Art lovers and bookworms can visit the downtown Cincinnati Public Library to see a rare collection of classic novels with original illustrations by famous artists.
The Artists and Authors Unite exhibit is in the Joseph S. Stern, Jr. Cincinnati Hall in the Main Library until March 29. It features over 40 classic novels that the Cincinnati Public Library has purchased through a subscription to the Limited Editions Club.
Founded in 1929, the Limited Editions Club (LEC) publishes originally illustrated limited editions of literary classics – never publishing more than 1,500 copies each.
The Cincinnati Public Library collected around 600 books throughout its 50-year LEC membership, but canceled the membership in the 1990s due to cost.
The average cost of each book is $ 1,500 to $ 2,000, but some are now worth much more. âUlysses,â written by James Joyce in 1922, is illustrated and signed by French artist Henri Matisse – it’s worth $ 20,000, according to Diane Mallstrom, curator of Artists and Authors Unite.
âI selected a large collection of classics, hoping people would recognize a lot of titles,â she said.
The first box of books features novels by black authors and artists for Black History Month. Maya Angelou’s “Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul” is illustrated by watercolor artist Dean Mitchell. Mitchell’s illustration shows a trumpeter in shades of blue and is the poster image for the exhibition. He also produced an original jazz composition to accompany the book.
Other works on display include:
â¢ “Dracula” by Bram Stoker and illustrated with woodcuts by Swiss artist Felix Hoffman;
â¢ “Lysistrata” by the Greek playwright Aristophanes and illustrated by Pablo Picasso;
â¢ “The Fall of the House of Usher” by American poet Edgar Allen Poe and illustrated by Alice Neel.
Neel’s illustrations are sometimes “too scary,” Mallstrom said. Poe’s novel in the exhibition opens with a page displaying a wistful gray painting of a woman sitting in a chair.
The Friends of the Public Library, a nonprofit group that supports the library with funds and materials, donated the “Birmingham City Prison Letter” from Martin Luther King, Jr in 2009 – it s’ This is the most recent addition to the library collection. African-American artist Faith Ringgold illustrated and signed the novel and only 420 copies were made.
When the exhibition is over, the books will return to the piles. Anyone with a library card or photo ID can request to read books in the library, but they cannot be picked up.
âWe have a number of people who are art historians who will come here and look at these books specifically for the illustrations,â Mallstrom said. “With a collection like this, it’s hard to pick a favorite.”