- New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2015.
- tall 8vo
- cloth, dust jacket
- 208 pages
- ISBN: 1584563362
- ISBN: 9781584563365
Price: $55.00 other currencies
Order Nr. 119715
"Sumptuously illustrated, skillfully printed, and well documented."
-- Jeffrey Mifflin, Printing History, Winter 2017
"Thompson describes this phenomenon in England, the United States and France; it is an account awash with quotations that reveal how varied and contradictory views of the subject were."
-- Sebastian Carter, TLS
"Thompson has managed to cover a vast amount of material in a fairly short space, and has done it gracefully and congenially. ... Aesthetic Tracts is an interesting and thoughtful book."
-- Crispin Elstead, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada
In the late nineteenth century, writers, artists, and bibliophiles expended great thought and energy on books as a category of things that might be made to express, by their very physical appearance, aesthetic ideals and personal visions. Books, like other artifacts produced in the then new industrial system, implicitly raised questions about their cultural status as objects and the role of aesthetics in designing them. Aesthetic Tracts takes its title from a phrase used in a lecture by Sarah Wyman Whitman, the prolific Boston book cover designer. In 1894 Whitman asserted that designers ought to accept the challenge posed by mass-produced cloth-covered books and transform them into physical manifestos.
The present volume, drawing on examples from France, Great Britain, and the United States, shows how designers, ranging from poets like Gabriel Dante Rossetti and Stephane Mallarme, from artists like James McNeil Whistler and Eugene Grasset, and from binders like T.J. Cobden- Sanderson and Marius Michel, sought to craft book designs that were beautiful but also eloquent expressions of individual artistry. Although many bibliophiles decried the deterioration of book production and some joined the"revival of printing" movement, not all designers wished to create books as objects of material beauty. Printer-publishers Edouard Pelletan, Walter Biggar Blaikie, and Theodore Low De Vinne insisted instead on the preeminence of the text.
Aesthetic Tracts shows how new theories of design, including the introduction of Japanese artistic principles, new printing technology, the emergence of the consumer society, the transformation in the publishing industry, and the influence of international expositions, worked to change the idea of the book at the fin de siecle. With 16 color plates, 50 black-and-white illustrations, bibliography, and index.