The Library of Congress has organized a special exhibition of 84 rare, illustrated books from its Rosenwald Collection, as well as related materials, that will travel to New York and Dallas in addition to being presented in Washington, D.C. The exhibition's first venue is the Grolier Club in New York, 47 E. 60th St. at Madison Avenue, where it will be on display from Dec. 8 through Feb. 5, 2005.
"A Heavenly Craft: The Woodcut in Early Printed Books" offers visitors from around the world, including members of the rare book community and the art world and book enthusiasts and lovers of the graphic arts, the opportunity to view an impressive group of books illustrated with woodcuts from the late medieval and early Renaissance periods.
The books on display were formerly owned by British collector C.W. Dyson Perrins (1864-1958), heir to the Lea and Perrins fortune, who sold them at auction in 1946 and 1947. Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891-1979), retired chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and a noted philanthropist and collector, purchased 84 titles at the sale and was its most important buyer. The books came to the Library of Congress as part of Rosenwald's larger gift of illustrated books, a collection considered to be one of the most important private libraries formed in the 20th century.
Printed during the first century after Gutenberg mastered the art of printing with movable type, this collection of 15th and 16th century books offers viewers an insight into the origins and development of woodcut design. The exhibition contains examples that illustrate changes in woodcut technique, composition and coloration and document the development of national tastes and styles as they evolved in Western Europe. It includes woodcuts from German, Italian, Swiss, French, Spanish and Netherlandish books and highlights the printers, artists and artisans who mastered the art form and contributed to this often overlooked but important field of book and art history. Finally, the exhibition explores how the artistic influences of Renaissance painters, illuminators and sculptors transformed the woodcut into a medium of fine art. Many of the books in the display are on religious subjects and contain images that reflect the dominance of the Judeo-Christian tradition in Western Europe.
"A Heavenly Craft" is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog that explores the themes of the exhibition. In addition to full descriptions of all the books on display, it includes scholarly essays by Paul Needham, Lilian Armstrong, and Daniela Laube, as well as an introduction by Daniel De Simone, the curator of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress. The catalog will be available at the Grolier Club during the run of the show, at $35 in softcover, and $50 in hardcover.
The exhibition is made possible by the support of Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. (Bud) Smith. The accompanying catalog and related exhibition events are supported by generous gifts from the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (www.fabsbooks.org), Jonathan A. Hill, Ray and Lorraine Perryman, The Berkley Foundation Inc., Donna L. and Robert H. Jackson and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
LOCATION AND TIMES: "A Heavenly Craft: The Woodcut in Early Printed Books," will be on view at the Grolier Club from Dec. 8, 2004 -Feb. 5, 2005, except for Dec. 23-27, 31, and Jan. 3, when the Club will be closed for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM. Open to the public free of charge.