Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges, Limited Editions Club (1984)

I couple weeks back I reviewed The Book of Sand, the short story masterpiece from Jorge Luis Borges, in an amazing fine press production from Nawakum Press. This got me in the mood for more from Borges, and there is no better place to turn for such then his classic short story collection Ficciones, in a 1984 edition from the Limited Editions Club (LEC). This edition is beautifully bound in soft, black cowhide and contains silk-screened art work, three dimensional geometric forms, from Sol LeWitt, one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. LeWitt also designed the volume himself, from the size of the pages to the typeface used.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentinean writer, poet and essayist, best known for his works Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949). He is one of the most acclaimed writers of the twentieth century and is considered one of the greatest Latin American writers of all time.  His work is best placed in the genres of magical realism and philosophical literature. His writings have been referred to as ‘ontological enigmas’ incorporating fantastic and dreamlike elements woven into everyday realities. Borges won numerous writing prizes, including Prix International, and  other honors, such as the French Legion of Honour. Borges was Director of the National Library of Argentina for 18 years. With all these accomplishments, it is remarkable that Borges was blind from 1950 until his death.

The stories in Ficciones share many common themes as Borges liked to think abstractly about time, conceptions of reality and complexities of the world and universe around him. The fantastic elements of the stories are written in a ‘matter of fact’ style which imparts a naturalness about them. Here are some samples of his writing:

From ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’:

One of the schools in Tlön has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, and that the past is no more than present memory. Another school decalres that the whole of time has already happened and that our life is a vague memory or dim reflection, doubtless false and fragmented, of an irrevocable process…

also

One of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man.

also

I have said that the men of this planet conceive the universe as a series of mental processes which do not develop in space but successively in time.

From ‘Funes, The Memorious’:

…he looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything — almost everything.

From ‘The Secret Miracle’:

Then he would reflect that reality does not tend to coincide with forecasts about it.

From ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’:

Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.

From ‘The Form of the Sword‘:

What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men. For that reason a disobedience committed in a garden contaminates the human race; for that reason it is not unjust that the crucifixion of a single Jew suffices to save it.

From ‘The South‘:

Reality favors symmetries and slight anachronisms….The first fresh tang of autumn, after the summer’s oppressiveness. seemed like a symbol in nature of his rescue and release from fever and death.

Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), as a founder of both both Minimal and Conceptual art, is one of the major artists of the twentieth century. Over the past fifty years, his work has been part of hundreds of exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. His artistic focus included drawing (including wall drawings), sculptures (what he called “structures”), printmaking, photography and painting. His work in the LEC’s Ficciones is meant to represent, according to the LEC’s Monthly Letter that accompanied the book, “an art of infinite allusion”, similar to that of these stories from Borges . In ‘The Library of Babel‘, Borges says “The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries…” LeWitt certainly captures that.

About the Edition

  • Designed by Sol Lewitt
  • Drawings silk-screened by Jo Watanabe
  • Set in Cloister Bold in linotype by Mackenzie – Harris Corp.
  • Printed at The Anthoensen Press
  • Printed on white wove letterpress paper made by the Mohawk Mills
  • Paper used for the prints is Somerset Satin
  • Bound by A. Horowitz & Sons, silkscreens tipped in by hand
  • Full bound in black cowhide
  • Covers assembled and blind stamped at Gilmore Leather products
  • Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Sol Lewitt

Pictures of the Edition

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Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Book in Slipcase
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Cover
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Cover
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Spine
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Side View
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Copyright Page
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Copyright Page
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Contents Page
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Contents Page
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 Introduction
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #1 Introduction
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #1
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Text #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #3
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Macro of Sample Illustration #2
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #4
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #4
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #5
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text #5
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Colophon Macro
Ficciones, Limited Editions Club, Colophon Macro

One thought on “Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges, Limited Editions Club (1984)

  1. This is one of my favorite late-era Sidney Shiff LEC books and I am still amazed that he was able to issue this book in an edition of 1500. The book design —- from squarish shape of the book, fabulous flat black cowhide binding with blindstamped titling, the bold, cold, impersonal Cloister Bold typeface —- is flawless. Best of all, a full set of geometric illustrations from Sol Lewitt form a visual compliment and link to the maze-like, dream-like short stories of Jorge Luis Borges. Lewitt was the perfect choice of artist to illustrate ‘Ficciones’. As a result of the large limitation of 1500 copies it can almost always be found in collectible condition for between $500 to $600, a steal for a livres d’artiste book from a major twentieth century artist whose work is a staple in nearly every major modern art museum.

    As an aside for those Books and Vines readers who are fans of Sol Lewitt’s conceptual art and live in or near New York City, several of Lewitt’s enormous wall drawings can be found in the DIA: Beacon, Riggio Galleries contemporary art museum in Beacon, NY. Beacon is a small town along the Hudson River about 65 miles north of NYC and the DIA: Beacon museum specializes in enormous works of sculpture and art that cannot be housed in other major museums due to size and weight limitations. The museum occupies a former Nabisco (Nabisco Biscuit Company) box printing facility built in 1929 that is considered a model of early twentieth century industrial architecture. The building was renovated and retrofitted into a contemporary art museum by American artist Robert Irwin who also designed the surrounding landscaping. This has proven to be an historic and ground-breaking conversion which has served as an international model for use of former industrial buildings and sites for contemporary art museums and art exhibits.

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