Photos and write-up by Carol Abrams
The rare book librarian at the National Gallery of Art shared some of his collection’s gems with members of the Washington Rare Book Group, who graciously included me in their visit. Thanks to librarian Yuri Long’s hospitality, we saw books handmade by artists, books designed by photographers such as Walker Evans, illustrations by Max Ernst, and more. Joan Miró illustrated one book we saw; the book was issued unbound as a portfolio with large-scale fold-outs. Miró was fascinated with literature, writers, and poets and illustrated 263 books, catalogs, and albums throughout his career according to the Park West Gallery in Michigan.
The National Gallery of Art Library’s rare book collection includes roughly 800 artist’s books. The collection includes a copy of Moby Dick; Or, the Whale with 100 wood engravings by Barry Moser, each of which was signed by the artist. Rare book librarian Yuri Long is fond of the books that are homages to other artists, such as Dégas in Rome by Charles Hobson. Hobson writes in his author’s note that he has written the diary he imagines Dégas would have written during his time in Rome. Hobson write, “I sat at a table in the loggia of the Villa Farnesina in front of the Raphael painting of Galatea and sketched it from the same distance and perspective Dégas did 150 years earlier.” The book includes page-edge designs from an actual Dégas sketchbook. This book is part of the Gallery’s collection of modern and contemporary art books, many of which are handmade by artists in small editions. Another is Hamlet told in multi-colored wood blocks.
Visits to the collection are available by appointment. The rare book librarian at the National Gallery of Art can be reached at email@example.com
Carol Abrams is earning her MIS degree at the University of Tennessee.