by Stuart Mitchner
There are limits to what can be put between the covers of a book. Yet every season, especially at this time of year, publishers outdo themselves. When the stakes are high, and the prevailing mission is to fashion a gift to transcend all others, craftsmen, photographers, designers and artisans team up as if the art of the book was not only still viable in the age of Kindle but supreme, on a level beyond the surface showiness of the so-called coffee table book.
Put Christmas in New York between covers? Impossible, of course. But bookseller-publishers like Assouline, with stores all over the world, take the effort seriously. Holiday Manhattan and Christmas windows being synonymous, Assouline has managed to put Windows at Bergdorf Goodman ($695) between covers with photographs by Ricky Zehavi and John Cordes. The price is steep but you can see why if you take the online tour at http://www.assouline.com/new-titles.html.
“We’re drawn to extremes here,” says David Hoey, who heads the visual team at Bergdorf Goodman along with Linda Fargo. “Minimalism is great. Maximalism is too. What we avoid is medium-ism.” This 14×17” hand-bound limited edition comes in a slipcase with hand-tipped images, including three gate-folds.
Other new titles from Assouline include Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbook ($250), compiled by photographer James Danziger, and Living Architecture by Dominique Browning and Lucy Gilmour ($75), photographs of America’s iconic 20th century homes the New York Times found “so stunning, and so plentiful, they allow the reader to imagine living, breathing, eating in the homes.”
Desirable and Affordable
Labyrinth Books is stocking up for the holidays with some lavish, annotated editions of literary classics like Jane Austen’s Emma ($35), which is edited by Bharat Tandon, Lecturer in the School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and the author of Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation. Like Princeton residents and English professors at Princeton and Rutgers Susan J. Wolfson and Ronald Levao’s lavish annotated Frankenstein (if a tad edgy for the Christmas tree), the annotated Emma is published, brilliantly, by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Library Journal notes that readers of Emma “will find the charming story enhanced by color illustrations and well-crafted annotations… This carefully prepared edition is sure to meet the needs of Austen lovers and scholars alike.”
Another book unlikely to languish on the coffee table is America’s Other Audubon by Joy Kiser (Princeton Architectural Press $45), which the New York Times called “a classic work of science and art, and a fascinating 19th-century life,” suggesting that “If Emily Dickinson had been an amateur naturalist and painter, she would’ve been Genevieve Jones, whose life and work are lovingly resurrected here.”
For something completely different, there’s Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Pantheon $50). Labyrinth’s Dorothea von Moltke described it as “a huge box with books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets: graphic novel material to rummage in as much as read.”
Andre Levie, who is in charge of “collection development” for the Princeton Public Library, has provided information about some of the special volumes he’s ordered, all of them under $100.
Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat (Andrews McMeel $75) reveals a body of previously little-known work done during Ted Geisel’s free time, so to speak. Once termed his “Midnight Paintings,” now known as “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” the work reflected the pattern he followed in his creative life, his days devoted to literature for children, his nights to letting his mind and palette wander in often surrealistic directions.
The Future of Architecture Since 1889 (Phaidon $75) by architectural historian and critic Jean-Louis Cohen traces an arc from industrialization through computerization, and links architecture to developments in art, technology, urbanism and critical theory. Encompassing both well-known masters and previously neglected but significant architects, this book also reflects Cohen’s deep knowledge of architecture across the globe, and in places such as Eastern Europe and colonial Africa and South America that have rarely been included in histories of this period.
Illustrated not only with buildings, projects and plans, the book also includes portraits, paintings, diagrams, film stills, and exhibitions that show the diversity of architectural thought and production throughout the twentieth century.
Although Georgia O’Keeffe’s two houses in New Mexico are essential presences in her paintings, their history had never before been detailed until the publication of Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu (Abrams $50), which Publishers Weekly finds “Beautifully designed and fascinating.” Quoting from the artist’s letters, Barbara Buhler Lynes and Agapita Judy Lopez compellingly recreate the visual reality of O’Keeffe and her homes. An essay by architect Beverly Spears describes the distinctive characteristics of adobe construction.
Along with photographs made especially for this book showing the houses as they are today, there are photographs by major photographers of O’Keeffe at home, her paintings of the houses and the surrounding landscapes.
Of all so-called coffee table books, among the most useful are the ones that eventually find their way into the kitchen, like Bouchon Bakery (Artisan $50) by celebrity chef Thomas Keller and pastry chef for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Sebastien Rouxel. Keller goes back to his childhood for TKOs and Oh Ohs (his take on Oreos and Hostess’s Ho Hos) and his days as a young chef apprenticing in Paris, with baguettes, macarons, mille-feuilles, and “tartes aux fruits.” Co-author Sebastien Rouxel, executive pastry chef for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, has spent years refining techniques through trial and error, and every page offers a delicious new lesson.