Tag Archives: acquisitions

On Display @ Kunming City Museum: Barney Rosset, Publisher-Hero as Combat Photographer in China

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ (CUL/IS) Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the opening of Barney Rosset, Publisher-hero as Combat Photographer in China, an exhibition at Kunming City Museum, in Kunming City, Yunnan, China, which features a collection of RBML’s photographs of China from World War II by Grove Street Press publisher Barney Rosset.

Astrid Rosset at the opening of Barney Rosset, Publisher-Hero as Combat Photographer in China at Kunming City Museum (Photo: Arthur Bijur)

The exhibition, which opened on February 20, was co-curated by Bob Bergin, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer; Astrid Rosset, Barney Rosset’s widow, and Karla Nielsen, Curator of Literature at RBML. The curators chose approximately 100 images from the collection, which were then digitized by the RBML and printed by the Kunming City Museum.

The photographs in the exhibition were taken by Rosset during his time with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in China toward the end of World War II (1944-1945). In 1945, Rosset was tasked with documenting for the United States that Chinese soldiers were willing to fight. The photographs depict Chinese and American soldiers in training and combat, the devastation caused by the Ichi-Go operation (The Battle of Henan-Hunan-Guangxi), the largest Japanese land campaign of the war, the Japanese retreat, and the signing of the surrender in Nanking. Rosset joined the Chinese troops at Kweiyang, the deepest point of Japanese penetration before they began to retreat.

Little documentation from this period remains in China and the newly opened Kunming City Museum was eager to mount an exhibition of Rosset’s photographs. According to Bergin, Rosset (who passed away in 2012) wished that his photos of a difficult period in Chinese history could be shown to China’s new generations.  The exhibition includes digital prints of his photographs, copies of letters he wrote home during that period, and documents that demonstrate Rosset’s interest in China throughout his life and career.

Rosset bought the fledgeling Grove Press in 1951 and transformed it into the leading publisher of avant-garde literature and political writing. Grove published Che Guevara, Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, and Malcolm X.

Concurrent with the brick-and-mortar exhibition in China, the RBML has created an online exhibition containing many of these images, which can be viewed on the exhibition website.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Archive of Russian Émigré Poet Lev Loseff

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ (CUL/IS) Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the papers of Lev Loseff (1937-2009), noted Russian émigré poet, literary critic, professor of Russian Literature at Dartmouth College, and a lifelong friend and authoritative biographer of Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996).

 

Brodsky & Loseff. (Photo: Loseff Family Collection)

Born Aleksei Lifshits, Loseff was the son of Vladimir Lifshits, a well-known Russian poet. He graduated from the Leningrad State University and soon after started writing poetry for Russian children’s magazines. In order not to be confused with his father, he changed his name to Lev Loseff.

The collection, which contains approximately 40 feet of linear material, is comprised of manuscripts, poems, correspondence, photographs, and autographed first editions of Loseff’s work, as well as a significant number of subject files on Joseph Brodsky. Brodsky’s correspondence, drawings, typed and holograph manuscripts, and books with inscriptions cover the period 1969 to 2001. Some of the photographs cover an even earlier period in Brodsky’s life in Soviet Russia. The collection also includes legal papers relating to Joseph Brodsky’s will.

“These papers represent an important addition to the already rich collection of Russian materials to the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture at RBML,” said Tanya Chebotarev, Curator of the Bakhmeteff Archive.  “His correspondence with well-known Russian émigré intellectuals including Sergei Dovlatov, Ivan Elagin, Konstantin Kuzminsky, Leonid Rzhevsky is complimented by his research materials on these significant representatives of Russian Diaspora.”

Loseff immigrated to the U.S. in 1976, and spent several years in Ann Arbor working for the Ardis Publishers while obtaining his American doctoral degree. In 1979, he accepted a position at Dartmouth College where he worked until his death. He published 14 well-received collections of verse, as well as numerous works of literary criticism.

The collection offers valuable research opportunities on Russian émigré literary circles and Twentieth-century Soviet literary culture. The collection will also enhance the research and outreach activities of both the Harriman Institute and the East European Studies Center, both recipients of recent NEH Summer Institute grants for the study of America’s Russophone and East Central European diasporic communities. The Loseff collection constitutes an important complement to Brodsky materials already held at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, The Russian National Library, St. Petersburg, and the Green Library, Stanford University.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

RBML Acquires Kitchen Sink Press Archive

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Kitchen Sink Press (KSP) archive, publisher of underground comics between 1969 and 1999 under comics artist, historian and publisher Denis Kitchen.

KSP published many of the most important names in comics history, which are represented in the archive’s files, including Harvey Kurtzman and Will Eisner, two key figures of 20th century comic art.  Kurtzman (1924-1993) was the founding editor and creator of Mad magazine and later founded the satire publications TrumpHumbug, and Help!, and co-created Little Annie Fanny for Playboy.  Eisner (1917-2005) is recognized internationally in the field of sequential art, a term he coined, and created The Spirit in the 1940s and ‘50s. In part through his work with KSP, he became the acknowledged pioneer of the graphic novel; his collection of stories A Contract with God is widely credited with establishing the form as a unique and viable literary form.

“These archives do far more than simply document comics history; they are a chronicle of the cultural and social history of the twentieth century,” said Karen Green, librarian and developer of the CUL/IS comics and graphic novels collection.  “Kitchen Sink Press was so much more than merely an underground press, publishing everyone from giants of the early newspaper strip such as Al Capp and Ernie Bushmiller, to mid-century innovators Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman, to underground pioneers such as R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, and Art Spiegelman.  As a result, in both publications and correspondence, the archive captures the changing mores of a turbulent time.”

The KSP archive’s correspondence files are a time capsule of 20th century comic artists from the 1930s onward, with over 50,000 letters, many of which contain draft artwork and both published and unpublished story ideas. Notable contemporary creators represented in the files are Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, and Neil Gaiman.  A sizeable percentage of the files are hand-written, documenting the artists’ careful lettering and illustrations.

Kitchen date-stamped virtually every letter on receipt, kept its envelope and attached a copy of his own response, creating a carefully preserved and deeply comprehensive archive. Kitchen’s early correspondence with Art Spiegelman predates his Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust memoir Maus by several years, and Kitchen helped publish some of the early Maus strips more than six years before Spiegelman began to publish them in Raw, the magazine Spiegelman co-edited with his wife, Françoise Mouly.

“Apparently I am a natural-born archivist,” said Kitchen.  “I will miss the rows of file cabinets full of handwritten letters, illustrated letters, and even letters that came out of devices called typewriters, all created before the digital age made traditional correspondence all but obsolete, but I hope they provide scholars with insights into the development of underground comix and the work of the multiple generations of creators I had the distinct pleasure of working with.”

KSP began publishing underground comics in 1969 when Kitchen, a comic artist before he became a publisher, began self-publishing after encountering payment problems for his own commissioned artwork. It was an alternative, idealistic publishing model, more artist-friendly than the work-for-hire commercial model.  Artists could keep their own artwork, retained the copyright to it after publication, and were paid royalties instead of flat rates – a significant departure from the commercial norm at the time.

Early on, Kitchen received requests for publication of unsolicited artwork and stories.  He published artists both well-known and virtually unknown, commanding quality above all other factors.  A lifelong comics fan and collector, he also corresponded with artists of previous generations and would republish their sometimes long-forgotten works.  In this, KSP took a path different from the other major underground comics publishers, and brought all of 20th century comic art under its umbrella, documenting the progression of the field in a way no other publisher did at the time.

The archive, which contains over 200 linear feet of material, embodies three decades of innovation and transformation in the field of comic art and visual storytelling and includes a roster of the most important names in the industry.  Correspondence, publishing and editorial files, mechanicals, original art and mock-ups, business files and more comprise the meticulously preserved collection.

“One of Columbia’s great strengths is the history of American publishing in the 20th century,” said Michael Ryan, director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  “Few libraries have archival holdings as deep and as rich in major commercial publishing as Columbia.  The acquisition of Denis Kitchen’s spectacular archive builds on and adds to this impressive array of material.  It would be hard to find someone more important than Kitchen in the business of comics in the later 20th century.  He helped launch the careers of many of the major comic artists of today.  His archive, when opened, will prove indispensable to researchers in the field.”

This acquisition supports a major collecting strength of the RBML, the history of publishing and related archives, with notable recent additions including the archives of Granary Books, the Dalkey Archive Press, Ballantine Books, and the papers of Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press.  Additionally, it is the latest development in CUL/IS’s support for research, teaching, and learning with comics and graphic novels.  Since its beginning in 2005, a growing circulating collection of such graphic novels at CUL/IS has inspired scholarly inquiry, as well as academic writing and coursework, including The American Graphic Novel, a course co-taught by Columbia University Professor Jeremy Dauber and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz, and a long-running summer course on comics as literature.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Granary Books Archive


Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the archive of Granary Books, one of the country’s most significant artist book publishers operating today.

Founded in 1981 as a distributor, Granary Books began publishing under the direction of Steve Clay in 1985. Granary Books’ mission is to produce, promote, document, and theorize new works exploring the intersection of word, image, and page.

“It is a privilege and an honor to have the Granary Books Archive acquired by Columbia University and to be part of a growing number of independent small presses whose papers are held in its Rare Book and Manuscript Library,” said Clay.

The archive includes thirty-year’s worth of production files for limited edition books by renowned artists, graphic designers, printers, and poets, including Nods, a collaboration with John Cage, Barbara Fahrner, and Philip Gallo, and titles by Charles Bernstein, Cecilia Vicuna, Jen Bervin, Johanna Drucker, Emily McVarish, Anne Waldman, and Jerome Rothenberg.  Other notable artists include John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, Francesco Clemente, Robert Creeley, John Yau, Leslie Scalapino, Kiki Smith, George Schneeman, Buzz Spector, and Ron Padgett.

Granary Books has also published trade editions of exhibit catalogs, out of print and first edition poetry, and books about books, particularly artist books – notably Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists’ Books.  The archive includes Steve Clay’s extensive correspondence with writers and printers, and other artist book press proprietors, as well as electronic records, including almost two decades of email.  Additionally, the archive includes primary source materials from several important New York School and LANGUAGE poets not otherwise well represented in the RBML collections.

The Granary Books archive complements the BOMB Magazine records and Kulchur Foundation records in the RBML, which include materials by many of the same artists and writers that Granary Books has published.  This collection connects many of the collecting strengths of the RBML: artists’ books, publishers’ archives, and the archives of significant twentieth-century book designers.

“For years, Granary Books has been assiduously mapping the rocky terrain of contemporary American poetry,” said Michael Golston, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University. “Columbia has scored a major coup in acquiring the archive – generations of scholars will work on these materials, shaping and reshaping the history of the art and of the discipline.”

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The Libraries’ website is the gateway to its services & resources: http://library.columbia.edu/.

Never enough Sébastien Le Clerc

 

I saw Sébastien for the first time last year. Indeed, I fell in love with the beauty of his engravings on viewing his Pratique de la geométrie (Amsterdam: Pierre Mortier, 1691). Although this is a geometry textbook, with plates to illustrate concepts and theorems, my Sébastien added beautiful views and figures to every one of the 80 plates. How can one resist this need to add superfluous beauty to a text book?

Sébastien Le Clerc (1637-1714) was a celebrated French engraver, with expertise in military architecture, geometry and perspective. He made prints, illustrated books, and wrote popular books on geometry and architecture. Géométrie Pratique was translated and reprinted for decades: RBML holds five French editions (from an incomplete first ed., 1668 to a 1764 version “a l’usage des artistes”); four editions in English; and two in Italian. Just this week, I opened the package with the English edition of 1727, bought from a catalog. I wanted to see the plates – did the English printers acquire Sébastien’s own plates? Would they be hideous English substitutes?

 

 

It turns out they are decent copies of the originals. Definitely copies: you can see that the English etcher had Le Clerc’s prints in front of him and copied them as he saw them, so that when the plate was printed, the picture – including the mathematical diagrams – were reversed (he did get the letters to read correctly). The copied etchings aren’t bad, though maybe not as fine as Le Clerc’s. What does surprise me is that the letterpress printing in the volume also closely mimics the French original, and if anything, the English printing is more accomplished than the French.

The Avery Library has also found that it does not have enough Le Clerc, and has just recently added a volume which includes several suites of prints of architectural views to its collection. It is a beautiful thing to page through – I highly recommend a visit to see it!

So new we don’t even have a picture

I left last Thursday afternoon for Philadelphia to attend “The Hybrid Book: Intersection and Intermedia,” a book fair and conference about “the book as a hybrid art form and book arts as multi-disciplinary.” It was pretty intense; particularly, for me, two dense afternoons working through over seventy tables of artist’s books. In many ways, this kind of rampage through a room full of books is the easiest way to add to the Book Arts collection — you have to see the book to know whether it’s successful, and a good fit for the collection; and you can see an awful lot of books in 10 hours of fair time. (I’ve also developed coping strategies to deal with the overstimulation, such as a hotel room to myself and some bibliotherapy in the form, this time, of Anthony Trollope’s travel book North America.)

The organizers had asked a number of institutions to award “Purchase Prizes,” a new concept for me. Essentially, I made a public announcement that Columbia would buy a particular book, and the winner got a certificate to display the last few hours of the fair. It was so hard to pick just one for the announcement; there were many wonderful books, many young artists, many old friends.

I selected a book called pink story, a set of two volumes, each telling the story of women’s lives in a different way. The books aren’t bound as codices, but rather fold out into spirals, one right-turning, and one left. pink story: dextral started out as a piece in an art exhibit by Barb Hunt using pink paint chips and their evocative names to chart a woman’s life, and some of the stereotypes and preconceptions she faces, from newborn pink through sweet sixteen to bed of roses. Marlene MacCallum worked with her to turn it into a book, then made the sister volume pink story: sinister, which traces a similar story using beautiful photogravures of interior spaces. The book is carefully conceived, beautifully executed, and a little quirky.

For months, I’ve been trying out this line with artists and dealers: “I buy books, not art.” pink story pushes that envelope in many very interesting ways. But it clearly has narrative, a (curly) linearity, content worth engaging in, and perfect craftsmanship, so I’m pretty comfortable with it as an appropriate and wonderful addition to the Book Arts collection.

pink story hasn’t even arrived at the Library yet, and I can’t pay for it until the new fiscal year starts in July; then it will be cataloged and made ready for the shelf. With luck, it will be ready to be read in the new semester, come September. Until then, you can get a sneak preview at the link above, or ask me to recommend other interesting books in the collection.