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Yearly Archives: 2022

“Joseph Campbell slept here.”

“Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths. By finding your own dream and following it through, it will lead you to the myth-world in which you live. But just as in dream, the subject and object, though they seem to be separate, are really the same.” — Joseph Campbell

A chance encounter with Joseph Campbell — whose books I haven’t read since college — reminded me that a small town in northwestern Iowa deserves its own myths.

Band Books

book burning

When Hamish Brooke’s shop, Shelf Life, changed hands in 1960 (from his estate sale), it passed through several half-hearted hands to keep the business afloat — without much financial success. Brookes had sold books reluctantly; a book is certainly not an object of commerce, it’s something you adopt. Making a purchase from Hamish involved what amounted to an interview: Were you worthy to be entrusted with this tome? Is your home suitable and safe? His process was more rigorous than application at a social service agency. Recently, however, it has come into enthusiastic new ownership and, in the spirit of our current political discourse, changed the name to “Band Books”. Which have nothing whatsoever to do with high school music instruction. Their specialty are gently used books, of course and as before, but especially those of troubled lineage, found “dangerous” in certain parts. Turns out, it’s the “parts” that are dangerous, not the books.

Consider giving them your custom.

Henry W. L. Hurst [1865–1938]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HURST, Henry William Lowe / “Hal” [1865–1938]

“An Italian Night”

watercolor / 13.5 inches by 8 inches (image)

“Born Henry William Lowe Hurst in London in 1865, he was the son of Henry Hurst, a well-known African traveller and publisher (Hurst and Blackett). He was educated at St. Paul’s School in London and soon after started recording the political instability of Ireland through drawings and illustrations. He travelled to the United States of America where he found work illustrating newspapers in New York City and Philadelphia. Hal returned to Europe studying art at the Royal Academy Schools and the Académie Julian in Paris. He exhibited extensively at all the principal London galleries and was elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1896, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1898, and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1900. He was a founder member of the Royal Miniature Society from its inception in 1896 and elected Vice-President, a position he held until stepping down in 1913 — he was given the distinction of Honorary member status the following year.

“Hal shared a studio at 23a South Audley Street, Mayfair, London with Alyn Williams founder of the Royal Miniature Society. A motivated, prolific and respected artist, Hal illustrated in excess of 20 published books including Mark Twain’s The American Claimant. In addition, his illustrations were published in Punch, Harper’s Weekly, Vanity Fair, The Idler and the Illustrated London News, amongst others.”

[Wikipedia.com]

Stephen Brook [British, contemporary]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

BROOK, Stephen (contemporary British)

“Shaftsbury Avenue”

2022

acrylic on canvas / 12 inches by 12 inches

In the midst of this pandemic, with travel severely restricted, if not impossible, views of familiar places take on special meaning. This striking image of busy Shaftsbury Avenue in central London reminds us of a pleasant yet exhausting afternoon visiting its string of new and used bookstores. London artist Stephen Brook renders the subtle color differences of late afternoons in vignettes like this.

This was a gift to the Collection in memory of Agincourt’s dealer in out-of-print books, Hamish Brooks — no relation to the artist.

Frank Edward Butler [1881–1976]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

BUTLER, Frank Edward (1881–1976; British-American)

Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts

woodcut / 7 inches by 9.75 inches

undated

British-American artist Frank Butler seems to be best known for a 1922 collection of his woodcuts illustrating the Chelsea section of London. Few copies have been available for auction.

Chelsea WoodcutsBy Frank Butler- RARE WOODBLOCK PRINT TITLE WITH 17 ORIGINAL PRINTS -[No publishing information, but probably London: Self-published, 1922]. Softcover with mounted title plate woodblock print on front cover. Measures about 9 x 6-3/4 inches; unpaginated [20 pages: (2-blank), (16-plate pages printed on both sides, each with hand-titled original blockprint), (2-blank)].An apparently extremely rare original edition – OCLC locates no copies and a Google search only turns up a few mentions, including a r eview in “Bookman’s Journal which is Incorporated the Print Collector, Volume VI, No. II, August, 1922” in which the following prints are mentioned: “Carlyle’s House, Cheyne Row, two cuts showing stately houses and humbler group in Cheyne Walk; Chelsea Old Church; Lindsey House, Cheyne Walk; World’s End, and Night ; Battersea Bridge”In about good condition with loose binding an thin brittle stock with covers and some pages chipped, etc., not affecting the prints………………………..Frank Butler was born in England in 1883. He and his wife immigrated to America in 1924, settling permanently in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1926. He was still living in Marblehead in 1971 at the age of 88.

Butler’s view of Boston’s Trinity Episcopal Church reveals the primary geometric power created by architect H. H. Richardson [1838–1886] at the beginning of his ascendancy to the rank of America’s greatest 19th century architect.

John Edgar Platt [1886-1967]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

PLATT, John Edgar [1886–1967; British]

“Staithes, Yorkshire”

1920-1930

woodcut / 25.1 cm x 37.2 cm / #73 of an unknown edition

Without any intention of the sort, the Collection has acquired another woodcut by British printmaker John Platt — the fourth of his works and allied with the work of other artists.

Staithes is a picturesque coastal fishing village in North Yorkshire, possibly a place over-visited by tourists in recent years but surely a remote destination when Platt recorded his visit during the 1920s. Platt was among the earliest British artists to respond the Japanese ukiyo-e or “floating world” printmaking and here he has captured the essence of “place” with a seemingly minimum artistic effort — though we know the woodcut process requires endless hours of carving and perfect registry during the printing phase. In the spirit of current Minimalist art, there is an almost inverse relationship between effort and image: greater complication and effort are required to achieve effortless simplicity.

Platt’s other work can be found here, here, and here. Note the predominance of picturesque coastal themes.

ge·müt·lich·keit

The first — and, who knows, perhaps the only — post of the New Year.

Gemütlichkeit could be my favorite word in the German language, just as “saudade” is in Portuguese. The German word means “a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer”, which is something devoutly to be wished these days. But with more than a little hesitation.

I’m reminded of the admonition that the goal of Christianity is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I wonder if the Germans have a word for gemütlichkeit’s opposite.