THE BIG BOOK
by Lee Sorensen
Librarian for Visual Studies and Dance, Lilly Library
What is that “big book” on display in the lobby of Lilly Library? Its proper title is Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. This book is a gift to Duke University Libraries from the Nasher Museum of Art, and will remain in Lilly through the spring semester.
With the rise of e-books and readers, one of the most uncommon and increasingly rare printed formats is the folio book, defined by one student as, “too damn large to carry.” In the days before book criteria included portability, giant books were produced to contain actual-size documents such as building plans and engravings, detailed scientific renderings and later, photography.
The “big book” on display is a modern edition of photographs from the Gilman Paper Company, New York. The firm had one of the best private collections of photographs in the world, which was acquired by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005 . This magisterial book contains reprinted photographs of photographers such as Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Fox Talbot, Eugene Atget and Edward S. Curtis. The edition was curated by Pierre Apraxine, with plates created by renowned photographer and printer Richard Benson (who was also the Dean of Yale School of Art), and notes contributed by photography consultant Lee Marks. This volume, printed by Stamperia Valdonega in Verona, Italy, and half-bound in leather, is the only one in North Carolina outside of the Mint Museum, Charlotte.
Pages are turned periodically to show new images. 47 cm in length, the volume consists of 480 pages with 199 offset lithographs plus an offset lithographic frontispiece.
Contributor: Carol Smolka Terry