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False book backs



     I am compiling information about the use of false book backs
to cover walls and other surfaces and seek help from the well-
read or well-traveled among you to identify instances of the use
of this decorative motif.  I am primarily interested in false
book backs that are lettered, the lettering identifying the
putative book.

     The range of these false book backs includes jokey titles,
as at Rendcomb House near Cirencester, Gloucestershire ("How to
Cure Corns," by Bunyan, etc.), those detected as having political
meaning, as in Turgot's cabinet in Limoges, learned references,
as to lost classical texts in the Chateau de Chantilly, and the
almost purely decorative as at Vizcaya in Miami.  This subject is
perhaps best approached light-heartedly, but there are aspects of
it worthy of serious examination: what it can tell us about
attitudes toward books and libraries, the function of library
rooms, decorative taste and technique, the question of trompe
l'oeil, and the subject of imaginary libraries.

     The effect of false book backs has usually been achieved
with dummy backs fabricated of leather affixed to wooden slats,
and the false backs have often been used to mask a door.  In-
stances of such dummy book backs that I know of are at or in:

     Sir Thomas Acland's library room
     Army and Navy Club, London
     the gallery of the Round Reading Room of the British Museum
     Chateau de Chantilly
     Chatsworth
     Charles Dickens's library room at Gad's Hill Place
     Dumbarton Oaks, Washington
     Edward Everitt's library room, Boston
     Marlborough House, London
     William Hickling Prescott's library room, Boston
     Rendcomb House, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire
     Royal Automobile Club, London
     Turgot's cabinet in Limoges
     Vizcaya, Miami

     I am also interested in compiling information about false
book backs created by using such materials as wallpaper, leather
wall covering, papier mache, gutta percha, and wooden panels, and
I am interested in all techniques used on the surfaces (e.g.,
printing, painting, drawing, photography, embossing, carving).  I
am interested in fictional and fictive false book backs (e.g.,
those at Aldous Huxley's Crome; those in stage settings and in
the cinema).  I am interested in cases where surfaces other than
walls and doors have been covered by false book backs (e.g.,
tambours, lamp bases).  Indeed, I am interested in any case where
book backs produce an incongruity between appearance and reality.

     As a related matter, I am interested in masked doors per se
(e.g., the pivoting bookcase section in the Grolier Club, New
York, that holds real books; the several camouflaged doors in the
Palais de Versailles; the combination window and door in the
Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis).  I draw the line at books
eviscerated to make cigarette boxes.

     I appeal to you to report to me instances of the phenomena
cited above.  All reports will be gladly received, but I prefer
reports that are documented or documentable by a published
description.

     As per custom, please report to me directly rather than to
the list, and I will summarize to the list.

     This message is being posted to BIBSOCAN, BOOK_ARTS-L,
ExLibris, lis-rarebooks, and SHARP-L.  Please pardon multiple
copies of the message.

     <*>-==--==--==--==--==--==--==-<*>-==--==--==--==--==--==--==-<*>
        Donald Farren                          voice 301.951.9479
        email p00244@psilink.com               fax 301.951.9479
                  4009 Bradley Lane, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
     <*>-==--==--==--==--==--==--==-<*>-==--==--==--==--==--==--==-<*>


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