Rare Books: Large and Small


The Arts Division has a very good sized collection of rare books and folios. These rare items are reference and they must be used in the library.  Although these can’t be checked out it is worth the trip to see these items that you will not see in other Monroe County public libraries.

So while looking in our stacks I am come across some small handmade books. They are interesting little books that book artists will find interesting. One of them measures 2 1/4 inches across. The first one I found is called ABC Gem Box: A Display of skill in Typography. Is is by Kurt H. Volk and dated 1941. It was published in a limited edition of 500 copies.


This book is in a clam shell box and consists of the 26 letters of the alphabet. Each letter is done in a specific typographic font. Consists of 27 folded leaves (folded to 13 cm. X 17 cm.), one t.p. and one leaf for each letter of the alphabet, each with a cut-out on the first recto revealing the “gem” on the second recto. It’s simplicity itself—27 typographic arrangements, each printed on a folded page behind a cut-out window, all of them tucked into a small box. According to the Volk organization  ” it is the practice of the Volk organization unceasingly to direct its sense of form and fitness to making distinguished typography. Our aim is to discover and use the new type faces, embellishments and mechanical methods.”



The next book is called Sunday in Monterey. It is a  book of woodcuts by Antonio Fransconi, dated 1964. This is an accordion style book with folding panels, it measures 5½x2¼. The book is made up of 58 accordion-folded pages which open to 127 inches, revealing original color woodcut illustrations of the piers, boats and houses of Monterey.



Here is a sample of his other woodcuts from a different book.


Other works by this artist at MoMA and here.

The books above are examples of very small sized rare books.

The two listed below are from the Art’s division folio collection and are very over-sized.


This Frank Lloyd Wright book is a massive volume of plans and designs. It’s title is, Buildings, Plans and Designs. It measures 16 inches across and 25 inches high. Along with the plans there is a book about Wright and his work and describes each one of the 96 designs. Due to it massive size, I’m guessing this one is for Wright fans only.


The other folio I found is a stunning collection of Navaho drawings and symbols. It is called, Where the Two Came to Their Father: Navaho War Ceremonial. This one measures 18 .5 inches across and 24 inches high. This work takes its title from the richly symbolic creation legend of the Navaho people, which they incorporated into their blessing ceremony for tribe members headed to battle. Having observed this rite during World War II, when native Americans were for the first time drafted into the U.S. military, ethnologist Maud Oakes recorded the legend and made reproductions of the beautiful ceremonial paintings, given to her by the medicine man Jeff King.



Come in and take a look at these rare items in the Arts Division.