Artifex: Leonard Baskin and the Gehenna Press


The early years of Gehenna Press

Baskin & Hughes

An Architect of the Page

“Of the making of books…”




Honoring James Baldwin

The Oresteia



An Architect of the Page : Tiresias

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Gehenna Press's Tiresias had its roots in an earlier sculptural program. In 1963, Baskin created a series of mythological figures cast in bronze, notably including Tiresias, the blind soothsayer of Thebes. The artist was most interested in Dante's image of Tiresias as a backward-looking seer in the Inferno, but was equally fascinated by the story of Tiresias's transformation into a woman for seven years. In 1970, Gehenna Press printed Tennyson's version of the Tiresias story.

Using a bold typographic arrangement for the title page, Baskin made elegant letterforms the armature for this fine press edition. The typeface used for the book was Centaur, set and printed by Harold McGrath. The title page letters were printed from metal type, but carved from boxwood by John E. Benson, one of the most skilled and best known of American carvers.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tiresias. Title page. Gehenna Press, 1970. Title engraved on boxwood by John E. Benson.

Collection of Lisa Unger Baskin, Courtesy Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tiresias. Frontispiece etching by Leonard Baskin. Gehenna Press, 1970.

Collection of Lisa Unger Baskin, Courtesy Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York.

71.324, Leonard Baskin. Tiresias. Bronze sculpture.

Gift of Janet (Class of 1952) and John E. (Class of 1951) Marqusee. Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University.

On view in Olin Library.