Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More Book Madness; Reviewing Dover Publications softcover editions of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's The Prisons (Le Carceri) and Hans Holbein the Younger's The Dance of Death.

Dover Publications has been in business since 1941, providing and reb]producing historic books on all subjects at reasonable prices. I purchased my first Dover Books in high school, some of Bridgman's Anatomy books, back in the late 70's, but I seem to remember some in the family library before then as well. For well used paperbacks these have held excellently, and I have even leant them out to drawing students from time-to-time.

Last year I ordered several books on art from Dover, inclucing The Dance of Death and The Prisons. Both of these books are lovely, and the images are reproduced with great care.

The Prisons (Le Carceri) may be the most complete reproduction of this series of etchings bu Piranesi that is available. Both series one and series two etchings are included, and all are printed at 60% of origional size (which makes them about 9 X 13 inches). The images are stunning, bringing to mind fantastical opera sets or the type of grandiose locations that Spielberg or Peter Jackson might create if they remade "Nosferatu." The sixteen plates, in both 'First State' and 'Second State' versions show imaginary dungeons, prisons and vast laberinths of stairs balconies and galleries that would be fitting for Dante's Inferno.

The Dance of Death is a complete view of Hans Holbein the Younger's 41 Woodcuts, in a complete facsimile of the original 1538 French edition. The plates are printed with the orgional Latin captions, and then again with modern English. Unfortunately the plates are rather small, being only 2 x 2 1/2 inches. I do not believe the originals were so small, but I may be mistaken. Also the origional essays that accompanied the original prints are not translated. This is unfortunate, but as an artist I find the book well worth having in spite of this. The woodcuts are simply wonderful.

I highly recommend Dover Books to anyone looking for reprintings of older references, and especially for specialty art references. For anyone interested in the Art History or 'fantastic' art, I would strongly recommend The Prisons and The Dance of Death.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Prisons (Le Carceri) ISBN 0-486-21540-7 $18.95 US

The Dance of Death, 41 Woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger ISBN 0-486-22894-5 $8.95 US

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