[Presentation Binding] Italian Paintings XIV-XVIIIth Centuries from the Collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, MD. Very Good. Item #10756
Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1981. Uniquely bound copy. First Edition (of which 3000 copies were printed); this copy bound as gift presentation in 1981, upon first publication. Octavo (27.5x21x3.5cm); 334pp, including artist-specific bibliographies and index. Multiple paintings reproduced in B&W for each of the 27 painters within the Baltimore holdings.
Binding near pristine, gilt still brilliant, leather bright and clean, joints and hinges robust as when presented to the recipient. Interior clean and unmarked.
That recipient, whose name is in gilt on this presentation binding, was its editor, Gertrude Rosenthal (1903-1989), who had undertaken the monograph as a monumental post-retirement survey of the museum's Old Master Italian holdings.
Rosenthal, who left Germany in 1938 for London to escape the Nazi regime, immigrated to the Chesapeake in 1940, initially working as art librarian at Goucher College before moving to the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1945 upon obtaining her U.S. citizenship. There she stayed, rising to the status of Chief Curator, renowned and much storied, until her retirement in 1969—which even then did not halt her curatorial work. Hence the appearance of this massive volume in 1981.
Upon its publication, her successor Chief Curator, Brenda Richardson, with the museum staff, commissioned this presentation binding from Glen Alan Ruzicka (1949-2010). Ruzicka was a renowned teacher, conservator, and creator of fine bindings, working with the Library of Congress and the Johns Hopkins University, and beloved by many younger binders within the Guild of Book Workers. He would become Director of Conservation at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia a few years after creating this presentation piece.
We quote the material facts of the binding as written out by Dr. Richardson on a note to Rosenthal laid into the volume: “Your binding is sewn by hand on 5 double hemp cords with unbleached Irish linen thread, hand sewn silk endbands, covered in full goat-skin leather, tooled by hand with 23K gold, including end sheets of hand marbled and English handmade paper; the tooling design is based on a 16th-c. Italian original.”
Also laid in are typescript notes—Rosenthal’s? Richardson’s?—describing the credentials of the scholarly collaborators who worked under Rosenthal to compile the catalog.