The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Center for the Book, presents an exhibition of book arts, combining book illustration and designed covers from the Athenaeum’s Rare Book collections with the work of five contemporary artists. Supported by a grant from the Samuel S. Fels Fund, this exhibition looks back to the Arts and Crafts movement while also featuring contemporary approaches to book arts. While acknowledging the influential work of designers and illustrators such as William Morris, Edmund Dulac, and Edward Burne-Jones, the Athenaeum chiefly relies in this exhibition on works by Americans Margaret Armstrong, the Decorative Designers, Elbert Hubbard of the Roycrofters, and Will Bradley, among others, using both European and English artists to reveal influences on the American artists or to contrast with the American interpretation of a theme. The exhibition ends in the late 1940s when illustrations began to rely on a black and white presentation and
book covers became relatively plain capsules with designed book jackets. Dominating the Athenaeum selection are traditional designs, some drawn from the legacy of the Athenaeum lending collection and others recently added through gifts. Athenaeum legacy books, drawn from what was once the popular, circulating collection, often give evidence of use, displaying some worn areas, old book number labels, and even discoloration. Inside the legacy books often include prominent “Received” date stamps, some even distributed over what we today see as important examples of illustration from respected artists. Although we today may deplore the proliferation of those “Received” stamps, they do tell us when the book was added to the collection, and they reveal the reading habits of Athenaeum members of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Of course, later donations from Evan Hopkins Turner, the Estate of Charles Wharton Stork, and others are often in better condition since they went directly into the Rare Book collections. In this gallery the older books join contemporary book interpretations from members of the Philadelphia Center for the Book, Cynthia Back, Maria G. Pisano, Maddy Rosenberg, and Elysa
Voshell and retired-architect and Athenaeum member John Fatula.
A COLLABORATION WITH THE PHILADELPHIA CENTER FOR THE BOOK
FUNDED BY A GRANT FROM THE SAMUEL S. FELS