Self-Portraits From Early Printed Books: 16th and 17th Century Selfies

Ricc.png"Selfies" aren't so new after all. Self-portraits from early printed books, in the form of an etched frontispiece or a woodcut illustration, have been around for 500 years, and you can see some of them in a new digital catalogue from Bruce McKittrick Rare Books of Narberth, Pennsylvania. The catalogue's very clever design looks like a smart phone interface, in which a friend--from 1579--has sent you a text and a pic of himself. Click for TMI, and you get a full catalogue listing for each book.

How did the booksellers devise such a unique format for a rare book catalogue? Waylaid for eight hours during a recent trip to London, McKittrick and Andrew Gaub batted around ideas for their next list. Gaub suggested a focus on portraits, and "selfies" quickly came to mind. With the help of their assistant, Kiley Samz, and their printer, Scott Vile of Ascensius Press, who designed the final piece, they produced three catalogues with six "selfies" each and released them over a four-week period.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 10.34.30 AM.png
Fournier.png"As we were taking our catalogue descriptions and turning them into 'texts,' these were primarily intended as promotional pieces...a different way to think about our old books and what's in them. The response was very positive. And we even sold a few," Gaub said.

Above: Carlo Luigi Riccardi, in an etched frontispiece from his 1783 Descrizione Del Luogo Di Grugliasco.

Right: Denis Fournier, in a full-page engraved portrait from his [1678] L' Anatomie Pacifique Nouvelle Et Curieuse.

Images: Courtesy of Bruce McKittrick Rare Books.