By Frank Werner
As I was strolling around the Stuttgart Antiquarian Book Fair a few weeks ago, a stand caught my attention. It was Daniela Kromp’s, second-time exhibitor at the fair. The stand was very attractive, filled with large books, opened to show their decorative, coloured illustrations. I chatted with the owner for a bit, and she told me that her real speciality were handwritten and “unique” books from the 16th to the 21st century (not just signed or dedicated). “One of a Kind” – which will actually be the title of her next – the second – catalogue. Daniela, who had graduated in conservation and restoration of books and paper objects, founded her firm in 2011. Before that she worked for Hartung & Hartung in Munich for a while, who more or less shanghaid her, when she came to collect a book there.
While we chatted, an object on her stand caught my eye. An oblong quarto book, with a bold spiral binding, a multicoloured cover, and thick, glossy cardboard pages, rather like art postcards. At first I thought it was an exhibit, but then I was very kindly told that it was Daniela Kromp’s first catalogue, “ZierRat”. And what a catalogue it is! It has an emphasis on applied arts and contains just 42 objects, each of them featured on a double page. To the left you will find the description of the object, and on the right, glossy side, there is a coloured picture for each and every one of the books.
Every one of the books and objects in this unusually sumptuous catalogue merits description, but I’ll just mention a few of those that caught my eye, starting with No. 1:
A huge, anonymous preparatory drawing for a monumental painting of King David playing the harp. It measures 140 by 220 cm, dates from the second quarter of the 19th century and is listed at € 25,000.
Another interesting item is a handwritten, anonymous book of recipes for making varnishes and lacquers. The, sadly unknown, author describes these skills, together with hints on gilding, on 94 closely covered pages. The object originates from Southern Germany, is dated 1748, but is probably a copy of an older manuscript. The price is a modest € 2,800.
“Vampire, Faun and Gollum” describes a collection of 5 anonymous copper engravings for grotesque, decorative masks after Frans Huys, based on original designs by Cornelis Floris, who is credited with inventing a Flemish version of the grotesque style in about 1541. These prints date from about 1600. (Price upon request).
“Dessins pour coins de mouchoirs, pour manchettes, et pour cols” is a collection of 243 designs on 66 leaves. Shown are embroidery patterns for handkerchiefs, cuffs and collars. Each design is shown twice, once in black and white, and one in as many as 12 colours. This fragile work dates from France or Belgium and was made in the middle of the 19th century. It costs € 1800.
Finally, something for our gardening friends: A collection of 758 of those little, brightly coloured (and often hopelessly optimistic) envelopes that flower and vegetable seeds come in. This pattern book is dated about 1890, and all the fragile little envelopes are in good condition. It costs € 2,400, which would buy a lot of seeds, and not a few disappointments.
The catalogue (and an unpublished addendum) can be viewed on the homepage of the ILAB under this URL: https://www.ilab.org/eng/booksellers/2137-antiquariat_daniela_kromp.html.
But trust me, having the hard copy is much better!
I could go on and on, but my advice is: Order the catalogue, (which is available at a nominal charge), enjoy the splendid pictures and the fine descriptions. Who knows, perhaps you will find a new and very exhilarating field of collecting.