Posters—For the love of Books

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Who doesn’t love a good book—or a good poster for a good book? Since the dawn of print advertising, plenty of wall space has been dedicated to the literati: promotions for chap books, literary journals, periodicals, essays, and novels proliferate. Here, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite literary posters from our 78th Rare Posters Auction, which include designs for book releases, plates from compendiums, and announcements for bookish events.

“Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence. Some people think of reading only as a kind of escape: an escape from the ‘real’ everyday world to an imaginary world, the world of books. Books are much more. They are a way of being fully human.”
― Susan Sontag

283. Le "Quartier" Cabaret-Salon. 1897.
By Georges Fay (1871-1916)
31 3/8 x 46 1/8 in./79.7 x 117.2 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

Whether it’s 1897 in Paris, 1967 in San Francisco, or 2019 in Brooklyn, the counterculture scene resonates in this indelible image: a Bohemian poet, orating in wild hair and tangled beard, to a gaggle of female admirers in a dimly lit night café—this one was just a block from the Jardins du Luxembourg and two blocks from the Sorbonne. It’s the first known poster of the little-known Georges Fay, and was good enough to get him noticed by Jules Chéret, who solicited two pieces by him for inclusion in Les Maîtres de l’Affiche.

230. Pèl & Ploma / Setmanari. 1899.
By Ramon Casas (1866-1932)
35 1/8 x 25 1/8 in./89.2 x 64 cm
Est: $15,000-$20,000

As art director for the Catalan graphics weekly, Pèl & Ploma, Casas took the task upon himself to create several promotional works to further the lithographic cause. He succeeds in spectacular fashion with this poster featuring the charms of a languid artiste, decoratively laid out whilst perusing this week’s edition. Casas was one of Spain’s premiere posterists around the turn of the century—an extraordinarily sensitive artist who always portrayed his women with delicacy. With Alexandre de Riquer, close friend Miguel Utrillo, and Pere Romeu, they virtually set the standards for Spanish poster art for a whole generation of designers. Like Utrillo and Romeu, Casas honed his art during an apprenticeship in Paris and applied it well on his return to native Barcelona.

318. New York is Book Country. 1985.
By Keith Haring (1958-1990)
19 3/4 x 25 1/2 in./50 x 64.7 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

Haring illustrated this exuberant book-lover’s poster for the New York Book Fair, which was held September 22, 1985 on the streets along 5th Avenue in Manhattan. The event was hosted by the New York Public Library, and a portion of funds were donated to support the Children’s Services department of the library.

337. The August Century / Midsummer Holiday Number. 1896.
By Joseph C. Leyendecker (1874-1951)
14 7/8 x 20 in./37.8 x 51 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

This is the prize-winning design in The Century contest that got Joseph Leyendecker started on his long career. The model’s gold hair and the red stylized poppies dominate the inviting design. Although he was one of America’s favorite illustrators and trend setters in graphic design, Leyendecker remained an intensely private person throughout his life. He was born in Germany of Dutch ancestry and came to the United States with his family at the age of eight, where they settled in Chicago. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute while apprenticing as an engraver; from the age of twenty he made his living as an illustrator.

364. Illustrated Bits. ca. 1895.
By Albert George Morrow (1863-1927)
19 1/2 x 28 7/8 in./49.4 x 73.3 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

The January 1899 issue of The Poster called this Morrow’s first graphic ‘hit.’ To promote this periodical, he showcases a graceful girl pirouetting like a ballerina as she forms the title in a visual symphony of color and detail. “Albert Morrow is altogether unorthodox, and rather prone to indulge in the delusive delights of lithographic chalking; but his work shows at times originality and character, and a knowledge of what his theatrical clients will best appreciate. His ‘Illustrated Bits’ poster has plenty of ‘go,’ and, being unsigned, has been attributed to ‘Pal,’ to whose style it assimilates” (Rogers, p. 47).

372. Dictionnaire des Arts Décoratifs / Cover. 1902.
By Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
6 1/8 x 9 in./15.5 x 22.8 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

Paul Rouaix’s “Dictionary of Decorative Arts” was a two-volume compendium that acted as a reference to artists and artisans—namely, it included almost 600 engravings and 17 plates. Mucha was commissioned to design the cover, and in his typical fashion, he delivered this decadent Art Nouveau artiste—adrift in thought, and with all the panache one could expect from a Mucha design.

385. Seated Nude : Pencil Print. 1898.
By Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
8 x 11 in./20.5 x 28 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

In this intimate and sensitive plate from “Les Chansons Eternelles,” Mucha allows us to focus on his artistic skills—no frills, no ornamentation, just a refined use of line and form. The locks of her hair, the billows in the sheet, and the bark of the tree are all rendered exquisitely.

415. Harper’s / May.  1896.
By Edward Penfield (1866-1925)
11 1/2 x 17 3/8 in./29.2 x 44.2 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

“Of this whole series, the May poster, of the girl with the two Angora cats has, perhaps, the greatest and most lasting charm. Its quaint originality and the absolute informality of its subject and the extraordinary simplicity of its treatment makes it a poster that one remembers for years after it has been put away” (Price, p. 235-36).

424. Scribner’s for February. 1904.
By James Preston (1874-1962)
14 1/8 x 21 1/2 in./36 x 54.6 cm
Est: $800-$1,000

In this tranquil scene, Preston sets the mood for the February issue of Scribner’s—what better way to cozy up with fine literature than on a train traversing a snowy landscape? Pure and simple bliss!

433. Gebrüder Scholl / Zürich. 1916.
By Edwin Roth (1886-1963)
35 7/8 x 50 in./91 x 127 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

For the writer, a desk isn’t just a table or a tool. It’s home. Roth’s insight here transforms the pedestrian sale of Gebrüder Scholl’s office supplies into a melodious “Still Life at the Seat of Creativity.” Completing the picture is the oval frame, a favorite device of other Swiss designers of the era such as Mangold and Baumberger. A companion piece (not featured; see PAI-XIX, 475) does the same for Gebrüder Scholl’s art supplies.

469B. L'Estampe Originale. 1895.
By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
32 3/8 x 23 1/8 in./82.2 x 58.8 cm
Est: $6,000-$8,000

“During its two-year print run, the print portfolio L’Estampe Originale brought together the most sophisticated developments in printmaking by a range of vanguard artists. It was issued in nine installments and distributed to print enthusiasts by Parisian print publisher André Marty. Despite its brief life span, it exerted tremendous influence on printmaking as an artistic medium” (Britany Salsbury, Metropolitan Museum of Art). For the ninth and last edition in March 1895, Lautrec was chosen for the cover. It shows “the scenery for the unsuccessful play Le Chariot de Terre Cuite… On the left half of the large sheet, which is used in horizontal format, Lautrec has varied the motif of the Divan Japonais poster, though the much-feted Misia Natanson is now seated in the box instead of Jane Avril” (Adriani, p. 181).

This is just the beginning…
You’re invited to bid on these items
(and hundreds more!) at auction
Sunday, June 23 at 11am EDT
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