14 November 2011

Iconography Exhibition - Dunedin Public Library

'Why is the Virgin Mary's gown blue?' 'Does that snail in the manuscript's margin mean anything?' 'Who are those figures standing by the Cross?'

These questions were all asked by an inquisitive school group, which recently paid a visit to the the Dunedin Public Library's Heritage Collections. The library's latest Reed Gallery exhibition 'Signs & Symbols: Decoding Mediaeval and Renaissance Iconography' hopes to shed some light on these once familiar icons, and reacquaint visitors with the images and hidden messages of centuries past.

The exhibition includes over thirty-five items from thirteenth-century Bibles to an early-twentieth-century facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible. Christian iconography lies at the heart of the exhibition, with supplementary cases on such subjects as colour, flora and fauna, and the printer's device.

The link will lead you to the digital version, where you may also download a PDF of the item list (6.2MB).

'Signs & Symbols: Decoding Mediaeval and Renaissance Iconography' runs until 22 January 2012.

08 November 2011

Rare Books Summer School 2012, Melbourne

The seventh Australian and New Zealand Rare Books Summer School is being hosted by the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

On offer are:

Artists’ books, zines and other collaborative ventures
6–10 February 2012
The artist’s book has a schizophrenic existence. One of its traditions finds its origins in the luxury livre d’artiste – involving elaborate collaboration between artists, poets, letterpress artisans and master printers. The other tradition is that of the subversive, avant-garde, democratic multiple, frequently self-published or produced by an ideologically committed publisher in large non-editioned print runs and using cheap materials. Russian revolutionary avant-garde books, American, European and Australian minimalist and conceptual artists’ books of the 1960s and 1970s and present-day zines are part of this alternative tradition. This workshop with Sasha Grishin will introduce participants at first hand to some of the finest artists’ books and zines, and their creators.

Professor Sasha Grishin AM FAHA is the Sir William Dobell Professor of Art History at the Australian National University and works internationally as an art historian, critic and curator. He has published 18 books and over a thousand articles dealing with various aspects of art, especially printmaking and artists’ books.

Botanical riches: the art of the book
13–17 February 2012
Books are far more than mere texts, as demonstrated by sumptuous publications on topics such as exploration, botany and garden making. Drawing on the rich collections of the State Library of Victoria, and including privileged visits to other key Melbourne rare book collections, this course with Richard Aitken will reveal ways in which books can be repositories of cultural history, not only through their texts and illustrations, but through their physical characteristics as artefacts through provenance, use (and abuse) and reception.

Richard Aitken is an independent scholar and collector specialising in the literature of the garden. His books include Gardenesque (2004), Botanical riches (2006) and The garden of ideas (2010). He coedits the quarterly journal of the Australian Garden History Society and is writing Cultivating modernism: the literature of the modernist garden (due out in 2013).

Ephemera: a collector’s key to the history of books
13–17 February 2012
Ephemera of all kinds – type specimens, printers’ and binders’ bills and labels, prospectuses, subscriber lists, booksellers’ catalogues, library tickets, trade receipts and more – are a substantial part of the evidence for the history of books in the west. In this course, Wallace Kirsop will look systematically at the collecting, organising and interpreting of such material, drawing on North American, European and Australian examples from recent times back to the 18th century.

Wallace Kirsop is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University and a past president of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia (Victorian branch). He collects and studies trade and library ephemera as part of his interest in the history of books in 19th-century Australia and in France between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The poetics of printing on the iron hand-press
13–17 February 2012
Participants in this course will combine the mind, hand and eye with a classic printing process to explore the physical qualities of text. They will experience hand-rolling both wood and metal type and printing on fine papers with an iron hand-press, learning to use the type creatively, operate the press safely and control the ink when rolling both small typefaces and large surfaces. The emphasis will be on text as image, with poetry as the main focus.

Caren Florance is a Canberra-based printer. She teaches book arts and letterpress at the Australian National University School of Art and operates the private press Ampersand Duck. Her printing output spans both traditional and less structured textual works.

An application and contact details can be downloaded here [The application deadline has now passed, 11.12.11].

Text and image reproduced with permission of Des Cowley, Rare Printed Collections Manager, SLVA.

Pycroft Auction Results

Results from the 2 and 3 November sale of the Pycroft Collection in Auckland. 596 of the 632 lots sold for a total of $546,060. The big winners were:

- Augustus Earle's Sketches Illustrative of the Native Inhabitants and Islands of New Zealand (1838), estimated at $18,000 to $24,000, sold for $30,000. 

- G. F. Angas's The New Zealanders Illustrated (1847), estimated at $12,000 to $15,000, realised $20,500.

- Alexander Mackay's A Compendium of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs in the South Island (two volumes, 1871 and 1872), estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, sold for $26,000.

The pre Treaty of Waitangi Maori land purchase deed (1839) made its minimum of $25,000. The set of Cook's Voyages sold for $16,000, just under its low end estimate of $18,000.

The Dunedin Public Library was successful in securing Sir George Grey's compilation of Maori proverbs with English translations, Ko Nga Waiata Maori He Mea Kohikohi Mai (Cape Town, 1857); Bagnall 2355; Parkinson 468.

07 November 2011

Happy Birthday, William Colenso

From the biography of William Colenso
by A. S. Bagnall and G. C. Petersen.
Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1948.
7 November 2011 marks the bicentennial of the birth of William Colenso (181199), New Zealand's pioneer printer (he was also a missionary, botanist and politician).

[Update: Despite what is stated in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, the Bagnall-Petersen biography, and doubtless other resources, Colenso was actually born on 17 November. This is recorded in his earliest surviving journal for 1833 (held by the Turnbull Library) and is also etched on Colenso's tombstone. Thanks are due to Ian St George for this correction.]

The honour of producing the first printed matter on New Zealand shores actually falls to the Rev. William Yate (180277), whose Ko te Katekihama III, a six-page printing of the third catechism in Maori, appeared in 1830 and survives in two known copies only. Yate's printing venture, however, was unsuccessful. He produced just the catechism and a few hymn sheets before his press was shipped back to Sydney.

William Colenso arrived in New Zealand as printer for the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in December 1834. He served as the CMS printer for eight years and produced a large body of work with little efficient help. An estimated 74,100 books and pamphlets were printed by Colenso between January 1835 and January 1840. Among his most important pieces of printing are: The Epistles to the Philippians and the Ephesians in Maori (1835), the first book printed in New Zealand; the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand (1836), the first printings of the New Testament and Book of Common Prayer in Maori (1838 and 1839 respectively), and the Treaty of Waitangi (1840).

Opening of the Gospel of St. John
New Testament in Maori (1838)
Colenso took an inventive approach to the layout of his type cases. He organised them in a way that was most effective for arranging lines of type in the Maori language, the alphabet for which (developed by church missionaries from the Maori oral tradition) includes about half the number of letters used in English. The Alembic Press website has some very useful examples of the distribution in Colenso's cases, as described in D. F. McKenzie's Oral Culture: Literacy & Print in Early New Zealand (Wellington, 1985): Maori (upper case) and Maori (lower case).

For more information on the life of William Colenso, see his entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.