Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rare Books Collection

Today I visited the Washington University Olin Library to see a selection of pieces from the Rare Books Collection. I was impressed with the breadth of work available to view. Erin Davis, curator of rare books told me a bit about each piece. My favorite piece was "Song of Songs" printed by C.H. St. John Hornby with the Ashendene Press. Erin told me that there were aproximtely 40 copies of this book printed and the illustrations in each copy are different from one another. The book is small, no larger than 5" x 7", each page printed on vellum. The type is most definitely Humanistic as it was very legible and reminiscent of classical calligraphy. Each page has only one column of type, justified on both right and left. Decorative and colored drop caps are scattered throughout the pages. Towards the beginning of the book is a spread with a large illustration (shown to the above left). The detail in the illustration is amazing. The colors are very friendly but not bold or gawdy, with gold leafing used. The feel of the vellum paper is smooth and light and fits the softness of the typeface and the size of the book nicely. The book is set in "Subiaco" type as this was the trademark typeface of the Ashendene Press. A search for "Song of Songs" on Wash. U.'s library site lead me to an article regarding the acquisition of the "Bromer Booksellers" collection, this book being part of that collection. The article can be seen here. The inside cover/first page of the book holds and inscription by St. John Hornby with his initials and the date 1902. Thru the article I've just mentioned, I discovered that the book is a family copy, given by Hornby to his brother. The trip to the Rare Books collection was nice. I love books and typography and to get the opportunity to see some of the books, or books from the presses that we study in class is really great!

An excellent resource on book arts can be found thru Wash. U's site, linked here.

Washington University Library (online)
Encyclopedia Britannica (online)

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