My parents were collectors, principally South African art, pre-19th century English silver and furniture, and early Worcester porcelain. I inherited the bug. With their help I started collecting books during my university days, but pursued the madness more seriously at the end of my studies when I became articled to a law firm, the firm at which I remain to this day.
Happily, and somewhat unusually I think, my wife Miranda shares my enthusiasm for collecting books, although perhaps not with the same manic intensity. We have and try to adhere to one rule: within our means at the time, buy one good book rather than two or more lesser ones. No other rules apply.
We haven’t ever specialised and so have no particular lasting area of focus, a methodology that has wonderful advantages and grievous drawbacks. Our collection, a small one by most standards, is thus eclectic, ranging from 8th century and later Japanese scrolls to modern American private press books, Books of Hours to the livres d’artistes, incunabula and early printed books generally to English literature, and so it goes. At the time of writing I’d tentatively say that our focus is on early printed books, Japanese books and the livres d’artistes....but tomorrow? All could and is likely to change.
Jingo-ji Temple Sutra.
Kyoto: Late Heian period, mid-12th Century.
Decorated Sutra scroll from the Buddhist Canon known in Japanese as the Issaikyo (Sanskrit: Tripitaka). The text written in gold characters on indigo-dyed paper, with lines ruled in silver. With the seal of Jingoji temple in red at the beginning of the text. In the original paper wrapper, or cover sheet, in gold and silver ink on indigo paper decorated with hosoge karakusa vine patterns, with title slip written in gold. Painted frontispiece in gold dust of the Historical Buddha (Shakyamuni) giving a sermon at Vulture Peak. The scroll axles with engraved gilded metal knobs with a leafy design.
The red rectangular seal stamped on the first text sheet indicates that this sutra was one of 5,400 scrolls comprising the complete Buddhist canon, known in Japanese as the Issaikyo and in Sanskrit as the Tripitaka. The Jingoji Ryakki (Abbreviated History of Jingoji) records that Emperor Toba (1103-1156) sponsored the compendium around 1149, the date that appears on some of the wooden sutra axles in the set. Historians have postulated that Toba intended to dedicate them on his pilgrimage to Kumano Shrine in 1153. After Toba’s death his son, the former emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127-1192), completed and in 1185 presented the scrolls to Jingoji, a temple on Mount Takao northwest of Kyoto, when he moved there after abdicating his throne. In the eighteenth century, 4,722 scrolls were inventoried at Jingoji. In the nineteenth century, hundreds from the set were sold to finance repairs to the temple; others were stolen; 2,317 scrolls of the original set, designated Important Cultural Properties, remain at Jingoji temple.
Rhetoricorum ad C. Herrenium libri.
[Cicero, Marcus Tullius]. France, c.1410-1430.
Illuminated manuscript on vellum, in Latin. Small quarto (182mm x 131mm). The Rhetoricorum, incorrectly attributed to Cicero, is followed by an alphabetical word index here also attributed to Cicero. France, first half of the 15th century, probably between 1410-1430. With 244 leaves (32 blank) plus two contemporary flyleaves at front, complete, gatherings of 8 leaves throughout, with catchwords, 15 lines, written in dark brown ink in carefully written humanist script with some gothic features, capitals touched in yellow, paragraph marks in red or blue, approximately 160 decorated initials, 2-line, in red or blue with penwork in black or red, plus approximately 450 1-line initials with similar penwork in the index of words, ten large initials, six 3-line, the rest 4-line, in divided red and blue with elaborate penwork infilling and marginal extensions in red and black, illuminated initial on f.1, 4-line in coloured ivyleaf pattern on burnished gold ground and supporting full-length ivyleaf border extending into upper and lower margins. Bound in 18th-century Danish mottled calf, spine lettered in gilt, Lehn family gilt armorial device stamped in gilt on upper cover. Housed in a leather backed clamshell box by James Brockman.
Probably written in the South of France; the vellum is italiate and the script (appropriately for a classical text) has clear humanistic features. The decoration is certainly French.
The 'Rhetoricorum ad Herrenium' is a treatise on rhetoric in four books composed about 84 B.C. and addressed to a certain Giaus Herrennius. The author is unknown but in late antiquity and the Middle Ages it was attributed to Cicero. The beginning and end of the text correspond with the Delphine edition of Cicero's Works printed by Valpy in 1830.
A Dante Bestiary.
Mason, Judith [Alighieri, Dante]. New York: Ombondi Editions, 1989.
A Guide in offset lithography and an essay by Judith Mason “to diverse beasts, creaturres, monsters, figures and spiritual beings from La Divina Commedia of Dante Alighieri, the Florentine”. The Italian edition, number 2 of 10 copies out of an edition of 15. Folio, 425 x 315mm, 92 unnumbered leaves, set in Visgoth specially designed by Cynthia Hollandsworth, printed on Rives BPK paper on a lithographic offset press by Bruce Atwood at the Broederstroom Press in South Africa. Each lithograph to Paradise XXXIII, the Direct Vision of God, is embellished with gold leaf by hand. All the lithographs are signed or initialled by the artist in pencil. The Italian translations of the colophon and Judith Mason's essay are by Amerigo Marras and Stephen Sartarelli. The text is that edited by Manfred Porena of Bologna (1956). Unbound, the folded sheets housed in a lipped clamshell box made in Rhode Island by Stuart Einhorn.
This copy of the Italian edition was published in an edition of 15 copies, with 10 copies numbered 1 to 10 and five artist's proofs numbered I to V. It was also published in English in an edition of 100 copies. It was available as an unbound portfolio, as here, or in book form with a variety of bindings.
Judith Mason (1938-2016) was one of South Africa’s most distinguished artists whose work is well represented in just about all national public, corporate and academic art collections, as well as in a number of collections abroad, including Yale University. She worked in a variety of media: oil painting, pencil drawing, print-making and mixed media.
She exhibited frequently throughout South Africa. She held exhibitions abroad in Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Chile, West Germany, Switzerland and the USA.