Three Poems, by Octavio Paz, Lithographs by Robert Motherwell, Limited Editions Club, 1988

The 1988 Limited Editions Club (LEC) livres d’artiste Three Poems includes three poems from Octavio Paz: San Ildefonso Nocturne, Return and The Skin of the World, The Sound of the World, all written in the 1970’s. The Skin of the World, The Sound of the World was written for his friend, the artist Robert Motherwell, in 1971. Motherwell, who provides the illustrations for Three Poems, was influenced artistically throughout his career by the words of Octavio Paz and others he felt embodied the modernist spirit.

This LEC edition brings the two friends together in a typical Benjamin Shiff production of sparing no expense, leaving no stone unturned, so to produce the finest book possible. Obviously, most would only spend the money on a book like this if they were a fan of Paz and/or Motherwell. Even those who are not fans would have to admire the quality of the production and the beauty of the design.

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.

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was a well known American Abstract Expressionist painter, part of the New York School, which also included famous artists such as Jackson PollockMark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Fine Press aficionado’s will recall that Motherwell also illustrated the highly collectible 1988 edition of Ulysses from Arion Press.

{Ed. Note:  My understanding is that Limited Editions Club does have a few copies of Three Poems still available to order. You can call Jeanne Shiff at 212-737-7600 or 800-701-8870 to inquire about price and to order, if interested.}

About the Edition

  • Designed by Benjamin Shiff
  • Printed in Spanish (red) and English (black), with English translation by Eliot Weinberger
  • 27 lithographs by Robert Motherwell
  • Lithographs vary in size up to 14″ x 10″ and were pulled on hand-made Japanese paper of contrasting colors and printed at Trestle Editions
  • Types are Bauer Bodoni Bold and Bauer Bodoni Bold Italic, cast by Fundicion Tipografica Neufville
  • Type was hand-set at Stamperia Valdonega
  • The first poem printed at Wild Carrot Letterpress, the second poem at Stamperia Valdonega and the third at Heritage Printers
  • Text printed on mould made paper from Cartiere Enrico Magnani
  • Boards are Irish Linen with a lithograph recessed into the cover
  • Solander box covered in the same linen
  • 8 1/2″ by 21 3/4″
  • Limited to 750 copies
  • Signed by Paz and Motherwell


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Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Solander Box Spine

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Front Cover

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Title Page

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Lithographs by…

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Colophon

Three Poems, Limited Editions Club, Monthly Letter

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Categories: Book Edition Reviews

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2 replies

  1. Every time I see one of these beautiful Shiff books, I become more enamored of their beauty of design and less critical of their titles. It is indeed hard to feel any thing but rapture for the human effort that went into such books.

    • I hear you Don, agree completely. In the surface of it, some titles and illustrators do not do it for me and so I cannot justify the money (not just LEC but other fine presses also) — but at some point the quality of the design, and the respect for the effort and passion that went into creating it, enamors me…and I can understand why many others, who do appreciate the titles and illustrators, should sell everything they own to get it!

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