A diverse selection of typography, calligraphy and illustration inspired by the Bible is on display at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library.
“‘How right they are to adore you!’: The Song of Songs Interpreted Through Fine Printing” brings together artistic interpretations of the Song of Songs, sometimes referred to as the Canticles, a book in the Bible known for its lyrical and romantic qualities. Artists have looked to it for almost a century, drawing inspiration from its vivid expressions of love and pain, Jae Rossman, curator of the library’s Arts of the Book Collection, explained. In addition to pieces from the Haas Library’s Special Collections, the show features works from the Divinity Library and process materials from a new artistic interpretation of “The Song of Songs” by Robin Price and Barbara Benish. Together, the pieces demonstrate a range of approaches in design, printing and illustration.
“The point of the exhibition is to spark interest as well as educate and entertain,” Rossman said. “It allows the library to engage both the Yale and larger arts community in a conversation about our collections.”
Rossman noted that the artists featured in the exhibition expand beyond the boundaries of “fine press,” and find new ways to create an unconventional reading experience. One such artist, Robin Price, is currently working on a new artistic interpretation of the Song of Songs, in collaboration with artist Barbara Benish, type designer Liron Lavi Turkenich and vocal artist Victoria Hanna, Rossman added. Process materials from this new work, which is a hybrid Hebrew-English edition, are included in the exhibition. Rossman noted that collaboration on this project has spanned over 10 years and the artists have worked together on similar projects in the past, adding that Price and Benish will be coming to Yale in November to discuss their ideas for approaching the text.
“Traditional methods are carried out to present the text to the reader in a more tactile and well-designed experience than in a traditionally published book or in the digital environment,” Rossman said.
The curator added that the show also contains one of the seven volumes of the St. John’s Bible, a multiyear illumination and hand-lettering project commissioned in 1998 and completed in 2011, on loan from the Divinity Library. Rossman explained that the book is likely the first completely hand-lettered and hand-illuminated Bible in over 500 years. Led by calligrapher Donald Jackson, 10 artists and scribes created 160 illuminations interspersed within 1,150 pages of calligraphic text, Rossman said. One volume from the Heritage Edition, a high-quality reproduction of the original manuscript version, is on display in the exhibition
Students interviewed expressed excitement about the subject matter of the exhibition, as well as the way in which it was curated.
Mollie Ritterband ’17, said she thinks the Song of Songs is particularly interesting because its protagonists are often women, and they are portrayed as equal to men, adding that she is curious to see how this comes to be represented by “fine press” artists in their creation of artistic representations of the text.
Adelaide Goodyear ’17 said she is excited to see how the exhibition shows the process that goes into creating one of these sorts of “fine press” works, as it includes process materials from Benish and Price’s current project.
“‘How right they are to adore you!’: The Song of Songs Interpreted Through Fine Printing” will be on view through Feb. 19, 2016.