Jason Dean, Cataloger & Technical Services Librarian at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (and previously a volunteer at the research library here at the Amon Carter), recently told the fascinating story of The North American Sylva; or, a Description of the Forest Trees of the United States, Canada, and Nova Scotia . . . This signal illustrated botanical work by François André Michaux (1770–1855) and Thomas Nuttall (1786–1859) stands as the most important study of American trees before the twentieth century, offering an unparalleled record of species growing in the United States and Canada during the period. As Jason points out, this work not only combines the research of both authors but also offers the opportunity to study two different illustration techniques: early engravings (with hand-coloring) based on illustrations by the famous French flower painter Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759–1840) and later hand-colored lithographs. Crystal Bridges has the 1841 edition (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, 1841) while the Amon Carter has the 1859 edition (Philadelphia: D. Rice & A. N. Hart, 1859). The Amon Carter's copy was acquired on the occasion of Ruth Carter Stevenson’s 80th birthday.
Late last year the research library acquired an intriguing photobook published by Phaidon Press, Stephen Shore's The Book of Books. Starting in the early 2000s, Shore produced a series of print-on-demand photobooks using Apple's iPhoto publishing service. Between 2003 and 2010, he produced eighty-three of these books which were made available in limited editions via various galleries. The Book of Books reproduces all these books in a two volume slipcased set, also in a limited edition (250 numbered copies), print-on-demand format. Get your mind around that! Currently, only two libraries in the country have a copy of this beautiful set of books. Please drop by the research library to take a closer look!
A recent story by Susan Schulten on Fast Company's design blog, Co.Design, highlights the work of Francis Walker, superintendent of the nation's 1870 census. Walker was a pioneering data cruncher and graphic designer, and he's credited with his work on the census, wringing intelligence out of the massive amount of data gathered about the country into a clear, graphic form. As it turns out, the museum's research library has a copy of his Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census, 1870 .... This folio volume, lithographed by New York printer Julius Bien, a popular printer of government documents and map maker of the period, predates the current infographic craze by a long period and is all the more amazing given that its production was by mechanical and hand means alone. Please come by to view the volume in the research library reading room. We also have copy of Schulten's Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-century America.
Some of you may have heard today's interview with Leonard Volk by Kris Boyd on KERA 90.1's Think. As the interview reveals, much of Volk's picture-taking technique and philosophy are embodied in the photographer's new book, Everyday, which includes a selection of images from the photographer's career along with insightful essays. If any of you want to view the book, we have a copy available in the research library.
We offer you the following listing of new books entering the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Research Library, in the month of November. We had a bit of a lean month due to the holiday and staff vacations but still managed to crank out 183 titles. Here are a few selected gems: from 1825, Views in New Haven and Its Vicinity …, an early and diminutive work with hand-colored engravings (only twelve copies reported in WorldCat); Alfonso Ossorio’s Poems and Wood Engravings, ca. 1934, with original prints (some in color); Chromo-mania!: the Art of Chromolithography in Boston, 1840-1910, a gift from the curator of the exhibition at the Boston Athenæum; and, finally, the third set of four photobooks produced by TBW from its Subscription Series featuring the work of Mark Steinmetz, Elaine Stocki, Dru Donovan, and Katy Grannan. Kelly Hunter, library volunteer, contributed the lion’s share of new records this month as she continues her retrospective auction catalog project—these are at the end of the list. All books, with the exception of auction catalogs, are available on the new books cart in the reading room through December. Remember, these books do not circulate outside of the building!
Views in New Haven and Its Vicinity …, 1825
Yesterday library volunteer Jodie Sanders unearthed this turn-of-the-twentieth century article on photographing livestock, particularly sheep and cattle. It comes from the 1899 issue of The American Annual of Photography, an example from the many specialized periodicals on photography that the library collects. We thought we should share this discovery for all you folk taking pictures at the stock show across the street!
Click on the image below to download:
Many of the books in the Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books exhibition feature very delicate, hand-colored illustrations that require an extra level of care. The pigments in the watercolor media used to color the images are very sensitive to light. Exposure to intense light or even lower light levels over a long duration can cause the colors to fade. Though we keep the light levels quite low in the gallery, the duration of the exhibition was long enough to require that we choose new illustrations about halfway through. Early last week we rotated the images on about twenty books. We found that this was not an easy task because it required that the new images continue to work with thematic and aesthetic relationships in the exhibition. In a few cases, it also meant that our art handlers had to create new plastic cradles in order to hold the book open to the new page. But the bonus for our viewers is that they now have the good fortune to see a fresh selection of images. Many of them are at least as, if not more, stunning than the last round. Please come by and take a look!
Yesterday we put the finishing touches on Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books, including applying the vinyl title wall and well as tending to a myriad of other details. This morning the exhibition opened to the public, a few days ahead of its official opening date. Below you see one of the preparators working through the "sticky" process of placing the vinyl on the exhibition's title wall. FYI, I learned that this is the same vinyl that is used for car detailing. The next view shows a very special object in the exhibition: Romeyn Hough's American Woods. Hough spent the good part of his life on this project: he personally collected wood from over 400 species of trees growing in the U.S. to include in what finally came to be fourteen volumes of wood samples and accompanying information. We're showing eight of the wood sample cards in a custom-designed, backlit case, allowing a viewer to study the intricate pattern and color of the wood. The last image shows a section of the finished exhibition installation. All-in-all, I'm pleased. I think visitors will be surprised to find out that between the library collections at the Amon Carter and the Botanic Research Institute of Texas, we have in the cultural district some of the great achievements of botanic illustration.
Today we nearly finished the installation of Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books. Each object on display has a number that connects it with the related object information and discussion that is printed on the large panels that float above each case. Below you see one of the museum's preparators organizing a "deck" of these numbers. Below that you see the installation of the cut vinyl that makes up the title wall. We're getting close!
Yesterday we made a lot of progress toward installing Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books. All the books are now mounted on their cradles and secured to the cases. All the large information panels are also in place. At the tail end of the day, we started setting the light levels in the space. Since this is an exhibition that includes delicate watercolored images, the lights have to be around 5 foot candles in order to preserve the color. In fact, at about half way through the show, we'll have to switch all the illustrations that have watercolor, so there will be an opportunity to see even more spectacular images. Yesterday we also placed the custom case that will show the fascinating samples of wood from Romeyn Hough's American Woods. The case has backlighting that will allow visitors to study the coloring and patterning of the wood. The case is pictured rather murkily in the bottom right hand corner of the image below.