Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities

Elements of Style

“Muriel Draper’s fabulous hat” photograph by Carl Van Vechten; in honor of the Beinecke Library’s new exhibition, “Elements of Style: Fashion and Form at the Beinecke,” on view January 19 through March 27, 2010. Join us Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 4:00 pm, for the exhibition opening event, “My Soul Finds Comfort in This False Hope” a talk by Maira Kalman.

About the Exhibition
This exploration of fashion and literary culture pays playful homage to Strunk and White’s now classic grammar primer, The Elements of Style, first published in its current guise fifty years ago. The “little book,” as it has come to be called, has offered prosaic advice on all things prose to generations of college students. Yet its emphasis on “style,” on the ease, clarity, and distinctive flair of good writing, reveals, at the same time, how the component parts of composition similarly mirror the characteristic stamp of a signature look, be it Fitzgerald’s fictional Gatsby or the Jazz Age icon Josephine Baker. The exhibition considers, then, the idea of style as it relates to sartorial expression and prose/poetic form—the role of clothing and design in literature and everyday life, and the artful way in which words appear upon the page. We discover that clothing, and the meaning of dress, remains a compelling literary subject, just as fashion itself is highly dependent on written language, on the power of description and, in turn, of persuasion. With a focus on the concept of the modern, “Elements of Style” highlights literary artifacts such as Gertrude Stein’s embroidered waistcoats and Muriel Draper’s hats, while it also draws attention to the evocative relationship between text and texture, fabric and paper, as well as the book artist’s continued fascination with sewing and the decorative arts.

About Maira Kalman
Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with her family at the age of four. She has worked as a designer, author, illustrator and artist for more than thirty years without formal training. Her work is a narrative journal of her life and all its absurdities. She has written and illustrated twelve children’s books including Ooh-la-la- Max in Love, What Pete Ate, and Swami on Rye. She often illustrates for The New Yorker magazine, and is well known for her collaboration with Rick Meyerowitz on the NewYorkistan cover in 2001. Recent projects include The Elements of Style (illustrated), and a monthly on-line column entitled Principles of Uncertainty for The New York Times. She teaches a graduate seminar in design at the School of Visual Arts and is represented by the Julie Saul Gallery in NYC. More information on Maira Kalman:

Photographs by Carl Van Vechten are used with permission of the Van Vechten Trust; the permission of the Trust is required to publish Van Vechten photographs in any format. To contact the Trust email: Van Vechten Trust.

Prazos (complete with Dip-Tank)

Posted in Beinecke Library, General Modern Collection by beineckepoetry on January 25, 2010

Images from a pair of photo albums documenting a group of prazos in Eastern Africa in 1917-1918.
According to Wikipedia, a prazo was “a large estate leased to Portuguese colonial settlers and traders in Africa to exploit the continent’s resources. Prazos operated like a semi-feudal system and were most commonly found in the Zambezi River Valley.”

The two volumes contain over 100 photos of workers, houses, livestock, and commercial cultivation and preparation of coprah (coconut meat) and beans, primarily in Mozambique.


Posted in Beinecke Library, General Modern Collection by beineckepoetry on January 21, 2010

Four issues of a deluxe poetry, art, and music magazine, Matière,
published in Zurich, 1952-53.

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Demon Tumbling

Posted in Beinecke Library, Yale Collection of American Literature by beineckepoetry on January 15, 2010

[Illuminated Books #18: Demon Tumbling Down Stairs] by Erica Van Horn, in honor of the exhibition The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn, on view at the Beinecke Library from January 13 to March 27, 2010, and online:

[Illuminated Books #18: Demon Tumbling Down Stairs], [Paris: s.n.], 1988.

Van Horn calls these painted books “a bit of play with the term Illuminated Book”; this spine-painting is, also, an inversion of the rare and beautiful book art of fore-edge painting, in which landscapes and narrative scenes are painted on the edges of an open book’s pages. The artist struck upon this unusual format as “a way for people who have no wall space to have a painting, and for people who don’t read to have books.” To make her Illuminated Books, the artist purchased inexpensive books at a used bookstore in Paris, until the booksellers discovered what she was doing with them—wiring them together and rendering them unreadable—and refused to sell her any more.

New Exhibition

The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn

The Beinecke Library is pleased to announce a new exhibition, The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn, on view at the Library from January 13 to March 27, 2010, and online: During a career that has spanned more than thirty years, American book artist and writer Erica Van Horn’s body of work has included prints and works on paper, elaborately illustrated unique books, and printed and editioned works in a wide variety of formats. “The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn,” highlights the Beinecke Library’s outstanding collection of Erica Van Horn’s work, representing all aspects of the artist’s development, calling special attention to several themes: the artist’s frequent exploration of the details of her life, the objects around her, the routines of her days, and her most familiar relationships; her long fascination with the ways language both describes and creates community, even as it determines individual identity and shapes personal memory; Van Horn’s interest in the essential elements of narrative forms and structures, in both word and image; and the artist’s frequent use and re-use of saved or salvaged materials as the raw materials of her work, documenting her creative process and making both beauty and meaning from fragments and remainders.

Related Event

Erica Van Horn will visit the Beinecke Library for a public conversation with Beinecke curator, Nancy Kuhl, on February 24, 2010, at 4pm. Van Horn will discuss her development as an artist and writer, her artistic process, her influences and inspirations. The conversation will refer directly to materials on view in the current exhibition.

About Erica Van Horn

Born in Concord, New Hampshire, Erica Van Horn now lives in rural Tipperary, Ireland, where she is the publisher, with Simon Cutts, of Coracle, a small press producing creative and critical works of various kinds in small editions. To contact the artist, visit Coracle (

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Sea of Japan

Posted in Beinecke Library, General Modern Collection by beineckepoetry on January 12, 2010

Pages from a unique book of 121 mounted seaweed specimens from the Sea of Japan [collected, possibly by Lauriston B. Hardin, on the Perry Japan Expedition, 1853-55].

The Voice of the New Year

Posted in Beinecke Library, Shirley Collection by beineckepoetry on January 8, 2010

Along with a new stylesheet – (tell us what you think) – we present:
as a special cautionary post for the New Year, the complete text of:

The Warning Clock; or the Voice of the New Year.
New-York: Mahlon Day, 374 Pearl-Street, 1836