Sunday, July 9, 2017

Bowties mandatory, of course.

From David Brass Rare Books, the backstory:

Anatomy of an Antiquarian Bookseller, The

Cracked Joints, Unhinged, Broken Spine -
And You Should See The Books!

SEARLE, Ronald. The Anatomy of an Antiquarian Bookseller. [Edinburgh: John Grant, 1974]. 

One of a total run of fifty unnumbered lithographs signed by Ronald Searle (1920-2011). 27 x 19 1/4 inches (69 x 49 cm) on heavy stock without matte, nor framed. A very fine print.

In 1974, the firm of John Grant, Edinburgh's leading rare and antiquarian bookseller, commissioned artist Ronald Searle, an avid book collector, client and friend who retained Grant's as Scotland agency for his artwork, to create a color illustration to adorn its centenary catalogue. What Searle created was "almost an engineering drawing," according to the Book Collector, based upon the instructions of Ian Grant, the firm's contemporary Director, to immortalize rare booksellers' terminology, a rather arcane jargon meaningless to the uninitiated.

With a list of words and phrases provided by Grant, Searle's drawing became an instant classic, a riotous comedy of anthropomorphic art, the terminology applied as a condition report on an antiquarian bookseller who has obviously seen better days.

Grant had fifty copies printed in Edinburgh as lithographs. He took them to Haute Provence in the south of France, where Ronald Searle lived, and had the artist sign them. Searle, who had not been in Edinburgh to personally supervise their printing, felt that he could not number each one. Many if not most of the fifty were bought by members of Great Britain's Antiquarian Booksellers Association and other book dealers.

Fifteen years later, in 1989, Searle returned to this subject near and dear to him and published Slightly Foxed - But Still Desirable, his satire of rare book catalogue language (commissioned by E. Joseph, the London firm owned at the time by E. Joseph descendant, David Brass, now president of David Brass Rare Books) featuring sixty-one color drawings that apply it to an amusing cross-section of book lovers.

"I have only seen one copy for sale since The Anatomy of an Antiquarian Bookseller was originally issued in 1974, this one, which I sold in 2003 and recently re-acquired" (David Brass). 

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