From the category archives:

Design

The history of tarot is long, and probably surprising to some. The earliest known surviving full deck dates to the early 15th century in Italy. Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Duke of Milan, it is known as the Visconti-Sforza deck, after the Duke’s family name. In Renaissance Europe, these decks of cards, then known as trionfi, tarocchi, and tarock, were used to play games such as tarocchini in Italy and jeu de tarot in France, trick-taking card games in the same vein as Whist or bridge. In Italy, the aristocracy would also engage in a whimsical game known as “tarocchi appropriati”, in which players were dealt cards from the deck and used the imagery and themes to compose poetry. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the cards began to be used as we think of them today, for divination and cartomancy.

A tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards total. Similar to standard playing cards, there is a set of four suits which vary by region, but often are represented by wands/batons, cups, coins/pentacles, and swords. Each suit is comprised of 14 cards, ten cards numbered one or ace to ten, and four face cards: King, Queen, Knight, and Jack or Knave. These 56 cards are known as the minor arcana. The other 22 cards are known as the major arcana and consist of a group of 21 Trump cards and a single card known as the Fool. Although there are wide varieties in tarot decks, stylistically and regionally, some of the more archetypal arcana cards include the Tower, the Devil, the Magician, Death, the Wheel of Fortune, the Chariot, Justice/Judgment, the Lovers, the Moon, the Sun, and the World. Some tarot decks contain only these 22 major arcana cards, eliminating the four suits.

F.A. Bernett Books currently has in its inventory a collection of over 200 assorted tarot decks, comprising an impressive overview of the history and study of tarot. Most of the decks date to the second half of the 20th century and are primarily European in origin. This collection includes reproductions of important historical decks, decks showcasing the work of modern artists and more whimsical decks centered around fantastical themes. Highlighted below are several of the numerous interesting and eye-catching decks from this collection.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reproduction of the Tarocco di Marsiglia (Svizzera 1804). No. 555 of a limited edition of 2000. Milan (Edizioni Il Meneghello/Cavallini & Co.) n.d.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Il Tarocco di Amerigo Folchi. Artwork by Amerigo Folchi. No. 2528 of a limited edition of 3000. Bologna (Italcards) 1991.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Tarot de la Réa. Artwork by Alain Bocher. St-Brieuc, Franc (Les Presses Bretonnes) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarocco Fantastico. Artwork by Franco Bruna. No. 160 of a limited edition of 1200, with signed and hand-numbered title card. Turin (Viassone) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zigeuner Tarot. Artwork by Walter Wegmüller. Basel (Sphinx Verlag/AGMüller) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Tarot Belline. No. 4366. Paris (J.M. Simon/Grimaud) 1966.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XXII Arcani – I Tarocchi di Andrea Picini. Artwork by Andrea Picini. No. 123 of a limited edition of 1000, with signed and hand-numbered title card. N.p. (Edizioni Luca) 1977.

 

 

Extensive Collection of Tarot Cards. A large collection of over 200 decks of tarot cards, most dating to the second half of the 20th century with a few earlier and later outlying examples, from publishers in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States, including reproductions of antique tarot decks, modern decks showcasing the work of particular artists, and decks providing a more whimsical approach to the arcana. Some decks unopened, a few decks incomplete, the rest all in excellent condition, with little to no signs of wear. Various sizes. Various cities. 1930s-2000s. Together with an assortment of over 100 catalogues and books related to the tarot, some pertaining to specific decks. (48661)

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The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was the largest and most ambitious agency created by the United States government as part of the New Deal, established under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help combat the Great Depression, focusing on the “3 Rs” of Relief, Recovery, and Reform: relief for the poor and unemployed, recovery of the economy, and reform of the financial systems already in place to help prevent another depression. In total, over 100 offices were created – some established by Congress, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, and some through Roosevelt’s presidential executive orders, including the WPA.

The goal of the WPA, headed by Roosevelt’s close friend Harry Hopkins, was to create jobs for millions of Americans who were eligible for employment. The WPA operated in conjunction with state and local governments, which helped cover a percentage of the costs and provided supplies, while the WPA was responsible for the majority of costs and for the workers’ wages.  

Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA employed more than 8.5 million workers to carry out public works projects including the construction of hundreds of thousands of miles of highways and roads, bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, parks, playgrounds, and over 125,000 public buildings including hospitals and schools. Notable projects built under the WPA include the Lincoln Tunnel, LaGuardia Airport, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. A smaller division of the WPA, called Federal Project Number One, employed musicians, artists, writers, actors, and directors for arts, drama, and media projects.The WPA program was ended on June 30, 1943, due to low employment because of the worker shortage caused by World War II.

During the Great Depression, unemployment in the city of Milwaukee was at roughly 40 percent, and in 1933 an astonishing 53 percent of property taxes went unpaid because people couldn’t afford to make their payments. The WPA launched the Milwaukee Handicraft Project in 1935, under the direction of Elsa Ulbrecht, the Fine Arts Director of Milwaukee State Teachers College, with the goal of creating by hand high quality educational materials for schools that taught arts and crafts. The project hired roughly 5,000 workers and taught them to make a variety of wood and cloth items including dolls, toys, furniture, rugs, curtains, book-bindings, quilts, textile prints, and costumes. The women were assigned to specific production units, each led by an experienced artist or designer. The items were then sold at cost to educational and tax-supported institutions, including the Milwaukee Public Schools, libraries, and local hospitals.

The Milwaukee Handicraft Project was one of the most successful and innovative of the WPA’s various programs. The vast majority of workers hired by the WPA for its public relief projects were white men, but the Milwaukee Handicraft Project attempted to balance this disparity. Most of the workers hired for this program were uneducated and unskilled women of all ages and nationalities, many of whom had never held a job. A large number did not even speak English. Only certain jobs were considered appropriate for women at the time, and so Harriet Pettibone Clinton, the District Director of the Women’s Division of the Wisconsin WPA, deliberately chose to create a project in which the vast numbers of unemployed women could freely participate.

The WPA also sent a group of 300 African-American workers to participate in the project, intending them to have a segregated workspace. However, the program directors were opposed to this idea and insisted that the women and minorities work side-by-side. The integrated workforce made the Milwaukee Handicraft Project unique in its progressive and forward-thinking mindset.

One of the production units was the blockprinting unit, which grew out of the bookbinding unit when the lead designers decided to create decorative book covers using linoleum block prints. They created patterns which the workers then transferred to linoleum blocks and cut away to create stamps. These blocks were then inked and stamped onto paper and fabric. They were designed to be labor-intensive, so as to help guarantee the women with many hours of paid work. F.A. Bernett currently has in its inventory a suite of six portfolios displaying samples of the various handmade blockprinted textiles created in the workshops of the Milwaukee Handicraft Project.

Applied Design: Blockprinted Textiles. An Educational Service Prepared by the Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project. Milwaukee.- Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project. 6 vols: I. Surface Patterns; II. Surface Patterns; III. Motifs; IV. Border Designs; V. Motifs; VI. Supplement, comprising a suite of portfolios containing 72 total examples of matted blockprinted textiles in a wide variety of patterns and styles, including figures, animals, birds, botanical, and geometric designs, the back of each matte stamped “WPA Handicraft Project #7040, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Sponsored by Milwaukee County and Milwaukee State Teachers College”, the inside front cover of portfolios 1-4 and 6 labeled “This portfolio was made by the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, Sponsored by Milwaukee County and Milwaukee State Teachers College, Wisconsin WPA”, portfolio five stamped “WPA Handicraft Project #8601, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Sponsored by Milwaukee County and Milwaukee State Teachers College”. Portfolios 1-3 folio, 4-6 elephant folio. Green cloth-covered boards portfolios, contents loose as issued. Milwaukee (Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project) n.d. (circa 1935). Ex-library copy with bookplates, labels to covers, rubber ink stamps to portfolios and mattes, and pencil acquisition notations to mattes. (48655)

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“It is a riot, a revival of paganism…It is also, in its way, a hymn to beauty, a living explosion of the senses and of the emotions.” – E. Berry Wall, Neither Past Nor Puritan

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In 1892, Henri Guillaume, Professor of Architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, proposed that the students of the school’s four disciplines – architecture, painting, sculpture, and engraving – put on a joint costume ball. He envisioned a lavish room decorated by the students and ornate processions, inspired by a pre-existing culture of balls and costume parties in turn-of-the-century Paris, including the Bal Blanc, la Fête Païenne, the Bal des Incohérents, and the Bal Rodolphe.

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The first ball was organized by a joint committee of art students together with writers and artists living in Montmartre and Montparnasse. It was held at the old Élysée Montmartre, a Parisian concert hall and host to many cabarets and costume balls. Admission to the festivities was by invitation only, and the ball was an immediate success. The following year, it was decided that attendance to the ball would be restricted to students and former students of the École, as well as “artistic personalities” who had contributed to the preparation of the ball. It became an annual affair, running virtually uninterrupted each summer through 1966. (No parties were held during the war years, from 1915 to 1919 and from 1940 to 1945.) The balls were held in several major venues scattered throughout Paris over the years, with most taking place at the Moulin Rouge, the Salle Wagram, and the Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles.

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Although in its early years the ball was simply an elaborate party, beginning in 1900 each ball had a specific historic theme, often derived from an ancient text or inspired by an “exotic” foreign culture, around which various contests were arranged. Once the organizing committee and workshop students came up with the theme, students from the workshops, either individually or in groups, built floats for the entrance procession as well as a loge which surrounded the central dance floor to house tableaux from the chosen theme or time period, which would be acted out as the voting Committee passed by. Prizes were awarded for the best costumes.

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The balls were elaborate and debaucherous, romping affairs. According to the invitations, which read “Le comite sera impitoyable pour tout costume qui ne serait pas de l’epoque,” attendees were required to attend in period costume; yet the costumes were often shed at some point during the festivities. The doors opened at 10 PM, and no further entrances were allowed after midnight. However, the dancing and merrymaking often continued into the wee hours, usually devolving into drunken revelry and nudity. The dancing frequently ended with a shout of “Vive les Quat’z’ Arts!” around seven o’clock in the morning, followed by a procession through the Latin Quarter, a romp around the Louvre, and a march over the Pont du Carrousel to the Théâtre de l’Odéon, where the partygoers would disband.

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In July 1946, an article was published in Life Magazine by an American journalist, Bernard Frizell, who “crashed” that year’s party. He described the event as an orgy, the female attendees initially “dressed in such a way that more was revealed than hidden”, but by midnight, under pounding music and flashing lights, with hours of revelry still to come, “a number of the girls had lost their upper garments.” Around 1 am he describes the grand procession, that year with the theme of Agamemnon’s victory over Troy: “The orchestra, playing the march from Aida, led the parade of the victors around the room. Then the committee encircled the room to judge the best galley…On the mast of one of the galleys appeared a girl, her magnificent body completely nude. A long cheer went up. Out of the ship marched the students of the atelier. Upon the Wall of Troy a series of contests began….A prize was given for the best male costume and the best couple’s costume. Then came the feminine beauty contest. The girls had to appear without clothes.”

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The Bal des Quat’z’ Arts quickly became one of the premier events of the summer season, and many Parisians desired to attend one of the raucous parties. However, admission was carefully restricted to students of the École and contributing artists, and to gain entrance to the ball each attendee had to surrender their personal invitation at the door, which bore not only their name but also the stamp of the École or atelier they belonged to and the signatures of the Bal’s organizing committee. These invitations were in turn elaborately designed to match the spectacle of the events, and correspondingly were often thematically orientalist, exotic, or primitive, with overtly erotic and sexual imagery. They are a tour de force of the evolution of artistic style, showing the progress from Art Nouveau to modernist primitivism, up through psychedelic design. Almost every invitation bears the warning “Le nu est rigoureusement interdit,” later changed to the more formal “Le comite decline sa responsabilite des pour suites que pourrait entrainer l’exhibition du nu sur la voie publique,” instructions which were presumably expected to be ignored.

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In 1967, the chosen theme was to be the “Tour de Nesle,” but the ball never occurred due to failure to secure a location. And in May of 1968, student strikes at the Sorbonne led to the separation of the architecture department from the École, as well as the end of the Bal des Quat’z’Arts.

F.A. Bernett currently has a remarkable collection of these striking invitations, the themes of which include Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, the entrance of Perseus into Athens, Carthage, Babylon, the Incas, the Vikings, the Aztecs, Samurai, and the sack of Rome.

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Bal des Quat’z’Arts.- . Collection of 61 Invitation Cards to the Bal des Quat’z’Arts, Paris, 1907-1966. 61 invitation cards and posters of various sizes, ranging from approx. 6″ x 6″ to 15 3/4″ x 11 13/16″, to the notorious annual costume ball (1892-1966) produced by and for students from the four divisions of the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving), each lavishly illustrated by an artist or master from one of the ateliers with a representation of the year’s unique theme, most exotic and suggestive interpretations of historical, literary or foreign sources. Depicting decorative and figurative scenes, involving various artistic printmaking techniques including etching, engraving, letterpress, embossing, all in color, some folding, most with original perforated ticket coupons attached. Paris (Bal des Quat’z’Arts) 1907-1966. (47826)

 

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Contest of Realism. Novyi Lef.

Thumbnail image for Contest of Realism. Novyi Lef. March 11, 2014

Novyi Lef. Zhurnal Levogo Fronta Iskusstv. Year 1, No. 1 (January 1927) through Year 2, No. 12 (December 1928) (all published). 24 issues, published in 22 vols. as issued, comprising a complete first edition of the Soviet avant-garde monthly designed by Alexandr Rodchenko under the editorial direction of Vladimir Mayakovsky, followed by Sergei Tret’iakov, each […]

This Invitation Cannot Be Sold or Transferred.

Thumbnail image for This Invitation Cannot Be Sold or Transferred. January 21, 2014

Collection of Invitations, Programs, Flyers, Posters, Broadsides and other Ephemeral Items pertaining to the Palladium nightclub, June 1985 – May 1987. ca. 170 items ranging from single sheet to folding invitations, pop ups, and physical objects, executed in print processes including letterpress, stencil, silk screen, and off-set lithography, most in vibrant color. Items ranging in […]

Conjuring Pan: Julius Meier-Graefe’s darkly beautiful paean to the new currents of art in Europe, 1895-1899.

Pan. Cover detail. March 22, 2012

Pan.  Years I-V (all published). Edited by Julius Meier-Graefe and Otto Julius Bierbaum.  A complete run of all five years, bound in 21 parts as issued  (altogether 347, 351, 266, 267, 279 pp.)  Sm. folio.  Orig. wrpps., a few chips and tears at edges, some covers professionally repaired.  Berlin (Genossenschaft Pan) 1895-1899.  (45601) In the […]

The most influential graphic arts blog of late-1920s Tokyo: Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu.

Thumbnail image for The most influential graphic arts blog of late-1920s Tokyo: <i>Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu.</i> October 3, 2011

Kitazawa Yoshio, Hamada Masuji, Wantanabe Soshu, Tatsuke Yoichiro, et al. Gendai Shogyo Bijutsu Zenshu.  (“The Complete Commercial Artist”). 24-volume-illustrated series (each vol. approx. 100-150 pp. including plates).  4to.  Wrpps.  Tokyo (Ars) 1927-1930.  (46209) Over the past five years or so, a loose cadre of visual data miners at blogs including BibliOdyssey, 50 Watts, but does […]

Picturing Anarchy: The Graphic Design of Rufus Segar.

Anarchy 41: The Land June 27, 2011

Anarchy.  A Journal of Anarchist Ideas. Vol. 1, no. 1 (Mar. 1961) – vol. 10, no. 12 (Dec. 1970) [Alternately numbered nos. 1-118.] (entire first series). 118 numbers in ten consecutively paginated volumes.  8vo.  Illus. wrpps. In the early 1960s, the editors of Freedom Press, those stalwart protectors of the anarchist tradition in Great Britain, […]

“Le degré de perfection des productions de l’imprimerie d’un pays est une des marques de son degré de civilisation.” Printing in Japan, ca. 1915.

Thumbnail image for “Le degré de perfection des productions de l’imprimerie d’un pays est une des marques de son degré de civilisation.” Printing in Japan, ca. 1915. April 4, 2011

Sawada, Yozo. Insatsu Taikan (Great Atlas of Printing).  Unpaginated album.  Sm. folio.  Silk-covered boards, tie-bound.  Osaka (Nihon Insatsu Kaisha) 1915.  [46467] Following the death of his father, the Meiji Emperor, on July 30, 1912, Crown Prince Yoshihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan to become the Taishō Emperor. After three years of Imperial preparations, […]

“What Power is This?” Shinjuku Playmap & Tokyo Graphic Design, ca. 1970.

What Power is This? February 23, 2011

Teruhiko Yumura, et al.-. Shinjuku Playmap.  Nos. 1 (July 1969) through 30 (December 1971) (all published in the first series).  8vo.  Wrpps., covers illustrated by Teruhiko Yumura (also known as King Terry and Terry Johnson).  Tokyo 1969-1971.  [46471] What power is this, indeed? The global tidal wave of youth culture rebellion and experimentation of the […]

Compositions for Silk Damask & Other Fabrics (homage to Morton Feldman)

Thumbnail image for Compositions for Silk Damask & Other Fabrics (homage to Morton Feldman) February 8, 2011

(Fabric weaving manuscript).- Felix, M. & J. Mercier. Cahier de Théorie 4e Année 3e. N.p. (Lyon?) n.d. (circa 1895). [44915] Though we know little about the person who composed it (“J. Mercier,” seemingly a student in the 4th-year class of  one “Professeur M. Felix”), Cahier de Théorie 4e Année 3e offers a rich window into […]

“Everything has its Limit! Even Miniskirts…” Aerial propaganda leaflets on the inner German border, 1965-1969.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5167/5246880477_16618b2992_t.jpg December 13, 2010

Unique Dossier.- “Propaganda; British Frontier Service / 511.  Vol. II: Opened 30-2-65, Closed 18 Jun 69.” [46337] In the mid 1960s, a heated barrage of artillery over the inner German border (separating the Soviet and Western occupation zones) delivered neither explosives nor shrapnel, but aerial propaganda leaflets. This was, after all, the cold war, and […]

International Sign Painters of the World, Unite and Take Over.

Thumbnail image for International Sign Painters of the World, Unite and Take Over. August 26, 2010

Arrenbrecht, Wilhelm. Der Schriftenmaler.  Internationales Schriften-Vorlage-Werk. Cologne, ca. 1895.  [46260] Once upon a time, merchants hoping to make a good impression on potential customers didn’t hire graphical user interface consultants, they hired top-flight sign painters.  Elegant hand-painted lettering in a shop window announced to passers-by that the proprietor had class and sophistication.  Based on an […]

The Bois de Boulogne and Sem au Bois: Belle Epoque Paris and the Pageantry of the Passing Spectacle

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1012/4596067321_1c5b7c68e9_t.jpg May 11, 2010

Sem (pseudonym for Georges Goursat).  Sem au Bois (title stamped in gilt on front cover).  N.p. (Paris?) ca. 1908.   Signed and dated 29/4/08 in pencil on the last plate; 6 other plates with the artist’s printed insignia.  [45958] A jewel in the crown of Baron Haussmann’s modernized Paris, the Bois de Boulogne opened as a […]

Radical Newspapers and ‘The Graphic Design of Urgency’

Free Angela January 15, 2010

Collection of Mid-century American and Canadian Leftist Literature; 184 individual issues of 59 serials comprising a unique collection of publications from the 1920s to the 1990s. [45779] F.A. Bernett Books recently acquired a private collection of leftist periodicals. In cataloging the material, I was struck over and over again by a particular quality of the […]

Lucien Vogel’s Le Style Parisien

Le Style Parisien January 7, 2010

Le Style Parisien.  Numbers 1 (July 1915) through 7 (February 1916) (all published; lacking 8 pp. text). Paris (Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts) 1915-1916.  [45884] It may not have been the most avant-garde publication of its time, but Le Style Parisien served as an important bridge between the emerging capitals of  European fashion — chiefly Paris […]

Oceanliners and Graphic Designers: Carl Hinkefuss, Wilhelm Deffke and the Branding of the SS Imperator

Thumbnail image for Oceanliners and Graphic Designers: Carl Hinkefuss, Wilhelm Deffke and the Branding of the SS Imperator December 19, 2009

Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft.  Literarisches Bureau. Turbinen-Schnelldampfer Imperator: Hamburg-Amerika Linie.  Hamburg (Kunstanstalt H. G. Rahtgens for Hamburg-Amerika Linie) 1913. [45805] Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft.  Literarisches Bureau.   Imperator auf See, 1913. Berlin (Otto Elsner/ W. H. Deffke for Hamburg-Amerika Linie) n.d. (1913). [42926] These two lavishly produced promotional booklets offer a seductive glimpse into the luxurious world of early […]

Joseph Urban’s Rainbow City

Thumbnail image for Joseph Urban’s Rainbow City December 9, 2009

(Designs by Joseph Urban.)  Progress in Industrial Color and Protection at “A Century of Progress.” Chicago (American Asphalt Paint Co.)  1933. [45366] Celebrated architect, interior decorator, exhibition designer, illustrator and color theorist Joseph Urban (1872-1933) went out on a high note.  His final project, a commission to oversee an inventive color scheme for The Rainbow […]

George Barbier & the Great War

Thumbnail image for George Barbier & the Great War December 1, 2009

Barbier, George, & Jules Meynial.  La Guirlande des Mois.   Anées 1-5 (1917-1921) (all published).  Paris (Meynial) 1917-1921. [45546] Renowned illustrator, costume designer and Art Deco stylist George Barbier was 32 in 1914 when war broke out in Europe.  Although little is known about his personal biography, it stands to reason that he would have been […]