Wednesday, 6 October 2010

All Saints

This beautiful book was given to me by my friend and former colleague Rowland Thomas. Whilst the beautiful cloth binding is striking of itself, the contents are equally wonderful. Published in 1946 by the Department of Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico, the text is by one E. Boyd, and the book was designed by Merle Armitage. Fine collotype plates illustrate 24 examples of bultos, santos and retablos of the principal holy figures of the New Mexican religious canon, and include the Holy Child of Atocha, Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Ramon Nonato and San Isidro. Such depictions of religious figures, be they carved from wood or depicted on skin or gesso panels, were considered at the time that the book was written as purely folk-art; 'at one end of the a scale of church art', yet the author mentions at the opposite extreme, the magnificent retablos of the high Spanish Baroque, by way of stressing the powerfully primitive nature of their creation. The book cites principal santeros (the makers of such religious art), and there is a comprehensive appendix of holy figures and their locations throughout New Mexico. This is an ex-library copy, and retains the stamps of London University and the American Library in London. It also contains the original acccession card, still attached to the rear endpaper; it is interesting to note that the date of its last borrowing was December 4th, 1959 - the day I became four years old. With one and two-colour line drawings on the title and end colophon by P.G. Napolitano, this is a wonderful example of a very particular type of American book; one which retains its appeal for its subject-matter and its period of publication, yet also somehow succeeds in feeling as modern as tomorrow.