Day 11: National Art Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Monday, July 6, 2015
Our group then left St Paul’s and dashed over to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) where the National Art Library was located.

Entrance on the 1st Floor above the ground floor (via K. Emmons)
Entrance on the 1st Floor above the ground floor (via K. Emmons)

The first room entered was the Reading Room which is public and open to all who desire to use it. They get around 30,000 visitors per year which make up a wide demographic: professionals, researchers, art students, curatorial staff, and others. It’s a reference library so nothing can be checked out, but almost anything can be viewed. They have a couple of items, like the Dickens’ manuscripts, that are also in facsimile form for patrons to view instead of the originals. They also have complete runs of fashion magazines including Vogue. Some of the special collection items we got to see are pictured below.

Cipriano Piccolpasso circa 1556 (via K. Emmons)
Cipriano Piccolpasso circa 1556 (via K. Emmons)

The above item is the oldest book on pottery production. Recipes and techniques found in here have been tested and still work!

Juan de Alcega, published 1589 (via K. Emmons)
Juan de Alcega, published 1589 (via K. Emmons)

The above pictured books is the first published tailor’s pattern book. Before this, tailoring was sort of mystical and mysterious. This book revealed some of the secrets of the trade for middle class clothing; the secrets of making upper class clothing remained hidden.

Published 1594-1598 (via K. Emmons)
Published 1594-1598 (via K. Emmons)

Above you see an example of fine binding. The cover is completely embroidered! The contents are on the New Testament.

Fore-edge painting (via K. Emmons)
Fore-edge painting (via K. Emmons)

You’ll also see that the fore edges are painted. Personally, I love this trend. The Lilly Library, where I work, has a nice collection of fore edge painted books.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, published 1833 (via K. Emmons)
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, published 1833 (via K. Emmons)

The next is a sketch book by Pugin. He created (from his imagination) a castle and all it’s decorations, reviving the gothic style. He was only 21 at the time of these drawings and went back years later to write in what he thought was wrong with them. I didn’t think he should have been so hard on himself, but I guess that’s how artists progress.

The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856 (via K. Emmons)
The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856 (via K. Emmons)

The above is a reference book for artists to use in order to create new styles and decoration. Use the past as inspiration, according to Owen Jones, and “form without color is like a body without a soul.”

Jane and Lucy Fouché, 1892-1898 (via K. Emmons)
Jane and Lucy Fouché, 1892-1898 (via K. Emmons)

The above pages were created by two sisters, the Fouché girls, who wrote about and drew the fashions they wore between 1892 and 1898. As girls are wont to do, they even went back and wrote in the margins if they were horrified to have worn a particular outfit – a “what were we thinking?” moment that we all experience.

E.A. Séguy, 1928 (via K. Emmons)
E.A. Séguy, 1928 (via K. Emmons)

Mr. Séguy took design inspiration from nature; this volume was about insects in particular.

Karl Blossfeldt, 1929 (via K. Emmons)
Karl Blossfeldt, 1929 (via K. Emmons)

Karl Blossfeldt used a homemade camera to take pictures of plant structures – they’re almost architectural, aren’t they?

The book became an object of study in this library. It was an art piece in and of itself. Certainly the works found within the books can be considered art; but book as object was an interesting perspective that I certainly can subscribe to. Just type “books as art” or “book as object” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of hits that describe the movement better than I can, but to me…

…books are beautiful, inside and out.

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