SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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Amsterdam, 1927
Purchased NY book fair 2020
Amsterdam, 1927

TITLE. Dreaming. The Joy of Heaven and the Pain of Hell. How My Wife Rescued Me from Hell. A brilliantly conceived and executed illustrated, and illuminated, manuscript, full of visual treats and surprises -- illustrations within illustrations, many a miniaturist touch in the capturing of detail, a whimsicality fused with a realness, and the fine blending of humor and horror. Folio, (37 x 31.5 cm). Unpaginated. 15 pages with content, all mounted, all with brilliant painted illustrations. After title page, text entirely on versos, which also have lavish surrounding and sometimes underlying illustrations. Text written with a calligraphic hand, with letter devices and other interwoven decoration. Facing rectos are all fully painted plate illustrations, without text. Title is rich in gold leaf decoration, with elaborate decoration, ornamental lettering, and vignette renderings of the devil and angels. Following we are launched into the narrator's dream, which is told in verse, with illustrations very ably relating the story even without. In the dream, the narrator imagines he dies and gets dragged to hell by the devil. There he is flogged at the stake amid shooting flames. Nonetheless the thought of the narrator's wife enables him to forget his pain and to laugh. Impressed, the devil strikes a bargain with the man -- if the man works as a stoker of the fires of hell during the day, the man could dine and sleep in heaven, where he can play cards with the saints, sing psalms with the devout, drink wine. However, the man must return to hell by 8 A.M. sharp to resume his work obligations there. The actual author, Nauta, died shortly after the making of this book, thus fueling speculation that he wrote the book as a tribute and gift to his wife. It is challenging to give a true sense of the richness of the illustrations with just words, of course, but as non-Dutch speakers, we can comfortably assert that the illustrations capture the story line wonderfully. We see a funeral cortege, the grieving wife, the tormenting and taunting in hell, and on and on. In the illustrations we catch glimpses of bourgeois life -- a church choir, a wedding party, card playing in a tavern -- as well as the more sinister machinations of the devil. One exciting illustration depicts horned devils stoking a huge furnace with multiple doors, a slide to deliver the coals, a devil pushing a wheelbarrow with coals. Among the many charming vignettes is of black cats astride a fence howling at a smiling moon, while to the sides are caricature vignettes of rather repugnant people. There is a baroque quality to the illustrations, with their complexity and maximalist aesthetic. The blue cloth cover has an inset painting of a man surrounded by the devil and a few angels. Both the front and rear cover have brass studs jutting out upon which the book can rest. Some blank leaves follow the story. Condition: Cloth cover bowed, with some dampstaining in the upper corner. A waviness to the mounted title, undoubtedly the result of the gold leaf and paint covering it. Very Good. Hardcover. Coloured plates in order: 1. Title page. 2. Text page with illustrated scenes showing a funeral procession, and the departed husband being dragged away by a demon. 3. Full page illustration. The husband is seen in hell, tied to a flaming pole, and being whipped by the devil himself. Other poor souls are seen been tormented in the background. 4. Text page with an illustrated scene where the husband is seen in hell pleading with his wife (veiled and saintly) to rescue him from his endless torment. Watched by the devil and other demons. 5. Full page illustration. The wife is seen, fully dressed in mourning, attending her late husband's grave. 6. Text page with illustrated scenes showing a moonlit night where more of the devil's disciples are taking freshly departed souls from the graveyard down into hell, where the devil himself and assorted henchmen await their arrival for endless fiery torments and agonies. 7. Full page illustration. The huge fiery furnaces of hell are seen, endlessly fed with the souls of the departed, horned demons are seen stoking the furnaces with fuel. The husband is seen with a shovel in his hand. 8. An ornate page of text. 9. Full page illustration. It looks like a 'heavenly' game of cards is taking place, attended by angels watching the card game, serving behind a bar, and pouring wine from a bottle into a large jug. A servant holds the jug. Some card players have golden halo's around their heads - others not; including the husband. 10. Text page with illustrated scenes of a choir singing at the top of the page, border scenes include singing birds, some semi-grotesque faces, drunken singing, dancing, and at the bottom of the page a collection of black cats 'singing' in the full moon light. 11. A full page illustration of a group of churchgoers and clergymen, in a church, sitting or standing in a circle, singing a hymn, accompanied by a man playing the piano. 12. A page of text with beautiful marginal vignette illustrations, featuring bunches of grapes on vines, a startled looking cat sitting before a fish on a dish, and a sort of bacchanalian homage to drinking. 13. Full page illustration showing a royal wedding feast, with angels, wine, food, a toast in progress and happy couples. 14. A page of text, again filled with wonderful surrounding illustrations of 'death' on horseback, complete with scythe, leading a long procession of people, some informed or crippled into what looks like a mausoleum. We see the sand in an hour glass running out. A pair of stretched out skeletons, along with a smiling skull adorn the top of the page. 15. The husband, with arms outstretched prepares to meet 'death, with a white cape and scythe, holding hands with the wife. The devil, bows in reverence by the husband's side. In the background there looks to be a prison like building, with crenelated walls, barred windows, a portcullis, and huge chimneys belching out fumes and smoke.