Sight and Touch, by Octavio Paz, Illustrated by Balthus, Limited Editions Club, 1995

{Ed. Note: Books and Vines provided a quick review of Sight and Touch, from the Limited Editions Club (LEC), after an October 2011 visit to LEC’s Jeanne Shiff in New York City.  Now that I have Sight and Touch in my own hands, and have a better camera, I am re-posting an updated review with better pictures and additional comments. Remember that you can click on the pictures to make them full screen, which allows you to see small details much better.}

My excitement for fine press books often results in my describing how stunning a work is, but in this case it is no hyperbole to say that the interior of this edition of Sight and Touch is one of the most beautiful of any book I have had the pleasure to handle. The hand-made paper is unreal, one could look at and feel it for hours without getting bored of doing so. It is simply beautiful paper, the best of the books that I own.  The prints by Balthus are classically beautiful; with one landscape, one portrait and one still life, this work provides an amazing look at how wonderfully Balthus handles each.  The size of the book was determined based on the work Balthus created, unlike most books where the illustrations are shrunk to fit the pre-determined size of the book. The text and layout is perfect, with incredible spacing allowed due to the massive size of the presentation.

Mexican born Octavio Paz (1914-1998) was one of the world’s most celebrated writers of the twentieth century.  Among many honors he received in his lifetime, Paz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.  Paz was influenced by Marxism early in his career, but became disillusioned and spoke out loudly against totalitarianism bringing him much enmity from what he called the dogmatic and illiberal left.   Paz was a prolific author and poet; if you have not read any of his works, you owe it to yourself to do so.  Sight and Touch is about light, with Paz providing his insight on light’s role in unveiling darkness and its interplay with time.

…the rising light seeks its way
a wavering river that sketches
its doubts and turns them to certainties,
a river of dawn across closed eyes;

…the light touches the fruit, touches the invisible,
a pitcher for the eyes to drink clarity…

…the light goes off through a path of reflections
and comes back to itself…

Light is time thinking about itself.

Paz dedicated this poem to Balthus, who was a close friend of his.

Count Balthazar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001), better known as Balthus, was a Polish-French modern artist, considered one of the most important of the twentieth century. Though modern, his works are mostly classical in nature, with significant influence derived from pre-renaissance painters and from the Italian Renaissance. His art was figurative, at a time when most had eschewed that.  Balthus was extremely private, almost a recluse. Despite that, his funeral was attended by Prime Ministers, artists and rock stars from around the world.

LEC’s edition brings together Paz and Balthus in an edition where no expense was spared on materials or methods, resulting in a livre dartist book for the ages.

{Ed Note – I believe Mrs. Shiff does have one or two Sight and Touch still available to order.  Please contact her at 212-737-7600 or 800-701-8870 to inquire about price and to order, if interested.}

About the Edition

  • Designed by Dan Carr
  • Three multi-color woodcut prints by Balthus cut and editioned by Keiji Shinohara
  • Presented in the original Spanish, in English and in French
  • Kozo Uwazen paper hand made in Japan
  • Text set in a Monotype version of Lutetia by Julia Ferrari and Dan Carr at Golgonooza Letter Foundry, Ashuelot, New Hampshire
  • Printed at Wild Carrot Letterpress, Hadley, Massachusetts
  • Pure linen boards overlapped on the spine with Nigerian oasis goatskin
  • Signed by Octavio Paz and Balthus
  • Limited to 300
  • Huge volume, 22 1/2″ x 23 1/2″


(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Sight and Touch, LEC, Solander Box – monthly letter shown for scale purposes
Sight and Touch, LEC, Solander Box Detail
Sight and Touch, LEC, Book Inside of Solander Box
Sight and Touch, LEC, Side View
Sight and Touch, LEC, Half Title Page
Sight and Touch, LEC, Title Page
Sight and Touch, LEC, Title Page Detail
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page 1
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page 1 Detail
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page 1 Detail #2
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page 1 Detail #3
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page and Illustration #1
Sight and Touch, LEC, Balthus Illustration #1 Detail
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page and Illustration #2
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page 2
Sight and Touch, LEC, Poem Page #2 Detail
Sight and Touch, LEC, Colophon

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