The Artistry of Elfriede Abbe

{Ed. Note: This article is from Books and Vines contributor Dlphcoracl. Those interested in Elfriede Abbe‘s outstanding artwork should contact Elaine Beckwith Gallery who represents her estate.}

Elfriede Abbe, who died in 2012 at the age of 93 years of age, was a multi-faceted artist (her obituary is here). Unfortunately for private press book collectors, her books were a relatively small part of her output and her life.  She graduated from Cornell University in 1940 with a B.F.A. in architecture and spent most of her career as an illustrator at Cornell from 1942 until her retirement in 1974.  Upon retirement, Abbe moved to Manchester, Vermont, where she designed her house and spent the remainder of her life pursuing her various artistic interests.

During her undergraduate years at Cornell, Abbe took courses in sculpture from H.P. Camden and Brenda Putnam and this would become her primary focus in retirement (1974 to 2012), working with wood and bronze.  Her sculpture “The Hunter” was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and her work is included in the permanent collections of several universities and the New York Botanical Garden.  She also produced graphic works in both wood etchings and wood-engravings and these works have been selected for inclusion in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the main branch of the New York Public Library and the Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland.

It is as a wood-engraver that her work should be of interest to Books and Vines readers because she created them for a small bibliography of hand-crafted private press books, operating a printing press in her studio.  If all of this sounds vaguely familiar it is because Miss Abbe’s life and career are remarkably similar to another New-England based artist that has already been introduced to Books and Vines readers, namely, Claire van Vliet and her Janus Press.  Abbe and van Vliet are truly kindred spirits and (artistically) must have been twins separated at birth.  Both women established their artistic careers in Vermont, both lived into their nineties (van Vliet is still alive and active!), both are/were skilled wood-engravers, and both produced handcrafted letterpress books that are beautiful, each filled with their superb wood-engraving illustrations.  However, whereas Abbe focused primarily on her wood and bronze sculptures, van Vliet’s Janus Press and publishing have assumed a larger and more important part of her artistic career.  Also, van Vliet is more experimental with regard to book design, incorporating several other media, pop-ups, unusual forms and three-dimensionality into her books whereas Abbe’s books are more classical in design.

Although small in output, both in numbers of books published and the limitation (number of copies) of each book,  Elfriede Abbe’s books share an important similarity with van Vliet’s Janus Press books – they are produced to the highest standard using hand made papers, lovely handset type and letterpress printing, wonderful illustrations printed directly from her hand-carved woodblocks, and hand sewn bindings. Abbe is said to have published approximately 20 books, around eight of which are major publications. I will highlight the four books that I believe represent the best of her bibliography: Rip van Winkle, The Creation, The Wind’s Tale, and The City of Carcassonne.

Rip van Winkle

Nearly everyone in the United States has a passing familiarity with Washington Irving’s tale of Rip van Winkle, the well-intended simpleton of Dutch descent who wanders into the Catskill mountains with his dog one afternoon.  He falls asleep, subsequently awakening and returning to his house and village to discover that twenty years have elapsed while he was asleep. However, very few Americans have actually read the entire short story, which is an American classic that is far richer and more complex than the simple fable we remember.

Briefly, Rip van Winkle is a well-intended and well-liked loafer who is congenitally incapable of taking care of his homestead, his farm and his family.  He is industrious in other ways, however, and often can be seen helping his neighbors by assisting them in their work, running errands or doing odd jobs.  However, his industry does not extend to his family and his house and farm are the least attractive in the village.  Rip’s leisurely existence is regularly interrupted by his wife who berates and belittles him daily for his lack of typical Dutch discipline and industry, particularly as it applies to his own life and family.  Rip escapes his wife’s steady stream of verbal abuse by wandering daily over to the inn, exchanging stories and pleasantries over several pints with friends, and then returning home.

One day, to further escape his wife’s unpleasantries, he wanders off into the Catskill mountains with his dog and in doing so stumbles upon a band of early Dutch settlers representing Hendrick Hudson and his crew from the ship ‘Half-Moon’ , the original discovers and settlers of this region along the Hudson River.  They are nestled in a natural amphitheater in the Catskills playing a bowling game of ninepins, with the resulting activity creating thunder that can be heard in Rip’s village.  At the request of one of the crew carrying a keg, Rip assists him in filling flagons and serving the ninepin players.  Rip joins them in drinking from their keg and quickly falls asleep under the influence of the brew.  When he awakes, he notices that his rifle has badly deteriorated and that his dog has is nowhere to be found.  He slowly finds his way back to his village, puzzled to find that several of the recognizable geographic landmarks he remembers during his initial hike into the mountains have been greatly altered.

It is during Rip’s return to his village and his subsequent discovery that he is now an old(er) man that the story becomes more than a simple fable, introducing the themes that give it lasting significance. Importantly, Rip’s twenty year absence has framed the American Revolutionary War and the establishment on a newly democratic, independent country – the United States of America.  It is in Rip’s reaction to these startling events and the reaction of the present village inhabitants to Rip van Winkle and his fantastical tale that the larger question of how to react to and balance rapid change in one’s life and community with the past is raised.  For his part, Rip is content to carry on with his haphazard and leisurely ways.  After finding his daughter and son (Rip’s wife has died during his absence) and identifying himself as their long-lost father, Rip van Winkle, he goes to live with his daughter and her farmer husband while contributing little to the farm work. In stark contrast to the revolutionary fervor and discussions of politics, Rip is content to simply loiter by the inn (now a hotel), relate his story to bemused citizens and let life pass him by, becoming irrelevant well before his time should otherwise dictate. Conversely, his eccentricities and stories are accepted by the new village society and his tall tale of encountering the original Dutch settlers of the region in the Catskill mountains becomes a reassuring link with the past, helping them to retain fundamental values and anchoring them in the midst of their rapidly changing lives in establishing a new order and country.  The question of how much of the past to retain while incorporating rapid and inevitable change is not explicitly answered by Washington Irving; rather, it is left for the reader to decide.

Published in 1951. Limited to 275 numbered and signed copies. Wood Engravings by Elfriede Abbe. Quarter cloth, paper covered boards, gilt emblem on front board, Linweave Text paper. 8 1/2 in. x 12 5/8 in.

Pictures of Rip van Winkle

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. 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 or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Rip van Winkle, Printed and illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Cover
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Cover
Elfriede Abbe
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Spine
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Colophon
Rip van Winkle, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Colophon

The Creation

Elfriede Abbe’s edition of The Creation is a very modest affair with regard to conception and actual content. On the recto page the text (a single paragraph) begins with a line from Genesis, followed by a corresponding paragraph from John Milton’s Paradise Lost representing a quotation from Archangel Raphael to Adam.  On the opposite (verso) page is a full-page wood-engraving by Elfriede Abbe.  Several of the textual recto pages have small wood-engravings at the top of the page as headers.  All of the initial letters are hand illuminated by Abbe in varying colors and the choice of Goudy Deepdene Italic type gives the text a calligraphic effect. The hand made Japanese paper is luxurious.

Of note, the pages are done in the French manner with a single large sheet of paper used for both one page of text and a single full page illustration, then folded in half and bound so that the fold is at the top of the page. By doing so, each page of text and each illustration is backed by a blank page so that each wood engraving can be clearly seen without interference or “shine-through” from another page.  In total, there are sixteen such folded pages as follows: two are blank serving as free end plates, two are title pages including colophon, and  eleven folded pages contain text and wood engravings.  The book is beautiful, folio sized (14 5/8 “ H x 10 5/8” W), with a binding of 1/4 nubbed golden silk fabric for the spine and hand marbled paper for the boards, with matching paper for the clamshell box.

Why bother?

Because the wood-engravings are superb, representing some of Elfriede Abbe’s best work.  In reality, this is a livres d’artiste book (artist’s book) with the simple, spare text merely an excuse for Abbe to stretch her imagination and artistry in response to the dramatic opening lines of Genesis.  Her illustrations at the beginning of the book in response to the creation of inanimate objects and things, e.g., land, water, separation of land and water into oceans and continents, light and darkness, etc.  are especially noteworthy possessing an abstract, metaphysical quality very reminiscent of Paul Nash’s classic illustrations for the Nonesuch Press Genesis (1924), one of the landmark illustrated private press books of the twentieth century. Nothing wrong with a bit of eye candy in between reading from tomes such as War and Peace, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Ulysses, etc.  🙂

Published in 1977. Limited to 135 copies signed by Elfriede Abbe. Printed on Japanese paper from original wood blocks, wood initials and hand set type (Goudy Deepened Italic). Quarter gold cloth binding with marbled boards and printed on Japanese paper. Paper spine labels. Typography, printing and binding by the artist.

Pictures of The Creation

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. 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 or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Creation, Clamshell
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Clamshell
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Book in Clamshell
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Book in Clamshell
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Spine and Covers
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Spine and Covers
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The Creation, Printed and Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The Creation, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #1
The Creation, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Creation, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Creation, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Text
The Creation, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Text
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Colophon
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Colophon

The Wind’s Tale

The Wind’s Tale is a cautionary tale, from Hans Christian Andersen, of a privileged individual whose pride and greed result in a fall from grace.  The story is narrated by The Wind, which Andersen describes by saying: “It knows more wonderful old tales and histories than all of us put together.”  The Wind’s Tale is of Waldemar Daa, his wife and his three daughters – Ida, Johanna and Anna Dorothea.  Daa is of royal stock and he and his family are wealthy, aristocratic people whose lives revolve around entertaining other nobility from near and far at their castle, Borreby Hall, in a continuous display of their wealth.  As The Wind observes at one such gathering:

There were arrogance and ostentation enough, plenty of lords, but the Lord had no place there.

After one such evening of revelry, Waldemar Daa’s wife retires for the evening and dies in her sleep, a harbinger of things to come.

Borreby Hall is surrounded by a beautiful oak forest which is home to a diverse collection of birds and wildlife.  One day, in an effort to increase his wealth Daa decides to build a stately ship, “a man-of-war such as the king might buy”, to sell at great profit.  He does so by disrupting the natural order of things and begins to fell the stately oak trees that surround his castle, depriving the osprey, wood pigeons, ravens and rare black stork of their homes after they had begun to lay eggs and care for newly hatched offspring.  The birds, startled and confused, fly about in circles, cawing and shrieking as Waldemar Daa looks on at their distress with strange delight.

Upon completion, Waldemar Daa let it be known to the king that he had a magnificent warship available for purchase.  The king sent one of his admirals to see the great warship but Daa’s stable of spirited black horses were of far more interest to the admiral.  The admiral hinted that he was more interested in purchasing the horses and the talks regarding purchase of the warship proved fruitless.  The ship remained moored on the shore with no further interest from anyone.  Winter arrived and both  the ship slowly fell into disrepair, much to the delight of the ravens and crows who had been displaced in its creation.

Whole flock of them perched on the desolate solitary ship on the strand and screamed hoarsely about the oak forest that had been cut down and the many happy nests destroyed, all for the sake of this great piece of useless lumber, this immense vessel that would never sails the sea.

The Wind is only too happy to do his part in the steady deterioration of this vessel, stating:

I whirled the snow till it lay in thick drifts around the ship.  I let the ship hear my voice and all that a storm has to say.

Not discouraged from his shipbuilding folly, Waldemar Daa begins a new get-rich venture.  Learned and skilled in the “mysterious arts” Daa seeks the mightiest of nature’s secrets,  how to make gold!.  Daa becomes consumed with his alchemy, neglecting all else – his castle, his estate, his stable of magnificent black stallions, his crops and finally himself, his hair and beard turning gray, his skin assuming a yellow hue, his eyes hollowed.  After many years, Daa notices something glittering in his alchemist’s flask, “bright, pure, heavy”.  Flush with his unexpected success and excitement, Daa holds the flask aloft with trembling hand, shouting “Found, won!  Gold, gold!”  He holds the flask aloft and as it glistens in the sunbeams, becomes suddenly dizzy in his weakened state.  His hands begin shaking, the alchemist’s glass falls to the floor and shatters into hundreds of pieces before its glistening contents can take sufficient form and shape for him to reap its rewards.  As he and his estate fall into further disrepair a family foe, Ove Ramel from Baness, appears holding the mortgage of the castle.  Ramel generously offers to let Daa and his daughters stay on at the castle for Waldemar Daa’s lifetime, but Daa’s false pride proves insurmountable and he spurns the offer despite being destitute.  Waldemar Daa and family leave Borreby Castle for the last time as The Wind expresses his displeasure at Daa’s foolishness:

I blew a chill blast on his burning cheeks and fluttered his gray beard and his long hair.  I sang a tune such as only I could sing.

Daa and his three daughters walked along the road through the countryside as vagrants, on their way to a plastered cottage which they rented for ten marks per year.  The crows and ravens circled overhead, enacting their final revenge at the destruction of the oak forest and their homes, screaming and mocking Daa with cries of “Caw, caw!  Out of the nest, caw, caw!”   Daa and family would spend the remainder of their lives in difficult circumstances and extreme poverty.

This work was published in 1996. Block prints by Elfriede Abbe. Printed on Inweave hand-made paper. Limited edition of 52 copies. In a hand-made clamshell box.

Pictures of The Wind’s Tale

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. 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 or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Wind's Tale,
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Clamshell
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Spine and Covers
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Spine and Covers
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Cover
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Cover
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustrations #2 with Text
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Wind's Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Colophon
The Wind’s Tale, Printed/Illustrated by Elfriede Abbe, Colophon

The City of Carcassonne

First, some history!

Carcassonne is a small, ancient fortified city in southwest France (Languedoc-Roussillon region) of considerable historic importance, both old and new.  Despite its small size and relatively remote location it is a major tourist attraction in France, with over three million visitors annually – comparable to the larger, better known and geographically more accessible Mont St. Michel. Although the first signs of settlement date to 3500 B.C. it assumed a more defined, structured shape in 100 B.C. when the Romans determined that it was strategically important and fortified the hilltop, naming it Carsaco and later Carcasum.  The fortification consisted primarily of two massive concentric walls extending nearly two miles in length, enclosing a castle which was itself fortified.  The inner defense wall is further strengthened by placement of fifty-six watchtowers.

For the next one thousand years it was invaded and occupied by a succession of invading tribes (Visigoths, etc.).  In 1067 Carcassonne became the property of Viscount Raimond-Bernard Trencavel of Nimes who erected the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse blessed by Pope Urban II in 1096.  The cathedral contains important sculpture, especially the 13th century tomb of Bishop Radulph, and stained glass windows of exceptional beauty and quality.  Trencavel further developed and strengthened the fortifications during his time.

At the beginning of the 13th century Carcassonne was occupied by the Occitan Cathars and figured prominently in the Albigensian Crusades. In 1209 Simon de Montfort captured the city and imprisoned its ruler Raymond-Roger de Trencavel, where he subsequently died. Montfort named himself the new viscount of Carcassonne and spent much of the 13th century adding to the already impressive fortifications, formidable enough to repel the advances of Edward the Black Prince during the Hundred Years War nearly a century later.

In 1659 the Treaty of Pyrenees transferred the region of Roussillon to France, reducing Carcassonne’s military and defensive importance.  Economic activity became the principal focus of the city, especially as a center of wool-making and the textile industry.  When the Ottoman market for its textile goods collapsed at the end of the 18th century Carcassonne became little more than a small provincial town.  Under the Ancien Regime and (subsequently) the French Revolution it became an arsenal and supply depot.  It was removed from the list of military fortresses by Napoleon Bonaparte and the Restoration in 1804 and reinstated as a second-grade fortress in 1820, ultimately resulting in the walls and towers of the fortified city becoming a stone quarry for regional purposes.  The historic structures were slowly dismantled, the city abandoned, reaching a nadir in 1849 when it was deemed that the remaining structures were sufficiently unstable and unsafe for their current inhabitants to warrant demolition and a decree to that effect was issued.

This decree was unpopular with the people of France.  In response, J.P. Cros-Mayrevieille (then mayor of Carcassonne) and writer Prosper Merimee,  the first inspector general of the newly formed Department of Ancient Monuments, joined together to have the demolition decree reversed and replaced, organizing a campaign to have the city preserved as an historical monument. The architect Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was commissioned later in 1849 to undertake the restoration and work was commenced in 1853.  The restoration work would occupy Viollet-le-Duc until his death in 1879.  The restoration was controversial during his lifetime because Viollet-le-Duc ordered the destruction of certain structures within the city to preserve others and did not adhere strictly to tradition.  Roofs were covered with slate and given steeply sloping shapes, not historically accurate but in keeping with the need to adapt the best of modern architectural practices into the restoration to assure its longevity.  During this time the internal fortifications were almost entirely restored along with a number of the towers on the external perimeter. Viollet-le-Duc left detailed notes and drawings of his renovation plans and the work was continued by his pupil Paul Boeswillwald after his death.  Boeswillwald removed the houses that had been constructed between the two perimeter defense walls and continued work on restoration of the castle.

The restoration process was completed in 1910 and by this time the genius of Viollet-le-Duc’s restoration was fully appreciated.  Carcassonne now became known as the template of how subsequent historical conservation projects should be approached and performed. Viollet-le-Duc’s decision to incorporate modern architectural principles and materials in an historically informed and sympathetic restoration, rather than a precise unyielding restoration which was blindly adherent to prior form and structure has remained highly influential and Viollet-le-Duc is considered one of the founders in the modern science of historical conservation and preservation.  The importance and widespread acceptance of Viollet-le-duc’s approach has been recognized by Carcassonne’s designation as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1997.

The Book

Following the completion of Carcassonne’s restoration in 1910 a book entitled The City of Carcassonne was published in 1920 by Editions Albert Morance,  based upon the detailed notes and drawings Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc left behind.  It was meant to serve as a guide book for the newly restored historical site, giving its history, archaeology, a schematic drawing of the defensive structures (outer wall, inner wall, towers, and castle), a detailed discussion of the function of the defense works, and a brief description of the cathedral of Saint Nazaire, and the inner city. Elfriede Abbe first visited Carcassonne in 1939 and returned with a copy of this book, returning several more times with her final visit in 1986 resulting in her decision to produce a modern version of the 1920 book based upon Viollet-le-Duc’s notes and drawings.  Abbe’s book corrects numerous errors in the original book and enhances the original tour guide with her wood-engravings.  Additionally, many of the original architectural drawings from Viollet-le-Duc’s Dictionnaire de l’Architecture Francaise  and Dictionnaire du Mobiliere Francaise are reproduced in a silver-grey color and interspersed with Abbe’s illustrations.  Abbe also redrew and lettered the city plan and added a regional map and newer plan of Saint Nazaire Church.   This book is a loving tribute to this ancient city and its dedicated restorer.  It is (by far) the most substantial and accomplished of the books from Elfriede Abbe’s small bibliography.

Published in 1988. Limited to 11o copies, signed by Elfriede Abbe. Types are handset in Goudy Oldstyle and Goudy Thirty on Arches paper. Done on a Chandler and Price platen press. The woodcuts are printed from the original blocks, and the author’s drawings were reproduced from the Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture by offset or metal plates.

Pictures of The City of Carcassonne

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. 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 or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Binding - covers and spine
Binding – covers and spine
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Front Cover
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Front Cover
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Macro of Front Cover
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Macro of Front Cover
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Title Page
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #2
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Sample Illustration #2
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Colophon
The City of Carcassonne, Elfriede Abbe, Colophon

6 thoughts on “The Artistry of Elfriede Abbe

  1. Michael:

    I am pleased to hear that you have acquired several of Elfriede Abbe’s books. Although not well known by private press book collectors, they are small gems. I do not have her edition of the Revelation of Saint John in my collection but certainly appreciate your “heads up” in this regard; I will add it very shortly to the other Abbe books in my collection.

    Regarding private press books printed on exquisite Japanese papers – and beautiful hand made papers have been part of the Japanese culture and DNA for centuries – I have Good News and I have Bad News.

    Bad News: Several of the LEC livres d’artiste books produced by Sidney Shiff are printed on Japanese
    papers but they are quite expensive.

    Good News: An exquisite small book entitled ‘Prayers Written at Vailima’ by R.L. Stevenson was published
    by the Melville Press in 1999 (edition of 200). This was Stevenson’s last work, written in
    Samoa where he died. They are prayers written for his family and the Samoan
    people, for whom an evening prayer or hymn is part of daily life. The book is printed letter-
    press on Hiromi-Sansui paper and it features 21 original linoleum prints by Catherine Kenner
    as illustrations.

    I would suggest contacting the Melville Press directly to see if they have any remaining
    copies (www.themelvillepress.com). If none are available, it does show up 1 or 2 times per
    year on Abebooks, etc., and typically sells for $200 to $250 in fine condition.

  2. Thanks to this posting, Frankly I had never heard of Abbe before and I am very grateful now that I did.After reading this I immediately obtained Elfriede Abbes’ Creation as well as her Revelation of St. John. The Creation is lovely, but no comparison to the Revelation, which is a masterpiece. Not only is it longer than the Creation, but it has more striking illustrations. But what really sets it apart is the extraordinary Japanese Taireshi paper that was used. I have only ever come across Japanese paper used for printing illustrations, not for a whole book. The paper is silky to the touch and lovely with a beautiful pattern. Overall, Revelation is a joy to behold and highly, highly recommended. Interestingly, my copy came with the original prospectus from 1958 indicating that the price was $15, shipping included!!!

  3. affle:

    I rechecked my notes and route map and you are indeed correct – that is Rocamadour. The telltale, of course, is the Chapelle Miraculeuse.

    My bad (-: .

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