture more regularly, every year she served as chancellor.
“She really learnt to wear, in a certain way, a mask,” said Koelbl. “She talked about this in the interviews I did with her. That she had to learn it. And I think she learnt it very well.”
Critics and advocates alike will say that Merkel’s poker face and a calm exterior when confronted with more combustible figures has stood her in good stead.
Think former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi or former U.S. president Donald Trump.
“If you want an ingredient of her success, it has been that she’s a very guarded person,” said Klaus Goetz, a specialist in European politics at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University.
“It’s very rare that anything slips out. And she’s not like Boris Johnson or some very sort of impulsive people. She’s very controlled. She’s controlling and controlled.”
‘There is no secret’
“The only secret is that there is no secret,” said Ralph Bollmann, author of a recently published Merkel biography called The Chancellor and her Time.
“She is like she is. And I think only people who have in mind an image of a macho style, a traditional politician’s politician, are wondering if there is something [else behind it].”
Bollmann’s theory is that Merkel learned to keep her own counsel as a young girl, growing up in former East Germany as the daughter of a Lutheran minister.
“As a pastor’s daughter in a communist regime and afterwards as a woman, and as an East German in Western [male-dominated] politics, she always had a good sense of resistance, of not ceding.”
Merkel studied quantum chemistry at the University of Leipzig before moving to East Berlin for work. She was there when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
“In politics, there are very often situations where there is only the alternative to go out or go up,” said Bollman. “She didn’t want to go out.”
Only two other German leaders have served longer in office than Merkel: Prince Otto von Bismarck and Kohl.
Goetz said Merkel stands up poorly when placed against leaders like Kohl, calling her a manager and the latter a visionary.
“Under Helmut Kohl, we had the Maastricht Treaty with the introduction of the euro. We had the opening to central and eastern Europe. We had German unification.”
Merkel’s advocates say it is her skill as a manager that has defined her premiership: an ability to seek compromise into the wee hours and present a steady hand at the helm during times of crisis.
In 2015, when hundreds of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees arrived in Europe, Merkel was criticized for leaving Germany’s border open. Her response to worried Germans was “we can manage.”
Syrians now settled in Germany call her the “mother of refugees.”
WATCH | The legacy of Angela Merkel:
But the turmoil of their arrival also provoked anti-immigrant groups and it was on her watch that a far-right party was elected to the German parliament for the first time since the end of the Second World War.
Bollmann believes her motives were both personal and pragmatic.
“She was a citizen of the former communist eastern Germany. She didn’t want to build new walls in Europe. And she wanted Germany as an open society, as a liberal society to preserve liberalism against populist uprisings.”
Now that Merkel is leaving, the political autopsy on her tenure has begun, one line of criticism being that she has failed to “future-proof” Germany or to leave a vision of where the country should be headed.
A popularity boost
“I think she’s been a stabilizing force there, but she’s definitely not been innovative in any way,” said Travis Todd, a dual U.S.-German citizen who runs a campus for start-ups in Berlin.
COVID-19 gave Merkel another crisis to handle, and another boost in popularity. But it also exposed Germany’s out-dated bureaucracy, still relying on fax machines and regular mail.
“I mean, I think it was maybe last year or the year before we could finally book our train tickets on the public transport via an app, which was mind-blowing,” said Todd.
But despite the criticism, voters have kept her in power for 16 years, choosing her even when the enormity of her imprint blurred the lines of the coalition governments she’s led.
“Germany has loved Angela Merkel,” said Manual Manzor, a member of the Social Democratic Party that managed to edge ahead of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, now led by Armin Laschet, in this week’s election.
“And she was accepted in the whole world as a woman leader, so I think we’ll keep her in mind. But it’s good to have a change now.”
Where did the sparkle go?
So what about that thread linking the young Merkel to the woman stepping down after 16 years in power?
“I could see that she had a moral guiding line,” said Herlinde Koelbl. “And I think she kept it through all these years.
“She kept herself as a human being and I think she is a great politician and a great woman.”
One difference in the Merkel of today, Koelbl noted, is the loss of what she calls a sparkle in Merkel’s eye.
“I think that’s the price you have to pay to be chancellor,” she said.
Koelbl had her last photography session with Merkel three weeks ago, as yet unpublished.
“She didn’t love the cameras, but she accepted to be photographed because it’s part of her position and her job. And so in the last sitting it was the same. It was quite normal.”
Unmasking the Art and Discipline of Local Illustrator and Printmaker, Mariko Ando – Scout Magazine
Meet Mariko Ando, a Vancouver-via-Japan illustrator with a signature slightly sinister storybook style and an admirable dedication to using old-school print-making processes.
If you missed her at Strange Fellows Brewing and OH Studio’s inaugural ‘Harvst Markt’ earlier this month, then be sure to mark December 3-5th on your calendar, when she’ll be participating in their annual Krampusmarkt. In the meantime, satisfy your curiosity about Mariko’s discipline and story by reading our recent interview with the artist below…
You have been working with very old techniques for many years now. What first attracted you to these processes?
I did Intaglio / Etching printmaking in class when I was an art college student in Japan. It gave me goosebumps. I etched and created grooves on the copper plate. It was so beautiful and magical and, printed on paper, it was so rich and deep. I was excited because that was what I was looking for!
Why, when so many people are using new technologies to replicate old styles, do you continue to do them the old-fashioned way, by hand?
Yes, even 25 years ago, digital printer technologies were amazing, high level quality. However, they were never able to print like hand pulled prints. There is a beautiful embossing and depth of the ink on the paper… Well, the new technologies are probably getting closer in fact. Even so, I respect the old style and someone should keep doing and creating in the old style but with new works. Pretty much the same way and same tools we used in the 15th century, which is amazing. That’s another reason I continue with the old printing style.
I imagine that the process of completing a piece of art is very labour-intensive, but also very rewarding. How long does it take you to complete one print? How does it feel when you are finished?
For creating a plate, it takes 3-7 days for one small 4”x6” plate. Then, the inking and printing for one print takes about 30 minutes. A larger plate will be over 1 hour. It feels so good when I lift up the paper from the plate on the press machine and see if I get what I expected or more! And off course if it went wrong, I’m sad and mad, I feel like a falling down in silence. But I go back to inking the plate again right away. I want to erase my embarrassment quickly.
What was your favourite story or storybook growing up?
“Bedtime For Frances” by Russell Hoban. It’s almost all black and white illustration and it is a little bit spooky, but I loved it. And it was a big, booming “MANGA” comic magazine era when I was elementary school kid in Japan. In “Candy Candy” by Yumiko Igarashi, the heroine loves tree climbing, and it showed forest areas in North America. Also, I loved watching “Little House on the Prairie” on TV. My father gave me the book as well. The beautiful nature and big trees were in my mind always since I was little and it makes me comfortable and calm inside. So now I’m here in beautiful green Vancouver. As a teenager, I respected ‘Osamu Tezuka’ and ‘Luis Bunuel’, ‘Brothers Quay’, and ‘Jan Svankmajer’. I was inspired by these dark side fantasies from amazing film legends. I especially loved their awkward worlds in the stop-motion animations. Many people gave me comments that my work reminds them of “Alice in Wonderland”, illustrated by John Tenniel. However, I was more inspired by Svankmajer’s ‘Alice’.
What role did art play in your early life?
When I was a little, I preferred to stay home alone and drawing forever. My parents were very worried, but I was just a happy girl when I was drawing pictures and living in my imagination. I wasn’t good at sports, studies, and was (maybe still am) shy, but was good at art creation and writing a story. My drawing tells me who I am and I can draw it. I feel I’m lucky because written language is unnecessary. Art is the perfect language.
When and why did you decide to pursue it seriously, as a career?
I don’t believe in prophecy usually but I agreed that Nostradamus said the world will end in 15 years. Then I thought I should be what I want to be, what I can do best. I decided to go to the art college when I was 17.
It looks like you’ve been very productive during 2021, so far! How have the past couple of years during the Covid pandemic affected your inspiration and/or artistic practice?
Most art events have been cancelled or postponed, sadly, but actually my life hasn’t changed much. I feel it was busier than normal because I had a deadline for my book illustration and making props for a movie and preparing for our exhibition. It’s all I can do at home without seeing anybody. It’s a good part about being an artist.
To me, your art is playful, mysterious and slightly sinister! Tell me the story of your latest series of etchings. (Who are the characters? Why are they wearing masks? What games are they playing?)
Thank you. ‘The Mask Girl’ in my new work was born during the pandemic. She is very fragile and shy because she hasn’t seen anybody and lives alone, but she has a strong heart. The bunnies are alway there and supporting her quietly, warmly. I hope she will take off her mask someday in the near future.
What was the last unusual or unexpected source of inspiration that you encountered? How did it influence your art?
I painted a 8’ x 30’ mural recently which was organized by VMF (Vancouver Mural Festival). It was a bit challenging because of the large scale and the hot weather. I had to think about how to transfer my fine line image on to the large wall in the limited time. A needle metal pen vs. a big paint brush = 1:100,0000? I’m not sure how many hairs in the paint brush, but it was no problem! It was a bit hard physically but I really enjoyed painting a giant bunny that was bigger than me. I also had great chats with all the wonderful pedestrians passing by.
Are there any other processes or skills that you would like to learn in the future?
I’ve been wanting to do large oil or acrylic painting these days and the mural was a good experience for finding a new style. I have to finish up my new print editions and meanwhile I would love to try to do more painting and more etching printmaking. I’m looking forward to showing my new work in public!
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