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Research in New York

By Paul Watson on .

I’m lucky to be on a work trip to New York at the moment, and this morning—my bodyclock still working on UK time, and the rain pouring down—I managed to grab some time to visit the Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue, not far from my hotel.

Morgan Library

The Morgan began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan housing his collection of illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.

The main focus of my visit to this institution was to see—first-hand—a Gutenberg Bible (the Library owns three of them!) printed in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and movable type.

The visit was a fantastic mine of inspiration, from the wonderful library itself (illustrated here — photo by machbel, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons, used with thanks), to the vast array of old books (including some great Books of Hours), the Gutenberg Bible itself, and a fantastic collection of artwork encompassing personal favourites such as Joseph Cornell, Egon Schiele, and Jim Dine, as well as preparatory sketches and drawings by old masters.

I left the galleries and went to the Library shop feeling very pleasantly overwhelmed, my head overflowing with ideas and inspiration for the Book of the Erinyes.

In the shop, in addition to a couple of postcards, I bought a copy of Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures — a wonderful, richly illustrated, book exploring the world of books that are less than 3 inches high.

I don’t actually have a huge interest in miniature books, but the bindings illustrated in this book are wonderful — I think the creators decided that they could have more fun with small books.

They range from traditional leather bindings to bindings made of mother-of-pearl (popular as a deluxe binding in the 19th century), gold-thread on silk, tortoiseshell, copper, velvet, gold, silver filigree, palekh lacquer (a Russian folk craft), polycarbonate, and enamel. Some are plain, others gilt-tooled, embedded with emeralds, amethysts or pearls, embossed, embroidered, engraved, or decorated with tiny enamel portraits.

The wealth of creativity displayed in this book is amazing, and will certainly prove invaluable as inspiration for binding the Book of the Erinyes.