Robert’s Egypt & Nubia and The Holy Land

David Roberts (1796 – 1864) was a Scottish artist famous for being among the first European artists to sketch many of the archaeological sites throughout Egypt and Palestine. In some cases he was the first Westerner permitted access inside mosques and other holy sites. Aided by a camera lucida (light box), he traveled extensively, sketching and painting temples, monuments, landscapes and cities. Upon his return to England, Roberts worked with the lithographer Louis Haghe to produce the entire set of 248 lithographic plates. F.G. Moon published the lavish elephant folio series edition at an enormous cost, and the book is world famous and enormously influential both because of Robert’s detailed architectural renderings in an age before photography, as well as for the quality of its stone lithographs. Although images are readily available online, it is truly a treat to view the actual books (housed in special collections).

Egypt & Nubia: From Drawings Made on the Spot by David Roberts; with historical descriptions by William Brockedon; lithographed by Louis Haghe

The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia / from drawings made on the spot by David Roberts ; with historical descriptions by George Croly ; lithographed by Louis Haghe.

For further reading, see this discussion on Roberts and his travels and influence, or this travel blog which shows the scenes Roberts depicted side by side with present day photographs.

-posted by Ariel B.


Paper: Indispensable Substrate

Currently on view in the library is an exhibit focusing on the indispensable material that artists have used for centuries…Paper!  Most people think of paper as mainly made from trees, which is still pretty much what most of our ordinary paper for daily use is. But did you ever think about what paper was made of before we started using trees? This exhibit shows examples of precursors to the paper we know today, showing the development of surfaces for writing and mark-making from parchment and papyrus to paper made from plant fibers and even old rags. Both European and Asian paper-making techniques are highlighted, with examples of paper-making moulds and deckles, as well as specimens of fibers and sheets. Different kinds of paper have been used to create decorative papers for bookbinding and printing, using such techniques as marbling, block printing, folding and dyeing as in Japanese Itajime papers, Japanese marbling or Suminagashi, and paste papers. Handmade papers have been used in many artists’ books and a selection of student-made books is on display.  Hand Papermaking, a journal devoted to the creation and study of handmade paper has produced a series of portfolios featuring specific image-making techniques, all using handmade paper.

As a substrate for much of the world’s writing and art-making, paper still has the ability to captivate and inspire, to record and dispense ideas, and to add a subtle but satisfying tactile element to communication.

All RISD Library exhibitions are open to the public 8:30 am to 7:00 pm weekdays.  This exhibit will be on view through July 8, 2011

posted by L. Whitehill Chong


If you’ve been to the library recently, you may have seen our new exhibition called Pochoir: Art of the Stencil, which features books which were printed primarily in France in the 1920’s – 1930’s. Pochoir is a hand applied stencil technique used for color reproduction in book printing. Read more about the exhibit and pochoir process here. The exhibit will be on display through April 8th.

Of course, as anyone who has put together an exhibit knows, you sometimes have to make heartbreaking decisions about what to exclude. One of my personal favorites that didn’t make the cut is a 1944 Limited Editions Club copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. This edition was illustrated in pen and ink by Roger Duvoisin and “colored by hand at the studio of Charlize Brakely” (~colophon).  Duvoisin is best known for his series of “Petunia”, “Veronica” and “Happy Lion” books. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and worked in textiles in Paris and the U.S. as a young man. He began illustrating children’s books some time after the silk production firm he worked for went bankrupt in the Great Depression, and went on to have a long, prolific illustration career. I especially love the combination of Duvoisin’s lively pen and ink drawings with the gorgeous candy-colored pochoir stenciling used here. These digital images hardly do justice to the real thing, which is a reminder of why books with pochoir printing are special.

-posted by Ariel Bordeaux

from Suggestions by E.A. Seguy

endpaper illustration by Roger Duvoisin

detail of Roger Duvoisin endpapers illustration

A Northern Christmas

A Northern Christmas Amidst a dizzying whirl of Christmas activity (which I wish was filled with glittering parties, but in actuality consists of more trips to Kohl’s than any human in their right mind should make), this little gem of a book offers a moment of peace and quiet contemplation.

Rockwell Kent and his eight year old son spent the winter of nineteen-eighteen and nineteen in a one room log cabin on Fox Island, off the south coast of Alaska. Excerpted from WILDERNESS: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska, this ‘gift book’, titled A Northern Christmas, is number one in a series published in 1941 by the American Artists Group. It includes Kent’s journal entries written over the Christmas holiday, with woodcut illustrations of the Alaskan wilderness.

“Thursday, December nineteenth
This day is never to be forgotten, so beautiful, so calm, so still with the earth and every branch and tree muffled in deep, feathery new-fallen snow. And all day the softest clouds have drifted lazily over the heaven … It was a day to Live, —and work could be forgotten. So Rockwell and I explored the woods, at first reverently treading on path, so that the snow about us might still lie undisturbed. But soon the cub in the boy broke out and he rolled in the deepest thickets, shook the trees down upon himself, lay still in the snow for me to cover him completely, washed his face till it was crimson, and wound up with a naked snow bath.”

A Northern ChristmasRockwell Kent, with the young Rockwell and their only companion on the otherwise isolated island, a Swedish gold-miner and trapper named Olson, manage to create a magnificent feast and magical atmosphere with the very simplest of supplies and materials.

“Everything goes beautifully; the wood burns as it should, the oven heats, the kettle boils, the beans stew, and the bread browns in the oven just right, and the new pudding sauce foams up as rich and delicious as though instead of the first it were the hundredth time I’d made it. ”                                 ACB

The RISD Library will be closed between December 24 – January 3rd. Happy Holidays!

New to the collection: The Works of William Hogarth

The Works of William Hogarth Esq. RA, with the additions of many subjects not before collected, to which is prefixed, a biographical essay on the Genius and production of Hogarth, and explanations of the subjects of the plates, by John Nichols Esq. FSA.  London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1822           Large Folio NE 642 .H6 N5 1822

William Hogarth, 1697-1764

A recent donation to Special Collections is an early 19th century publication of the engraved works of William Hogarth.  This large folio has over 150 engravings, printed between 1828 – 1837, over 50 years after Hogarth’s death, from the original refurbished plates, and includes descriptive texts and explanations.  It features a large self portrait, many caricatures and political, satirical works, as well as his moral stories, narrated in a series of pictures.

Hogarth, a British painter and engraver, worked at a time when British culture was establishing itself as separate from Continental courts or religious influences.  It was a time of prosperity and growth with liberal political leanings and rather unburdened moral sensibilities.  The influence of politics, social issues, and contemporary drama and novels, can be seen throughout these works.

Hogarth first considered himself a painter and many of his early works were commissioned by wealthy families.  At the same time, he was also interested in genre painting, focusing on “modern moral subjects” and scenes of the lower class.  Although he believed that painting was “high art” and engraving a more mechanical form of labor, he achieved fame primarily for his engraved works.  Among those well known works are “A Harlot’s Progress” (1732), “A Rake’s Progress” (1735), “Marriage à la Mode” (1745), “Beer Street” and “Gin Lane” (1751).  Included in this book are three “suppressed prints” entitled “Before”, “After”, and “Feeding Poultry”, possibly suppressed because of their racy content.

Hogarth was involved in current political issues and along with 4 other artists, petitioned Parliament to protect the rights of engravers, whose work was being pirated and sold by merchants.  The resulting Engraver’s Copyright Act of 1735 gave artists the sole rights to their prints for 14 years from their initial date of publication.  Hogarth also founded a drawing academy in St. Martin’s Lane and in 1753 wrote Analysis of Beauty, a much criticized manifesto on art theory.  The library owns a 1772 copy of this work as well, which was printed posthumously and sold by Hogarth’s widow.

The prints in The Works of William Hogarth are quite beautiful and when you look at them with magnification, you can see that parts of the print were etched and parts were engraved, a practice common in that time period.  The paper is made from rags and is still strong and flexible.  The binding has been re-backed, although it looks like the original boards, which have been covered with quarter bound leather and marbled paper, are still intact.  The book is very large and heavy so it is both a delight and a challenge to view.



The prints are complex and intricate, with many subtle visual clues to the narrative.  Hogarth’s satirical and robust depictions of every day life in the early 18th century seem to echo simliar political and social issues we face even now.  Might we not benefit these days from the vision  and social commentary of a contemporary Hogarth?        LWC

A Recent Artist Book Conference

THE HYBRID BOOK: intersection + intermedia was a three day conference and book fair organized and hosted by the Book Arts/Printmaking MFA Program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, June 4-6.  The Conference focused on the multi-disciplinary aspect of artists’ books as a kind of  “hybrid” art form involving old and new technologies, collaborative processes, performance and interactive digital media.

Conference topics included: Book Arts in Academia; The Future of Letterpress; Modes of Production: Collaborative Processes; Offset Applications: Then and Now; Intersection + Intermedia; Text and the Hybrid Book; Book Art in the Social Sphere; and The Reciprocity of Books and Digital Media.

Highlights of the conference included interviews with internationally known artists Hedi Kyle and Gunnar Kaldewey and a live performance of  “God Bless This Circuitry”, a collaborative book work created by author Tate Shaw and musician Andrew Sallee.

Over 70 book artists exhibited their work at the Hybrid Book Fair.  In addition two gallery exhibitions were held, one featuring the book art of three artists Hedi Kyle, Gunnar A. Kaldewey, and Irma Boom and another the artists’ books of alumni from the Book Art/Printmaking MFA Program at The University of the Arts.  Exhibition catalogs for these will be available soon in the library.HediKyle

The event was well attended by book artists, scholars, educators, students, librarians, and book dealers from the U.S. and beyond.  For more information about the conference, go to the official Hybrid Book website.  For an overview of the conference and detailed reviews of several outstanding artists’ books exhibited there, check out Elisabeth Long’s book arts blog, The Sign of the Owl.  Also take a look at a couple of interactive digital “books” at these sites: My Turning Point , Confess, and War.        LWC