We lived in Northern Illinois from 1986 to 1997. There were a number of used and rare bookshops in the suburbs, especially in Evanston. The owner of one of the frequented shops retired and closed up his retail store. In October 1992 he contacted me and said that he needed to raise some money and that if I came to his home, he would make available most of his remaining books at a 50% discount. And I arranged a date. This is when I realized that many used book shop owners did not have funded retirement plans. What they did was squirrel away some of the better books they acquired over the years and sold these as needed. When I visited him, he showed me some treasures that he was still holding onto. They were WOW items!
But there were also many WOW items made available to me, and I spent as much as dared. I still think about some lovely items I left behind. And I still remember walking over to a coffee table that had one item on it. An elephant folio Faust. One of the greatest works of fiction in the world.
What a spectacular tooled leather binding. But the cover was loose and the book had suffered some water damage. The book had hundreds of illustrations including 25 steel engravings that I can only describe as exquisite. Only several had some water damage and mostly in the margins. I had to have this book and have it restored as much as possible.
Just to the north of us, in Racine, Wisconsin was one of the foremost antiquarian book restorers in the country. I had taken a number of things to him over the years and I had him create some boxes for prized books and ephemera. He had a drawer full of some of the most creative marbled paper that I have ever seen. See the box below that he made for some of my Beresford Egan collection.
Some details on my treasure. Faust: Eine Tragodie von Goethe; two volumes bound together; Stuttgart, Germany 1854 & 1858. Text in German Gothic script. A total of 379 pages, measuring 610mm X 310mm. (over 16” x over 12”). The book weighs 6 kilos. The steel engravings featured the work of artist Engelbert Seibertz. The plates were engraved by Adrian Schleich. Each engraving has a protective tissue guard. The engravings are individually dated and they span some 8 years. When you see the photos below, you will understand why the production of the two volumes took so long.
When I went to pick up the restored volume, it had been rebacked, with the original label placed
on the new spine. The pages were cleaned up a great deal, but I had hoped for better results. But that was as good as it would get. While there, the restorer let me handle and look through a book he was working on for an American University. It was a copy of the famous Nuremberg Chronicle, an incunabulum dated from 1493. Now, that was a serious treasure!
Here are 4 of the 25 engravings:
Many of the other woodcut illustrations were great as well, especially the following GRYPHON.
How could I not share this one!