Friday Find: Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha

Progress on our rare book cataloging project is slow but steady. Tucked in among some 19th century American

The catalog is bound in sand paper and screws. Title is pink flocking.

The catalog is bound in sand paper and screws. Title is pink flocking.

bill title pagelandscape titles was this exhibition catalog of Billy Al Bengston’s exhibition at LACMA in 1968. The catalog itself is a work of art. Designed by Ed Ruscha it is what we call today an artist’s book. The exhibition itself was designed by Frank Gehry. This was a powerhouse! Produced in a run of 2500 the catalogs are bound in sandpaper (100 grit on the front board and 50 for the back) and button head screws bind the work. It begs to be touched!

For a first hand account of the landmark exhibition check out this interview with Bengston and Gehry.


Here we go!

2014-04-04 16.43.26About 6 months ago I privately committed to cataloging one rare book a week from the collection.  With this post I officially make public my intent with the additional intent to post particularly interesting (or devastating) cases here. My best estimate puts the total un-cataloged volumes in the collection at 300 and under cataloged titles at about the same.

To get things started I present this gem which I stumbled across purely accidentally in my hunt for a Miró portfolio for a researcher which I thought I’d seen some months ago. Tucked in under the portfolio was a tissue wrapped volume with the title The Grandeur of the Gorges labeled in pencil. As a librarian in an Art Museum I’m always on the look out for titles which may support curatorial research and I thought perhaps this title would prove valuable to some ongoing regional White Mountains research. We have gorges in New Hampshire! In fact The Grandeur of the Gorges by Donald Mennie was published in 1926 (our copy is the second edition published in 1932)  and contains 50 plates of the Yangtze Kiang in China. 12 plates are hand-colored. Coincidentally a volunteer and I are working on a library exhibition centered around a collection of late 19th and early 20th century travel photo albums from a Navy Rear Admiral. Many of the photographs he collected were of the Chinese landscape. Perhaps we will find some Mennie images in his albums!

The Grandeur of the Gorges followed several earlier publications by Mennie documenting the Chinese landscape.  He was born in Scotland and according to the limited sources available about his life he died in an internment camp in Japan in 1944.  Research as to the provenance for this volume is ongoing and I will share details as I come across them.