I have stumbled into an unusual object – well, a set of three, actually.
This is a set of the first edition German printing of Alexander Speltz’ Colored Ornament, printed in 1914, with text in English. It’s a three portfolio collection of full color plates, with an accompanying index/survey write-up for each portfolio. The thing is divided into Antiquities – mostly Greek and Roman, with a smattering of Pre-Columbian, plus some plates showing eastern Mediterranean art and decoration; Middle Ages – mostly Romanesque through Gothic, with some from Byzantium; and Modern – not particularly modern, it appears to cover early Renaissance up to pre-Empire.
Now before you hyperventilate and begin looking the thing up on the used book market, note that it is in extremely rough shape, and plates are missing. The Antiquities and Modern folios are each missing 4 or so, and the Middle Ages folio is missing about 10. The folio covers are crumbling, and the heavy paper to which each image is affixed is well on the march to being dust. It’s clear that someone cherry-picked pages to frame separately. In fact, the person I got this from said he was doing exactly that. Still, there’s plenty of good material here, and I do have the companion about/index volumes. And it was free.
Here’s a small sample of the roughly 150 plates that remain:
This is a very “hard artisan” focused work. There are just a couple of plates featuring textiles. Only one with embroidery. It’s mostly architectural ornament, ceramics, jewelry and other metal work, calligraphy and early printing, some furniture, glass, mosaics, and interior ornamentation. Not sculpture, not weapons, not hanging paintings. Still there’s a wealth of inspiration here.
I intend to keep these survivors together and ward them as well as I can given that I’m not an archival museum. I see folk selling individual plates from the thing, but even at the prices they are asking I’m not tempted in the least to break it up further. Local pals, if you are interested, drop me a note. A gentle viewing and photography session would not be out of question.