Russian Icons. Philip SMITH, binder, Tamara Talbot RICE.
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons
Russian Icons

Russian Icons

London: Spring Books, 1963. Item #04754

Bound by Philip Smith in 1964 and given by him in 1970 to fellow Bookbinder Joan Rix Tebbutt

SMITH, Philip, binder. RICE, Tamara Talbot. Russian Icons. London: Spring Books, [1963].

First edition. Quarto (10 7/16 x 9 1/16 inches; 265 x 230 mm.). [iv], 40 pp. Monotone frontispiece, full-color title and 48 full-color plates on 24 leaves.

The verso of the color title is inscribed in ink "To Joan/with many thanks/for your continuing/kindness.../Philip"

Bound by Philip Smith in 1964 (stamped in blind on rear turn-in) in full rose (front) and medium blue (rear) crushed levant morocco. Both covers elaborately decorated with Russian Icons in various colored onlaid morocco's finished with elaborate gilt tooling. Smooth spine of half rose and half medium blue lettered in gilt. Wonderful hand-made 'iconesque' patse-downs, speckled ivory paper endleaves, all edges gilt. Housed in a later, specially made, black felt-lined, quarter rose cloth over blue cloth boards clamshell case, spine with white paper label printed in black.

Together with a two-page autograph letter dated 13 July 1970, from Philip Smith to Joan Rix Tebbutt, the much loved and admired artist, bookbinder, calligrapher and teacher who lived all her life in Glasgow. The letter states: "What a pity I missed you when you went to see the exhibition at Hatchards… Miss [Elizabeth] Greenhill will be pleased that you like her bindings. I think she is very much like you in her approach to book binding… I did not sell any books at Hachards (not surprising as most people know I'm showing later in the year in London) & I have decided that possibly the one on Russian Icons would be the most acceptable to you so I hope you won't mind receiving this as a gift for your help to us!" A quite wonderful association.

Philip Smith (1928-2018) began as an art student in 1949 and took a bookbinding class ostensibly to make customized sketch books. His resulting binding led Roger Powell to select him for the Royal College of Art in 1951. Since about 1959, when he developed the techniques of feathered onlays with backparing, called ‘maril’, he has consistently explored the potential of the physical form of the book as an alternative art medium. Publications include numerous articles and catalogue introductions; as well as New Directions in Bookbinding, 1974, and The Book: Art & Object, 1982. He has added several new terms to the vocabulary of bookbinding and has been awarded patents for new inventions both visual and functional, as well as making innovations in structural and visual design now applied by an ever growing number of bookbinders. A past Director of the V & A Museum, Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, has written about Smith’s work: ‘As exhibition pieces they have a monumentality and visual impact that forces an original view of what binding is about’. Smith, a Past President of Designer Bookbinders, initiated its redevelopment and expansion in the late 1960s, and was an inaugural editor of The New Bookbinder, serving on the editorial board for 15 years. His work is in many international public and private collections. Philip Smith was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II several years ago. Philip Smith died on 27th December 2018.

"Smith, whose innovative and creative approach has revolutionised his traditional craft, once said:
"I like to make my books possible to read and once read to be treated for their art function."

Tamara Talbot Rice (1904-1993) was a Russian then English art historian, writing on Byzantine and Central Asian art. Talbot Rice was born Elena Abelson, to Louisa Elizabeth Vilenkin and Israel Boris Abelevich Abelson, the latter a businessman and member of the Czar's financial administration. Leo Tolstoy was her godfather. Elena lived a privileged childhood in Saint Petersburg, initially attending Tagantzeva Girls' School. The Russian Revolution of 1917 prompted her family to move to England, and she completed her schooling, first at Cheltenham Ladies' College and then at St. Hugh's College, Oxford. In 1927 she married the English art historian David Talbot Rice; they both published under the surname Talbot Rice, but are often referred to as "Talbot-Rice" or "Rice".

"Joan Rix Tebbutt (1910-2005) was a much loved and admired artist, calligrapher and teacher who lived all her life in Glasgow. She met Sandy Cockerell in the 1940s and from 1948 the two of them produced a series of remarkable vellum bound books decorated and lettered in ink by Tebbutt." (see K.D. Duval, Sydney Morris Cockerell and Joan Rix Tebbutt, Thirty Recent Bindings, 1980).

"To those who have not visited the museums of Greece and Russia, the name icon is generally associated with those small, stereotyped religious pictures, usually depicting somewhat obscure saints, and as often as not covered not only with dirt and candle-smoke, but also by metal covers which leave visible only the face and hands of the figures depicted.
It is true that many later icons both in Greece and Russia were of this type. But these examples are no more characteristic of icon-painting in its grand period than the hack-work landscapes of the decorators' shops of to-day are typical of English painting of the eighteenth century. In the case of icons, it is true, really first-class examples are far from numerous, and the would-be admirer has to undertake comparatively arduous researches before he can find good reproductions, or make long journeys before he can see the best originals. But these impediments are fortuitous. They are the result, in the first place, of the fact that external conditions in the Orthodox Christian area have been peculiarly unfavourable to the survival of fragile works of art; and in the second, of the localisation of the Orthodox Faith in Eastern Europe and Russia. But when once the few publications containing good reproductions have been traced and a few originals have been seen, the first misconception of the nature of the icon is rapidly dispelled and new and surprisingly rich vistas arc disclosed." (David Talbot Rice).

Price: $8,500.00