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Drop Dead Gorgeous - Kitty Maryatt Exhibit

  • January 27, 2021
  • May 09, 2021
  • Online

Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fine Bindings for La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation

Virtual Exhibition at the Minnesota Center for the Book, Minneapolis, MN

Binding by Dominic Riley of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation, an editioned facsimile by SfC founding member and Director Emerita of the Scripps College Press, Kitty Maryatt


La Prose du Transsibérien, published by Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars in 1913, is the armature on which the drop dead gorgeous bindings in this exhibit are built. Originally folded and bound in a vellum case, the 1913 book explodes into the space you occupy when opened, forcing you to change from a private to a public viewing, a dramatic change in the reading experience. Painter Sonia Delaunay virtually dominates the book, commanding your attention immediately when the book opens with her vibrant, sinuous colors leading you inexorably to the Eiffel Tower. The prose poem by Blaise Cendrars performs its own spectacle in blazing color, taking liberties with poetic form and guiding you on a journey of surprising typographic experiences. For her second act, Sonia Delaunay penetrates the poem with color, reinforcing the shape of the poem. A book with such vitality screams out to the binder: see what you can do with me. This exhibition was inspired by the celebrated binder Paul Bonet, who in 1964, designed an extraordinary binding for a copy of La Prose.

With support from twelve underwriters, Kitty Maryatt initiated the project in 2017 to re-create La Prose using original techniques of letterpress and pochoir. La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation was published in 2018 in an edition of 150 copies, with an additional 30 copies hors commerce for the underwriters. The regular edition is bound in a simple folded vellum cover as in the original, and the deluxe edition is bound in aluminum covers with cut-outs.

The brilliant idea to ask the underwriters (and others) to commission fine bindings

for a traveling exhibit was supported enthusiastically by Simon Eccles and Toby Schwartzburg, co-curators of this exhibit. The result is the dazzling exhibition that is celebrated here.

A virtual two-hour demonstration of pochoir will be given on February 25, 2021 at 8-10 pm EST. The documentary, The Making of a Masterpiece by Rosylyn Rhee, will be shown on March 25, 2021 from 7-9 pm EST. Visit the website above for details about these events.

To purchase the Drop Dead Gorgeous catalog from the MCBA Store, visit https://www.shopmnbookarts.org/?page_n=3. Cost $50.

You can also purchase it from the San Francisco Center for the Book Store, https://sfcb.org. Cost $50. 

Kitty Maryatt, Exhibition Curator; Simon Eccles, Co-Curator; Toby Schwartzburg, Co-Curator

UNDERWRITERS of the La Prose Project

Neale M. Albert, New York, NY; Mary Austin, San Francisco, CA; Servane Briand, Palo Alto, CA; John Crichton, San Francisco, CA; Simon Eccles, Boston, MA; Jack Ginsberg, Johannesburg, South Africa; Greg Krisilas, Encino, CA; Eleanore Ramsey, San Francisco, CA; Rob Saunders, San

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