Beauty in Use: 50 Years of the Janus Press
Since 1955, Claire Van Vliet has been creating book forms that accentuate and give physical shape to the texts they contain. Come view an exhibition of some of the elaborate constructions, simple typographic gems, and beautifully illustrated texts produced by the Janus Press.
This exhibition was curated by Patti Houghton and Jay Satterfield and was on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries in Rauner Special Collections Library from November 1, 2005 to November 28, 2005. You may download a handlist of the items in this exhibition: Janus.
Materials Included in the Exhibition
Case 1. Beauty in Use: The Illustrated Text
For over 50 years now Claire Van Vliet and her Janus Press have produced extraordinary works of art in book form. Issuing elaborate constructions, simply done typographic gems, and beautifully illustrated broadsides and books, the Press has been devoted to innovation and excellence.
Appropriateness is a hallmark of Janus Press, often most fully realized in Claire Van Vliet’s stunning, rich illustrations for poetry. The images are designed to evoke and heighten the sensual force of the poetry rather than to illustrate a subject or theme. In some cases, such as Seasons (1981) and Flowering Time (1976) the lithographs and “color relief prints” are placed so they cannot be viewed simultaneously with the text. A reader is allowed to encounter the poems and the images separately. Rather than force an interpretation, the books encourage the reader to construct his or her own meaning.
- Saint Hildegard. Sanctae Hildegardis Circulus Sapentiae. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 2001. Purchased on the George Dock Fund. Presses J268hil
- Margaret Kaufman. Aunt Sallie’s Lament. West Burke, Vermont: Janus Press, 1988. Purchased on the Doris Benz Fund. Presses J268kau
- Sabina Thorne. Of Gravity and Grace with a relief print illustration cut by Claire Van Vliet. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1982. Gift of the Friends of the Library. Presses J268tho
- James Hayford. Four Women. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1981. Gift of the Class of 1922 in Memory of Their Classmate, Donald B. Marsh. Presses J268hay
- Galway Kinnell. Fergus Falling, with a handcoloured lithograph by Claire Van Vliet. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1979. Purchased on the Herbert Faulkner West Fund. Presses J268f
- W. R. Johnson. Flowering Time: a Poem, with lithographs by Claire Van Vliet. West Burke, Vermont: Janus Press, 1976. Purchased on the Albion B. Wilson Fund. Presses J268fℓ
Case 2. Beauty in Use: Structures
Claire Van Vliet is perhaps most well known for her innovative woven book structures. In some cases, such as Praise Basted In (1995) and Designating Duet (1989), they are quilts in codex form, comfortably wrapping the texts within. But other times they are sheer containment for the explosive contents: Deep in the Territory (1998) is a collage of images, text and shapes inviting the reader to experiment and explore the book.
Beauty in Use (1997) exemplifies Van Vliet’s goal of creating book forms that accentuate and give physical shape to the texts they contain. Van Vliet reminds us that the form is forever interwoven with the text by naming her book forms after the book where they were first used.
- Margaret Kaufman. Praise Basted In: a Friendship Quilt for Aunt Sallie. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1995. Purchased on the Doris Benz Fund. Presses J268kaup
- Margaret Kaufman. Deep in the Territory. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1998. Purchased on the Doris Benz Fund. Presses J268kaud
- Sandra McPherson. Designating Duet. West Burke, Vermont: Janus Press, 1989. Purchased on the Doris Benz Fund. Presses J268mcd
- Claire Van Vliet. Tumbling Blocks for Pris and Bruce. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1996. Purchased on the Charles Edward Widmayer Fund. Presses J268vat
- Kenneth A. Lohf. Seasons: Seven Poems with a color relief print by Claire Van Vliet. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1981. Gift of the Class of 1922 in Memory of Their Classmate, John W. McKoan. Presses J268loh
- Sandra McPherson. Beauty in Use. Newark, Vermont: Janus Press, 1997. Purchased on the George Dock Fund. Presses J268mcb
Case 3. Beauty in Use: Out of the Case
Started in 1955, Janus Press operated out of several locations before settling in Newark, Vermont, in the mid 1960s. Indicative of its early years the Press’s output has remained nomadic by exploring new book forms, flirting with typographic play, and willfully engaging a collage of styles and formats.
Most Janus Press books are hard to display in traditional library cases: they are tactile, three dimensional objects begging to be handled, to be played with, to be touched. We hope this exhibition, limited by flat glass cases, will give you a sense of the variety and wonder of Claire Van Vliet’s work and inspire you to try out some of her constructions. To facilitate that, we invite you to examine a selection of Janus Press books and book structures in the Rooke Reading Room below. Please feel free to go to the Rauner Reference desk and request the Janus Press books on hold for the exhibition. [Now, ask for a Janus Press book; they begin with the call number Presses J268]