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Digest

Blurring the Lines Between Book and Art

Upstairs in TEFAF’s paper section, Ursus books from New York City bridged the gap between art and book with its collection of illustrated artists’ books by Rembrandt, Picasso, and others.

“Picasso made over 150 books,” said Ursus owner Peter Kraus. “You would not believe how many people do not know this, even if they collect Picasso,” he said.

An avid David Hockney collector discovered Hockney’s books at Kraus’ stand and consequently bought the entire collection. Kraus participates in three or four fairs a year but said that TEFAF remains unmatched. “It’s like night and day,” he said, comparing it to the other major fairs.

One thing that’s worth noting, while other fairs like London’s Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair offer vetting systems, few come in the form of TEFAF’s 29 committees composed of 175 art experts (not to mention their Art Loss Register database of stolen works). This paves the way for serious collectors and institutions to buy with confidence—it’s no accident that 225 museums showed up last year.

The next TEFAF takes place from March 15–24, 2013. What books and manuscripts will find themselves nestled among Greek marble statues, Japanese porcelain, and pre-Columbian art?

Crouch Rare Books will bring a collection of Leo Belgicus maps, in three styles, including the first one created by Austrian cartographer Michael Aitzinger in 1583 at the dawn of the Eighty Years’ War and the famous “Peaceful Lion,” engraved by Claes Janszoon Visscher in 1609 at the end of the Twelve Years’ Truce. Collectors will be able to buy the whole group for €350,000 ($450,000) or individual maps from €20,000–75,000 ($25,000–100,000).

Shapero Rare Books will feature this beautiful Schedel-Fugger-Landau hand-colored copy of the first edition of the first encyclopedia of women, De Claris mulieribus. Courtesy of Shapero Rare Books.

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books of Switzerland will be back for its eighteenth year at TEFAF 2013 with a recently acquired Flemish Book of Hours (c. 1475–1485), which Günther called “our highlight of the year.”

In discussing changes over the last two decades at TEFAF, Günther noted, “We have seen more contemporary art arriving, and from this sector we also attracted new clients.” He added that many modern collectors are also attracted to medieval images, specifically with naturalistic details, so the Book of Hours makes a perfect choice.

Also in the Shapero booth, a deluxe copy of Description de l’Égypte ou recueil des observations et des researches… (Paris, 1809–13). Its price is £135,000 ($218,000). Courtesy of Shapero Rare Books.

Shapero Rare Books of London—regulars at TEFAF for over a decade—will be presenting Boccaccio’s De Claris mulieribus, an Italian, hand-colored copy of the first edition of the first encyclopedia of women, priced at £200,000 ($320,000), with woodcut portraits of Eve, Joan of Arc, and mythical figures like Juno and Isis. (See what else Shapero Rare Books is bringing this year.)

So what happens when antiquarian books and manuscripts are placed amongst two hundred-plus booths devoted entirely to art? Because the art at Maastricht goes back many centuries, the books can be viewed in their proper context. Just a short walk across the corridor from an illuminated miniature, you might find a fifteenth-century pair of colorful Italian majolica albarelli or a medieval Spanish pendant or a knight’s armor. It feels like a museum, but, in the end, any of it can be yours.

Rena Silverman is a cultural journalist who covers the personalities, artwork, and market trends of the international art world. She has written for Blackbook, Bomb, The Photo Review, and National Geographic’s Pop Omnivore blog. Passionate about design, Rena collects rare art books with a special interest in typography.
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