Rare Books Blog

September 28, 2012

Joseph Hémard was one of the most prolific book illustrators of the 20th century, and certainly one of the funniest, yet he remains virtually unknown outside of his native France. Farley P. Katz, a San Antonio tax lawyer and a leading collector of Hémard’s works, is working to change this. Katz will speak on “The Comic Art of Joseph Hémard” on October 5 at the Yale Law School.

The talk is in conjunction with an exhibition at Yale’s Lillian Goldman Law Library, curated by Katz and Mike Widener, the library’s Rare Book Librarian. The exhibition features items from Katz’s collection and books that he donated to the Law Library.

What sets  Hémard apart from other illustrators are the books that one would not normally associate with illustrations. Chief among these are French law codes. Alongside the dry legalese of French tax law are Hémard’s hilarious visual puns and lampoons of tax collectors and government officials.

Katz will deliver his illustrated talk on Hémard at 1:00 p.m. on October 5, in Room 128 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT). The talk is free and open to the public.

The exhibit, “‘And then I drew for books’: The Comic Art of Joseph Hémard,” is on display until December 15 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (Level L2 in the Yale Law School). It displays two dozen of Hémard’s works. An online version of the exhibit will appear in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

For more information, contact Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian, at (203) 432-4494 or mike.widener[at]yale.edu.

 A Joseph Hémard illustration from Code général des impôts directs et taxes assimilées (Paris: Editions Littéraires et Artistiques; Librairie “Le Triptyque”, 1944), page 218.

September 17, 2012

It would take a genius to illustrate one of the most boring books imaginable, a code of tax laws, and create a comic tour-de-force. That genius was Joseph Hémard (1880-1961), who in his lifetime was probably France’s most prolific book illustrator. His illustrations are the focus of the latest exhibit in the Yale Law Library, “ ‘And then I drew for books’: The Comic Art of Joseph Hémard.”

The exhibit, on display until December 15, is curated by Farley P. Katz and Michael Widener. Katz, a tax attorney from San Antonio, has built one of the world’s finest collections of Hémard’s works. Widener is the Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Hémard’s illustrations have a distinctly French character, usually comic, and often mildly erotic. Many of his illustrations were executed in pochoir, a hand stenciling process producing intense, gorgeous colors still vibrant after three-quarters of a century.

The exhibit showcases eight of the 183 illustrations in Hémard’s Tax Code, donated to the Yale Law Library by Katz, along with two of the other three law books on display from the library’s Rare Book Collection.

The other 19 titles on view are all from Katz’s personal collection. They include children’s books and some of the many classics of French literature that Hémard illustrated, such as works by Balzac and Anatole France. Items on war include Hémard’s own pictorial account of his time as a German prisoner in World War I, and a set of anti-Hitler postcards. Hémard even illustrated a pharmacy manual and a pamphlet on the prostate.

The exhibition’s title comes from Hémard’s tongue-in-cheek autobiography. Following a long, rambling description of supposed ancestors, he devotes two paragraphs to his early life, and finishes with: “And then I drew for books.”

The exhibit is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily, September 15 - December 15, 2012 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. It will also go online here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

On October 5, Katz will give an exhibit talk at 1:00 p.m. in Room 128 of the Yale Law School. The talk is also open to the public.

Rare Book Librarian

The poster illustration is from the cover of Code penal: commentaires imagés de Joseph Hémard (Paris: Editions Littéraires de France, ca. 1940), Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 15, 2012

The Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library is proud to be a partner in an exhibition for an upcoming conference in the Italian Alps. The conference, “ ‘Naturally separated’: History and Autonomy of the Ancient Alpine Communities,” will take place September 29, 2012, in the Palazzo della Cultura in Breno, Italy. Visit the conference website for the schedule of speakers and events.

The exhibition, “Antiche mappe e statuti delle Alpi,” includes images from our collection of Italian statutes. Among them is the image shown here, Statuta et privilegia Valliis Antigorij (Geneva, 1685), the statutes of the Valle Antigorio. Also featured are maps from the collections of the other exhibition partner, the Moravian Library (Brno, Czech Republic). The exhibition was coordinated by Luca Giarelli.

The speakers at the day-long conference will discuss the legal, social, and political history of Italian Alpine communities and how they mantained their autonomy since the Middle Ages. The conference is sponsored by LontánoVerde and Incontri per lo Studio delle Tradizioni Alpine. The conference is open to the public, and admission is free.

Our best wishes for a successful conference. I wish I could be there!


Rare Book Librarian

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