Artifex: Leonard Baskin and the Gehenna Press

Introduction

The early years of Gehenna Press

Baskin & Hughes

An Architect of the Page

“Of the making of books…”

Icones

Demons

Diptera

Honoring James Baldwin

The Oresteia

Capriccio

Sibyls

Icones : Icones Librorum Artifices, I

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Maria Sibylla Merian, a German botanist and entomologist, worked in Surinam at the turn of the eighteenth century. Her delicate illustrations were published as hand-colored engravings in her day, and today are much sought-after by collectors. Baskin's text is redolent of fondness for the intrepid, middle-aged voyager. His shaped text cleverly recalls the silhouette of an insect, a reference to the artists' mutual interest in insects.

Baskin here offers an apology for Jost Amman, often denigrated as more a costume designer than a serious wood cut artist. Baskin makes special mention of Amman's extensive artistic oeuvre and is probably making a reference to his own prolific output when he paraphrases Ecclesiastes 12: 12 in saying, "of the making of many drawings there is no end."

Beardsley is best remembered for his spectacularly detailed, imaginative illustrations for Oscar Wilde's work, in particular, Salome, published in 1896. Beardsley was also a passionate collector of books, and got his start by trading drawings for books. His life was sadly brief; he died from tuberculosis at age twenty-six. Beardsley’s interest in ornamental, bizarre, and grotesque forms greatly appealed to Baskin.

Leonard Baskin. Icones Librorum Artifices: Being Actual, Putative, Fugative & Fantastical Portraits of Engravers, Illustrators & Binders. Gehenna Press, 1988.

Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Leonard Baskin. Color etching of Maria Sibylla Merian. From: Icones Librorum Artifices: Being Actual, Putative, Fugative & Fantastical Portraits of Engravers, Illustrators & Binders. Gehenna Press, 1988.

Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Leonard Baskin. Color etching of Jost Amman. From: Icones Librorum Artifices: Being Actual, Putative, Fugative & Fantastical Portraits of Engravers, Illustrators & Binders. Gehenna Press, 1988.

Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Leonard Baskin. Color etching of Aubrey Beardsley. From: Icones Librorum Artifices: Being Actual, Putative, Fugative & Fantastical Portraits of Engravers, Illustrators & Binders. Gehenna Press, 1988.

Graphic Arts Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.