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Gently Mad

Gift to Open Again and Again

The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics bookx

The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics

selected and edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly; Abrams ComicArts, 352 pages, $49.95.

Readers of Fine Books & Collections don’t need to be told that comics have become one hot collectible over the past several decades, with even the literature of the genre itself of consuming interest. The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic memoirist Art Spiegelman (for “Maus, A Survivor’s Tale”) and Françoise Mouly, art editor of the New Yorker and editorial director of Toon Books, have gathered a generous selection of comics from the 1930s through the 1960s, with examples by the likes of Carl Barks, John Stanley, Sheldon Mayer, Walt Kelly, and Basil Wolverton. There is a general introduction by Jon Scieszka, along with solid commentary by the editors for each of the five sections. I love the title for chapter one: “Out of the Trash and Into a Treasury,” a sentiment that should resonate with collectors of every discipline.

The New York 400 book

New York 400: A Visual History of America’s Greatest City

by John Thorn; Running Press, 480 pages, 500 illustrations, $40.

To observe the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival along the river on the west side of Manhattan, the Museum of the City of New York—a really nifty museum in a city of many outstanding museums—has opened its vault of images for this visual tribute to the Big Apple. There are iconic landmarks represented, to be sure, but it is the archival nature of the media represented—the lithographs, watercolors, wood engravings, postcards, architectural renderings, archival photographs, maps, toys, sculptures—that distinguish this effort. And the photo extravaganza is just part of the treat; 16 essays, covering the full cultural and historical landscape, enhance what is a very classy production indeed.

Jacket image of The History of Paris in Painting

The History of Paris in Painting

edited by Georges Duby and Guy Lobrichon, with contributions by Guillaume de Bertier de Sauvigny and Genèvieve Brunel; Abbeville Press, 364 pages, slipcased; 350 illustrations, four of them gate-folds, $235.

Once upon a time, books like this were called coffee-table books, presumably because of their large size and the gorgeous illustrations that make them suitable for living room ornamentation. (We are all, I hope, familiar with Anthony Powell’s 1971 novel with the unforgettable title, Books Do Furnish a Room.) If anything, however, this sumptuous release from Abbeville—weighing 15 pounds on my scale, and measuring 12 inches by 18 inches—could be a piece of furniture in its own right. The concept is direct—the history of Paris the City of Lights as represented over the decades by artists, with examples from medieval times, through the Revolution to the twentieth century, including lovely examples from the French Impressionists. Scale is very important in such an effort, and it is not neglected here; a Francophile’s delight.

Jacket image of The Medieval World at War

The Medieval World at War

edited by Matthew Bennett; Thames & Hudson, 272 pages, 264 illustrations, $55.

History on a much more modest scale—but by no means less enthralling—is presented here in these first-hand accounts of such matters as tactics, troop formations, weapons, battles, fortifications and the like, gathered by Matthew Bennett, a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, and fully illustrated with a striking range of period illustrations, not just European, but the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Far East as well. A military enthusiast on your list? Can’t go wrong here.

Jacket image of American Quilts and Coverlets

American Quilts and Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Amelia Peck, with the assistance of Cynthia V. A. Schaffner; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 320 pages, 350 illustrations, $29.95.

This richly informative book—an updated, and re-photographed version of the 1990 edition, which has long been out of print—may be one of the best values available this year, and should be of particular appeal to collectors of these unusual textiles, which have become more and more recognized as objects that transcend domestic craft. The Met’s collection includes many masterpieces, the Baltimore Presentation quilt and the Mary Breed Embroidered coverlet among them.

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