Monday, October 17, 2016

Gallowsongs by Jess (Black Sparrow Press, signed and numbered edition)

Jess Collins, renowned for his irreverent "paste-up" collages, did a few books with Black Sparrow Press in the 60s and 70s. Those readers that are new to Jess should check out O! Tricky Cad! and other Jessoterica from Siglio Press, as it's the best book on Jess out there right now. His paste-ups were these insane text-based collages, often re-appropriating strips of dialogue from comic books like Dick Tracy (hence the "Tricky Cad" anagram) into these compositions that look like equal parts Tristan Tzara and the Zodiac Killer:

In addition to his collages he's also a fantastic painter; I've seen some similarly "layered" pieces that are thick with color and function, formally, in a sort of parallel way to his cacophonous paste-ups.

I was thrilled to find a book of his pen and ink drawings published by Black Sparrow Press in 1970. This is a signed limited edition of Gallowsongs (versions of poems originally in Galgenlieder by Christian Morgenstern).

Very exciting to see a book bound like this, with three brads screwed through the spine. Inside, poems are scattered around the page, integrated beautifully with Jess's illustrations. Here's the title page (with some remnants of creatively-placed prices from other booksellers):

Here are some of my favorite samples from the inside: 

I absolutely adore this "wordless" poem, called "Fish's Nighthymn": 

And here's the limitation page. This book was published in an edition of only 175 hardcover copies, each signed and numbered by the artist. There were 600 paperbacks, and 26 lettered copies bound in full leather.

I don't understand why this signed edition is still on the secondary market for around $150. The lettered copies start at around $500, but this is such a special book, and Jess such a fantastic artist, that I think these 175 signed/numbered hardcovers should also be bumped up into the $350-750 range. If you're intrigued, I suggest you snatch up a copy before people catch on.

Lastly, just for fun, here's the original prospectus (check out that $20 price point!):

Currently reading:
Cheap Novelties by Ben Katchor

Currently listening to:
"A Place Called Bad" by The Scientists

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