TRANSCRIPTION Part II:
*To see Transcription Part I, See An Antiquarian Collection
Perched in the bleachers overlooking the baseball field at Bennett’s Crossing, I watched as the batter up swung hard, sending the baseball soaring over the fence, high up into the air. The ball came arching down, headed into the parking lot. I grimaced as it looked to be coming down near my car. I paused from my current engagement with Robert’s antique books long enough to watch the ball drop, gaining full assurance that no harm was about to befall my windshield before I resumed.
I notice that the sky is looking heavier than when I first arrived and some dark clouds have begun to roll in. They look like rain clouds not thunderheads, thankfully.
I turn around to hear Robert’s wife, Lynne loudly rooting, “Come on Jon! Let’s go Jon!”
I feel somewhat guilty that I have not paid attention to the team or rooted for Robert and Lynne’s son, Jon–but that was not what I came to the field for.
No harm done.
I take a sigh of relief.
As I turn around, I see Robert reaching down toward the bench, and with extreme care, as if he were cradling a newborn, he lifts an ancient-looking copy of the Bible Gallery Illustrated by Gustave Doré.
Throughout the course of my research on books, I have not seen such a long-preserved, incredible work. The cover of the Bible Gallery is a dark gold hue and has tiny round bumps that texture it throughout. On the corners, where the book has taken over one hundred years of wear, I notice that the little raised portion of the bumps have lost their color and are now are yellow-white. I love the way that this distressing creates a sense of texture around the edges.
The title is gold (metallic) and outlined in black. The “B” and the “G” are highly stylized, with golden rays coming behind the “G“. The portion of the title, Illustrated by Gustave Doré is done entirely in black.
The illustrated portion portrays a golden Adam and Eve, afoot towards a rocky terrain, with foliage to the left, presumably the Garden of Eden.
There is a golden angel behind them, pointing ahead, and another golden angel in the upper right corner.
“Ok, Bible Gallery… yeah, you could say this has been around,” Robert says laughingly.
Lynne helps me take some photos of the book, as the job takes two people. This copy of Bible Gallery is much too fragile to risk an ill-timed mishandle.
I have not had extensive experience in handling antique books, but from the looks of this one must watch every move, considering the weight of the book and how one movement might shift the materials or put weight on a weakened part, adding stress the book cannot handle.
Already, there are “crumbs” on the bleachers from the book’s aged spine and cover.
It appears I can not pick it up or touch it without a leaving a tiny trail of wood grain, fibers or bits of paper from the edges of the book’s fragile pages.
“Ok, now can you see the date?” Robert asks.
His tone is rich in emphasis–obviously he is saying this to show how old the book actually is than pose a question to me.
“1880,” Lynne states.
1880–that would make the book 140 years old. Robert goes on to give me some background on its history.
“This is a book that came down through the family. It was given to me by my dad. the copyright here says 1880. This really shows you how the books were put together as I mentioned before, in the other book about the Titanic, here you can see the actual thread.”
Looking at the part of the book where the spine *used* to be, I can see the page groupings. The book is quite large, and being able to see the page groupings reminds me for a moment of the interview I had with ACCC student Jennifer Horberg as she was the first one to show me how page groupings worked for a book-maker.
The noise of the people around us, combined with that of the baseball coaches, seeps into my stream of consciousness and yanks me back to my physical locale and out of the mental flow I am in. Apparently, the baseball game seems to be really taking off as parents are yelling and cheering.
I tune back in and try to focus on what Robert is saying but I got lost.
Too much commotion.
I notice the degree of trepidation that feel towards handling the book, and although I want to treat it with as much respect possible, I can’t help but wonder if it mishandled and something happened to it, how much would it decrease in value. I glance over at Lynne; she seems to be tuned into the game rooting for Jon.
Robert is panning the field, observing the players.
“Robert, how much is a book like this worth?” I ask.
“Oh, I’d say…this book is not really going to get a lot of money outside of, I guess, say an antique dealer–who wanted to get the prints. It’s really about Gustave Doré. Now, it has the story of Doré right here.”
Robert points to the inside of the book.
“Doré was one of the best illustrators in the 19th century and he’s very well-known for this Bible Gallery book which a runaway success, and anything else he illustrated.
For us, we know of his drawings but mostly through his illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Most notably, the Inferno.”
While Robert is giving me backstory on Doré, I hear the coach boom orders to the players, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Hustle in, hustle out!”
Ok, I can relate. I’ve heard of Dante’s Inferno since I was around ten or so.
“Doré illustrated that?” I ask, both eyebrows up.
“Yes, he illustrated that. The Divine Comedy, um…was three sections as everyone knows, the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.”
And Robert continues bringing it full circle with Doré. “And, this is how Gustave Doré draws…”
And he points to an incredibly detailed illustration.
At this point Lynne motions to the illustration and interjects, “Now what’s that? A lady laying down there with no shirt on?”
“Noooo, that’s the Murder of Abel,” Robert answers, a mock smile, teasing.
Lynne seems to be in a playful, bantering mood but Robert is serious.
“No, no, it’s a man,” Robert replies with almost no affect.
And almost without missing a beat he continues.
“And um, he [Doré] did everything in pencil. That I know of, which reads as charcoal. And, if you were to rub your hand over this, you would see an inky residue from the drawing. Because that’s how they did it back then.”
I glance over at Lynne to see if she looks interested or if she is tuned into the game. She is squinting, looking to our left.
“Hey, isnt that Randy DeMarko over there?” she asks.
From her tone, she seems to have spotted him and thinks it’s him. Randy is the husband of a good friend of hers.
Robert looks over and shrugs, “Yeah, hmm. Can’t really tell. Maybe…”
Holding the book, he seems to be drinking in the illustrations on the pages. He glances up at me, looks quizzical and quickly smiles, lips inward, as if to say, “Ready to resume?” and I draw my attention to the page he is relishing.
“This was quite an event to buy this book and have it in your family. Now, the Bible Gallery is just that. For instance, this is the Tower of Babel,” he says remarkably.
“An antique dealer would like to buy this because they would take the pages out, and of course frame them. And…whew, make a lotta money. This was given to me in 1961 by my father when I was really on the young side. Um, I think I was just over, or about eleven years old. My dad was not one to get into books. I don’t know why, but the first book he ever gave me was The Outline of History by H.G. Wells. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t know where he got this. Except to say that, he said it was in the family….”
More hooting and cheering for the teams.
“Go! Good boy! Good boy!” I hear a man’s voice cheer on.
“…and I’ve held onto them ever since,” Robert asserts.
Brushing his finger over the side of the book, he says, “That’s uh, that’s not hair, that’s wood. That is wood. Anyway, the pictures are in pretty good shape, they’re highly defined. And, if there was such a thing as “paper patina,” ha, it’s got it here.”
Turning a page, Robert says nostalgically, as if longing to be there,”Jacob Tending the Flocks of Laben.”
I am taken with the artwork. The sheer amount of as shown in the lines which comprise the illustration are incredibly complex. The remind me of fingerprints in a way, all swirling and whirling different directions. It’s almost mind-boggling to take even one illustration in, there is so much work put forth into it.
“Nice guys! Way to play that out. good job!” Lynne yells, cheering the kids on.
Followed up with an enthusiastic,”Awesome pitching buddy!”
Despite the noise and excitement, Robert is in another world with the book.
“Oh, this’ll just blow your mind…Ohhooo, is this good?” he says with utter delight.
“The only thing is, when you turn these, you really have to be careful, you almost have to treat it like tissue, because it rips, (snaps fingers) like that. But the bond of the paper is very good.”
Lynne is helping me by snapping a few photos while I
“Hon, can we get another one?” she asks Robert. “For a lot of people, such a book as this, taught them so much because the book made it very real. They were so expensive And if you bought the Bible Gallery, you know, you had a family heirloom,” he says, looking over his glasses at me.
“Ruth and Boaz,” here we go.
Perfection. Just exquisite mastery.
“If you have this, hang onto it,” he says.
“Ohhhh. This one always got me. When I was an eleven-year-old boy, this was the first one I opened the page to. This was the first thing that I saw, and I really related to this little guy here,” Robert says, gesturing to David.
“Ping!” I hear the metallic sound of a bat. Ooooh. That sounds like a hit.
“Alright!!!” I hear someone scream.
We are still on David. Whew!
“Here is David sparing Saul, great contrast,” Robert remarks and shakes his head with sincere admiration.
Here’s “The Death of Absalom.”
“I don’t know if you can see Absalom but that’s him here, in the trees, in shadow. Can you see him? He’s dark.” Robert says to me.
Meanwhile, amidst enjoying these possibly more than I can handle, between jottings, I have been trying to get my camera to cooperate with the lighting. I’m trying to determine when to use the flash, as in some of the photos I need the extra light, but I also want to be careful to get the texture of the paper and nuances in hue.
“Whoah, good shot! Nice! He got it! He got it!”
I’ve been hearing Lynne most of the time but this one surprised me, because it came from Robert.
While he might be cheering the guys on, he seamlessly picks up where he left off and says,”And I got it [the book] in this condition pretty much, the condition you see in now, and not knowing what I was doing as a young boy, I taped it and I tried to save it.” Robert shakes his in disgrace.
Flipping the book over, I am surprised to see that on the back is a gorgeous, ornate design, accompanied by a couple of large stains of some sort.
Referring to the black splotch sandwiched between the two pieces of tape, Robert comments, “And that’s actual ink by the way, like India ink.”
I rather like it. To me, it’s like a perfect ink splotch.
Lynne whispers over to Robert, “Jon got taken out…”
“Well, maybe they’re gonna have him pitch.”
“Maybe…,” Lynne whispers, her voice full of empathy for her son.
I notice my camera is low on memory and start deleting photos to make room.
“Great throw! Great throw!” Robert yells to the pitcher.
Adding a final comment though now that things are winding down, Robert says, “Lossing was the first one to illustrate history books, and to have a Doré was the equivalent of having a Lossing. Just to have a book from one of those guys was really special. Lossing’s history, Doré’s illustrations.”
*Editor’s Note: You will notice in my field notes that another book is included in my observation, entitled, My Four Years In Germany by James W. Gerard (of which I also have several accompanying photos.) I plan to include the details about this book as a follow-up post, which I will complete at a later date. Please check back soon!