A couple of Sundays ago with great anticipation, I paid my first visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame curious to see its much touted new exhibit, A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion & Chess. Having read articles in local publications, Alive and St. Louis Magazine, as well as national magazines, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar, I knew something spectacular had come to town and I was not disappointed. I found the exhibition to be nothing short of jaw-dropping.
The exhibit’s curator, Sofia Hedman, has taken innovative garments, shoes, and headwear from dozens of cutting edge fashion designers to tell the story of the powerful, volatile Queen piece through the lens of nine Jungian archetypes. As one winds through the multiple rooms on two floors, the various personas of the Sage, Mother Figure, Enchantress, Magician, Explorer, Ruler, Heroine, Mother Earth, and Thespian Queen are presented in brilliant, nearly indescribable ways. Furthermore, each of these archetypes has a corresponding historical queen who exemplifies these attributes. The Sage Queen is represented by the intelligent, yet unconventional Christina of Sweden, the Enchantress is the sensual Marie Antoinette, and the Magician is embodied by Queen Elizabeth I, who was both captivating and courageous. It was a much welcome mind and sensory assault.
I’ve always been a fan of fashion, although not tremendously knowledgeable, and knew this was perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the work of late London designer Alexander McQueen, whose pieces are featured in the exposition. The “bad boy” of haute couture fashion, McQueen became an icon during the “Cool Britannia” 90s, when Brit Pop’s Oasis and Blur ruled the radio waves and the notorious animal dissection “art” of Damien Hirst shocked the world.
McQueen’s runway shows were major theatrical productions and hot ticket events. He placed his models on artificial snow, inside glass cubes, and even on chessboards. He once projected a 3D hologram of model Kate Moss on the catwalk. His lines were often inspired by classic film directors Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. Perhaps his defining piece, outrageously low-rise trousers called “bumsters,” first appeared in his autumn/winter 1993–94 show based on Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. McQueen studied ornithology and often used birds, feathers, and nests in his work. Tragically, McQueen took his own life in February 2010 at the age of 40, distraught over his mother’s recent death.
Among the many other designers in the show are Iris Van Herpen, Jean Paul Gautier, Pam Hogg, and Hussein Chalayan. There are also fantastic sculptures of eyes and ears by Orlando Campbell.
When I returned to the library the following day anxious to make sense of the challenging imagery and ideas still swirling in my head, I looked into our holdings and found a few terrific books on McQueen. First, I had Love Looks Not With The Eyes: Thirteen years with Lee Alexander McQueen (Oversize 746.92092) by fashion photographer Anne Deniau sent from our Schlafly branch to Central, where I work and pick up my books. As a cardholder, you can easily have any circulating item sent to whichever location best serves your needs. Deniau’s behind the scenes photography is an insightful chronicle of McQueen’s artistic progression. A mix of b&w and color prints expose the last minute adjustments and laughter under the tension and chaos of his runway shows. I will say it’s one of the heaviest and most unwieldy books I’ve ever happily lugged around for a couple of weeks. Photography from Love Looks Not With The Eyes is also on display at A Queen Within and separately at Philip Slein Gallery through December 7th.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (Oversize 746.92092) by Andrew Bolton is the catalogue that accompanied the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition of the same name. Wildly popular, the show ran throughout the summer of 2011. Full page color photographs of the garments worn by pale posed mannequins allows the work to speak for itself. The lenticular printed cover transforms from a portrait of McQueen into a polished metallic skull as one tilts the book. The skull motif was a signature design often used by McQueen.
Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy (746.92092) written by Judith Watt is more biographical in nature than the others, while still providing excellent photographs. Watt recounts McQueen’s apprenticeship with master tailors at Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row, his graduate show at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design titled Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, and his many provocative productions, including my favorites, VOSS and Horn of Plenty.
I also found myself thinking about all the real-life queens featured in the exhibit and browsed through Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric (B KRISTINA QUEEN) by Veronica Buckley, published in 2004.
Of course, if you’re more intrigued by the game of chess, you may want to check out The Immortal Game: A History of Chess or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain (794.109) by David Shenk. I’m now considering attending a ladies beginners class (because I’m impatient and lose every time) on Thursday evenings at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis located across the street from The World Chess Hall of Fame.
If the concept of Carl Gustav Jung’s archetypes is more your territory, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, is Volume 9, Part 1 of The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, a 20 volume set published in the 1950s by Princeton University. These books can be found under 132 at SLPL. It’s interesting to note that Dewey Classification number 132 (Mental derangements) is no longer used. The majority of Jung’s work is found under 150.1954 (Jungian systems.)
Now, it’s your move. Enjoy!
Various illustrated editions of Edward FitzGerald’s English rendering of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
When a recent visitor to Rare Books and Special Collections asked to see our 1908 copy of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, featuring illustrations by Edmund Dulac, I was struck by the artist’s enchanting style and decided to investigate our other holdings of his work. That’s how I stumbled onto The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Although I was familiar with the poem, I had no idea there were so many superbly illustrated editions from the late Victorian era, including one by Dulac. Most of these beautiful works accompany Edward FitzGerald’s well-loved, albeit loose translation.
FitzGerald, a wealthy Englishman and bit of a recluse, published his 1st edition of Omar Khayyám’s verses anonymously in 1859. Khayyám was an 11th century Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer. A collection of four line verses, a Rubaiyat is known as quatrain in English. Khayyám’s quatrains explore the uncertainty and impermanence of life and the value of living in the moment- relishing the earthly delights of wine, song, and romantic love. A true literary phenomenon in its time, FitzGerald’s interpretation was widely read and quoted by average Brits and Americans alike. The work has inspired countless tributes and parodies including the humorous The Rubáiyát of a Persian Kitten by Oliver Herford and a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon concerning a certain ‘Ruby Yacht.’ Two handwritten passages of the poem can be found in 2010’s Autobiography of Mark Twain: Volume 1, for the author originally intended on using the selection as the book’s epigraph.
But what about these beautifully bound and illustrated books? I learned that the period between the 1880’s and 1920’s is considered the ‘Golden Age of Illustration,’ when improvements in color printing technology permitted precise and cost-effective reproductions of art. This gave rise to the keepsake ‘Gift Book,’ (the predecessor to our coffee table books) of which The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was a favored title.
One of the most intriguing stories surrounding the text involves British bookbinders Sangorksi & Sutcliffe. Celebrated for their extravagant covers adored with precious metals and gems, the firm was commissioned in 1909 to create the most magnificent edition of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám of all time. Named ‘The Great Omar’, their finest work took two years to finish and boasted more than one thousand jewels. Unfortunately, the volume was a passenger on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.
Artwork shown in the slideshow above includes the first illustrated version published in 1884 in Boston by Houghton Mifflin which featured drawings by American artist Elihu Vedder. It was enormously popular. An especially remarkable edition, in my opinion, originally published in 1905 by Dodge Publishing in New York, showcases sensuous photography by Adelaide Hanscom. St. Louis Public Library holds the 1912 printing in which the photographs have been colorized to stunning effect. Belgian painter Sir Frank Brangwyn and Willy Pogany from Hungary also illustrated very early editions. Which takes us back to Dulac and how we got here in the first place.
Excepting the Elihu Vedder copy, which is housed in Central Library’s vast stacks under the call number Oversize 891.5, these editions of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám are located in the RB-X classification of Rare Books and Special Collections, also at Central. While these books are all reference and do not circulate, library staff is more than happy to show patrons these items. Other editions of the title, including translations by other writers, criticism, and interpretation are available at St. Louis Public Library and can be easily found using our online catalog.
“For in and out, above, about, below,
‘Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
Play’ d in a Box whose Candle is
Round which we Phantom Figures
come and go.”
Most of us have read at least one “classic” work of fiction. Novels like Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or Ellison’s The Invisible Man are often considered part of the American literary cannon, and appear on on may must-read book lists. However, in addition to these fiction works, there are also many non-fiction titles to add to your list. Here are just two non-fiction works from the Science and Technology Department that record significant events, ideas, and discoveries in American history.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, 1962
Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist and a writer. Her writings, especially Silent Spring, were instrumental in starting the environmental movement in America, and banning the use of the pesticide, DDT. Silent Spring details ways in which chemicals from pesticides are damaging to wildlife, and imagines a dystopian world in which wildlife has nearly vanished.
The Double Helix by James Watson, 1968
James D. Watson, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. The award recognized their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of DNA. The Double Helix is Watson’s autobiographical account of the discovery. In 2012, the book was named as one of 88 “Books that Shaped America” by the Library of Congress.
If you’re still feeling the luck of the Irish from yesterday’s St. Paddy’s Day festivities, why not continue the celebration with a selection of music from the St. Louis Public Library? Not only do we have a great selection of recorded and downloadable music, but, for all you musicians out there, we also have an amazing collection of scores. Like most of our printed materials, our collection of musical scores and sheet music goes back to the turn of the 20th century, so you will be sure to find some pretty deep cuts if you’re willing to dig. For example, “Irish Folk Songs” (cover pictured), published in 1897, includes songs like “The Cuckoo Madrigal”, “The Brave Irish Lad”, and “The Jug of Punch”.
Lisa Lehmann’s “Songs of Good Luck”, 1913, may not be traditional Irish music, but it is definitely related in spirit, and also has a charming cover illustration:
To find more sheet music, you can do an advanced search on our catalog. Enter your search query in the “word or phrase” field (“Irish Music” was used for the music featured here) and limit your results to “musical recordings and scores” in the “materials” field.
The results will display in reverse chronological order, so to find older scores and sheet music (as opposed to CDs, which will constitute the bulk of your results) go to the last page, and work your way backwards.
…and if you start early enough, you may have just enough time to perfect a couple of numbers before next year!
Good luck and happy browsing!
The St. Louis Public Library’s newly restored and modernized Central Library, and its architectural firm, Cannon Design, have been named as a top 5 finalist in the Architizer’s A+ awards in the category for libraries. Congratulations, Central!!
Voting is on! –Help us win this prestigious architectural award. Vote now and spread the word–we have until March 8.
Today marks the 100th birthday of British Paleoanthropologist, Mary Leakey (1913-1996). If you haven’t noticed already, she is featured in today’s “Google Doodle”, which is how I came to learn about her–thanks Google!
In a nutshell, Mrs. Leakey is famous for her discoveries of ancient tools, footprints, and skulls, including the first fossilized Proconsul skull, an extinct ape now believed to be ancestral to humans. Librarians will be pleased to know that she also developed a method for classifying the ancient tools that she and her husband discovered on an expedition in Olduvai Gorge, Africa. Not only did she have excellent organizational skills, but she was also a talented illustrator. you can see her field drawings of stone axes, hammers, and scrapers in our copy of Adam’s Ancestors (1934), a book about human fossils written by her husband, Louis Leakey. In the preface, Louis credits her illustrations using her maiden name, Nicols. They were married two years after the book was published, so I guess you could say they really “dug” each other (yes, I’m a pun dork).
For more information about Mary Leakey, check out Disclosing the Past, her 1984 autobiography. It is available in the stacks at Central Library. You can make a request for it on our website, or just ask one of us to grab it for you when you’re here.
Note: The images in this post are from the fourth edition of Adam’s Ancestors (1960). They are details from figures 17, and 29. This edition is also available at the St. Louis Public Library.
Stop by the Science and Technology Department of the newly renovated Central Library, and you’ll notice our beautiful new wall graphics. The images were hand-picked by library staff, and represent the wide-ranging subject areas in the 500-600 section of the Dewey Decimal System.
Of these graphics, one of my favorites is a 3′X5′ picture of Dusel–a horse immortalized by English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge. The image resembles a film strip, and captures stills of Dusel and his rider trotting along in a strange, stark white room, which is actually the photographer’s highly controlled and scientific studio. Although the work is primarily intended as a scientific document, it also creates a wonderfully weird tension between art and nature, which is typical of Muybridge’s photography.
Muybride made it his life work to record movement, specifically the movements of humans and animals. In doing so, he made significant technical and artistic contributions to the fields of science, photography, and film. His most seminal work, Animal Locomotion, was published in 1887, and contains thousands upon thousands of still images of creatures great and small. It is a testament to his obsession with capturing motion.
The St. Louis Public Library is fortunate to own a selection of plates form the original 11-volume, 1887 edition–and it is truly remarkable to see them first hand. To see the complete set, ask for our copy of the 1979 edition, published by Dover. If you just want to visit Dusel, who I am hereby unofficially declaring as the Science and Technology mascot, you can gallop, sunter, amble, trot, or just walk on down to the library.