It Takes a Village
The 32nd annual Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair, a benefit for P.S. 3, was held this past weekend. For the second straight year, I was a vendor. But for the heat, which was turned full on, and could have been mitigated by opening a window, the fair was fun to do, and reasonably successful. I sold a variety of vintage architecture and design books, and a few of my first edition mystery novels. And I found a couple of things during set-up that made the effort worthwhile.
The major find was a copy of Forme Nuove in Italia, a beautifully edited and sumptuous survey of Italian decorative arts published in 1957. This work had long been a desiderata, but with prices in the $400-$500 range, I kept waiting for the right moment, which arrived on Friday, and I grabbed a copy for $60. From the same dealer, I picked up a monograph on the Italian modernist sculptor Mario Negri, published in 1962, for $15. Beyond the geographical and aesthetic affinities, the two books had this in common: they both came from the library of Virgil Cantini, Italian-born, Pittsburgh-based enamellist and sculptor whose work is featured in museums and craft publications. Cantini passed away in 2009 at the age of 90, so these books presumably came from his estate. More than this: while the Forme Nuove book was inscribed to Cantini, the Mario Negri catalog had a Cantini drawing on the flyleaf, and it is this, rather than Negri's abstract figural sculptures, that excited me about the catalog.
Forme was conceived as a sort of greatest hits album, showcasing the best of mid-century Italian design and craft. The glass category includes work by Flavio Poli, Barovier, Seguso, Scarpa, Martens, Venini, Cenedese, and Bianconi; ceramics features Fausto Melotti, Salvadore Meli, Lucio Fontana, Pietro Melandri, Gambone, and Fantoni; interiors and furniture includes designs by Ponti, Albini, Frattini, Carlo De Carli, Parisi, and Gardella. Also included are categories such as textiles, wood, and industrial design.
In addition to enlightened editing, Forme boasts superb layouts and striking photography. Five images are included here: the cover by Italo Zetti; a Milan auditorium by Franco Albini and Franca Helg; a ceramic vase and panel by Lucio Fontana; Tecno chairs by Osvaldo Borsani; and an interesting presentation of steel cutting tools by Giacomo Sotgiu. Also shown is the Cantini drawing from the Negri catalog. It's never too early to put the Greenwich Village Book Fair on your calendar for 2012; if they'll turn down the heat, you will probably see me there.