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Re: [BKARTS] Art Deco Book Design - John Vassos



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To see the books of John Vassos, take a look at the bibliography I have
compiled over the years. There is a link off of the main Book Arts Web page
at <http://www.philobiblon.com>.

His original and illustrated books were:

Salome,Oscar Wilde, 1927 & 1930
Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde, 1928 & 1930
The Harlot's House and Other Poems, Oscar Wilde, 1929
Contempo, Text by Ruth Vassos, 1929
Ultimo, Text by Ruth Vassos, 1930
Phobia, John Vassos, 1931
Elegy in a Country Church-Yard, Thomas Gray, 1931
Kubla Khan, Samuel Coleridge, 1933 & 1934
Humanities, Text by Ruth Vassos, 1935
Synthesis No. 1: Poems by Dorothy Randolph Byard, 1937

Over the years I have been able to acquire what I believe to be a fairly
comprehensive collection all the limited and trade editions of his works.
There were loads of variant bindings for many of his titles.  The website
hasn't been updated in a while, and I have been able to acquire numerous
other variants since that last update. As for "Contempo" having an aluminum
cover, I wish it were so, but the limited edition was covered in a striking
silver cloth, which came with a slipcase covered/stamped in the same manner
as the first trade binding variant. Working at the Syracuse University
Library I am fortunate to have access to a portion of his papers (The bulk
being at the Archives of American Art) and those of his publisher. His
primary focus of work was as an industrial designer for RCA, among others.

As for are their being artist's books, I don't know. You might be able to
call the ones he and his wife did that, arguably. Vassos was heavily
involved with the design of the books, or tried to be. The correspondence
between him and his publisher shows this having been a contentious issue at
times. What about children's trade books where the author and illustrator
are one. Are those artist's books? What makes them that, as opposed to
their just being illustrated books? Where's the line?

Peter


>We have a number of books in the art deco style at the Jaffe Collection by
>John Vassos. If my facts are correct, he's the man who designed the
>household refrigerator that had a motor on top of the unit. But he also
>designed and illustrated books in the 1930s, and they are definitely
>influenced by the streamlined lines and architectural elements that are
>part of Art Deco. Look for these titles:
>
>          "Ultimo" 1930
>          "Phobia" 1931
>          "Humanities" 1935
>          "Contempo" (don't have a date for that one right now... ours is
>packed up for exhibit. Aluminum cover, though, if I remember right)
>
>I don't know the full extent of his career, but he also did quite a few
>interpretations of the works of Oscar Wilde. Some of the books we have by
>Vassos are limited editions, others are trade editions. Of the trade
>editions, at least one title ("Ultimo") was produced in at least two
>different bindings, both in 1930.
>
>John Cutrone
>The Arthur and Mata Jaffe Collection
>Florida Atlantic University Wimberly Library


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