The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. By Washington Irving
Popular Edition, 1848
I found this in a bookstore in the U District in Seattle. The cover is somewhat dirty but otherwise it's a nice copy of this seminal American book that is more known nowadays for its individual stories than the book itself. You can read more about it here.
I was recently visiting Dongguan in China's Guangdong Province on a family-related trip. It's not really a city that tourists would visit and I hadn't been in almost ten years and didn't have particularly fond memories of it. To my surprise, it has blossomed into a real metropolitan city and become much more pleasant with lots of greenery and better air quality than a decade ago. I had pretty low expectations of having anything of interest to do there, but on our first night, we went to a vegetarian restaurant and then stumbled upon this little shop/cafe called Swallow Book Bar.
It was a charming hangout and had a pretty good selection of books considering we were in industrial China. After a browse, we were headed out the door when a book caught my eye. It was in Chinese (I can pick out a few characters but that's about it as far as reading goes), but it looked promising as something that might have some good drawings. However it was shrinkwrapped and the woman working at the counter couldn't tell me much about what I would find inside. I made out that it was by a Japanese artist, but that was the extent of it. So I literally judged this book by its cover and decided to take a chance on it (thanks go to Vicky who insisted on paying for it).
We unwrapped it as soon as it was paid for and I was pleased to find great drawings of hotel rooms (usually on hotel letterhead), street scenes, and scenery. There are lots of notes on the sketches with wonderful details and I got a real feel for the travel even if I couldn't read the essays.
I finally got to do a little more research when I got home and I was surprised to find that instead of a 30-something woman (I guess that's just who I expect drawn travelogues from?), this book was by an older Japanese male designer/architect, Kazuya Ura. I haven't found too much of his work online except the book Superior Interior Renovations, which seems like a more formal study, but also has some sketchbook drawings like this book. I wish I could find out more about this book in English, but I had to settle for a Google translation of the Chinese publisher CITIC's page. I'm not even totally sure I have the title correct. It's translated in the book as "Tabi Wa Guest Room" but I decided to defer to the title on his Nikken Space Design profile, "Tabi ha Guestroom" (Travel is Guestroom). I hope to one day sit down and figure out what he says in his writings, but for now I'll just enjoy the art.
Today is Walt Whitman's birthday and there is a lot written about his personal life and his life as a writer, but much less is written about him as a bookmaker. He self-published most editions (including the first edition) of Leaves of Grass and was heavily involved in the production of all of his books, even as he advanced in age. The third edition of Leaves of Grass is a particular highlight with some amazing hand-drawn typography on the cover (he made eight different editions of Leaves, each one re-written and re-edited with new poems and arrangement as well as design, basically creating eight different books). There is a great book called Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman which is entirely online as part of the Whitman Archive and goes into real depth about the making of each edition and I highly recommend checking it out even if all you are only interested in is book design. The University of Iowa Press released a facsimile edition of the 1860 Leaves of Grass that you can buy at their website.
Here are some images of the various covers of the third edition of Leaves of Grass (1860):
above image from Whitman Archive
above images are from University of Virginia
Original brass dies used for 1860 edition
all eight editions of Leaves of Grass
above images from Library of Congress
Are You A Bromide? Or The Sulphitic Theory by Gelett Burgess, S.B. 1906
A very weird book this week that we picked up at a small used bookstore solely on the basis of the both futuristic and antiquated illustrations, which are by the author. There is a nice inscription from 1908 asking "Are you a bromide." The book's subtitle is, "Expounded and exemplified according to the most recent researches into the psychology of boredom. Including many well-known Bromidioms now in use." Apparently the author also wrote, "Goops and How to Be Them."