Category Archives: Collection Highlights

An unquiet cataloger

photo(5)“What is the greatest joy of Arabic cataloging?” asks Jessamy, “I will tell you: serious works with rhyming titles.”

The creator of Ghilafaat, a curious sounding Instragram feed and Tumblr site, Jessamy Klapper gives followers a glimpse of newly published Arabic and Persian book covers with a candid piece of commentary. Jessamy has access to a conveyor belt of interesting new acquisitions, from poetry to short stories to textbooks, as a cataloger at Columbia University.

Ghilafaat is a made-up plural of ghilaaf, the Arabic word used to refer to a book cover. Jessamy’s posts are a compelling look into the world of Arab and Persian literature. Ghilafaat is the only place I see these covers and imagery.

“Ghilafaat are the fleeting impressions and ideas you get from glancing at the cover of a book,” said Jessamy. “The things that make you want to turn back and look again…or hurry away!” Some covers stand on their own as works of art. The designs incorporate colorful typography, photography, playful illustrations, and collage. Others are more subdued. For a simple cover with a black and white portrait, Jessamy writes, “Here’s Ahmad Reza Ahmadi looking pensive again, this time on the cover of Naser Saffarian’s study of the poet’s work: A Poet Unlike His Poems.”

Jessamy shares these books because she loves the material. “Sometimes I am already familiar with the book or author before it arrives – I tend to highlight those books as well, just because I’m excited to see them! It’s like spotting a familiar face in a crowd of strangers.”

Here are three of Jessamy’s favorite posts from Ghilafaat:

1. I loved the Nowherelanders, for exactly the same reason I wrote in the original posts. I’d love to do translations of the Nowherelanders’ individual bios.

ghila_1

Meet the fascinating faces of Nowhereland! This is catalogued as a collection of short stories, but it’s almost like an art catalog. Each story is presented as the bio of a particular character, photographed and presented in detail. I love these ugly-cute-strange doll-sculpture-people. My Persian professor was so enamored of them, he got his own copy. Author/artist: Alireza Mir’asadullah. #persian #art #fiction #books #bookcovers #dollmaking #sculpture #mixedmedia

2. This book is one of my favorites because it has gorgeous illustrations, and it’s a bilingual edition. The book I photographed here is actually the second copy I’ve cataloged – the first one passed through before I created Ghilafaat & I thought I had missed my chance!

ghila_2

Gorgeous watercolor illustrations on (and inside!) this bilingual volume on the Emir Abdelkader. #art #arabic #french #history #books #bookcovers #coverart

3. This book isn’t really one of my favorite covers, but I wanted to share something that illustrates another side of this project – sometimes the books make me laugh. This one is a sort of tabloid-style ‘expose’ on the life of a star from Egyptian cinema’s Golden Age – Su’ad Husni. It has all the markings of something you would see on your way out the grocery aisle; insensitive, sensational questions in bold type, references to heretofore unseen documents, a glamorous photo of the starlet made ominous by a black background…On top of everything else, the author Samir Farraj has added a sort of pen name: ‘Ibn al-Shati” This title translates to Son of the Beach, and I’m really not mature enough to let something like that slide. ghila_3

WAIT, wait, wait—am I cataloging acquisitions at a respected research institution, or am I in line at the grocery store (of golden age Egyptian cinema, that is)? “Suad Hosny: did she kill herself, or was she murdered?” This macabre piece promises to include heretofore unseen documents and also declares that this “book is considered a historic document.” By whom, we don’t know. Side note: Author Samir Farraj seems to have a nickname of sorts “Ibn al-Shati’” which literally translates to ‘Son of the Beach.’ Hmm. #arabic #egypt #suadhosny #egyptiancinema #scandals #books #bookcovers

Top Image: Jessamy at the library, taken by Natalie.

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The Museum of Fair Use

Zelfportret van Cor van Teeseling, september 1942, Cornelis G. van Teeseling, 1942

In the museum realm there seem to be two opposing schools of thought about sharing images and artwork on the internet. One belief is that images are privately owned. Museums with this practice place watermarks on top of images and take other measures so that images are not shared. The other school of thought is that the images are meant to be shared. People pin and tweet and blog images and the community should be given tools to expand the reach of these museum collections.

The Getty Museum announced this summer that many of their galleries will make high-resolution images available for download. The Getty pointed to a growing public desire to use images in research and to enjoy the collections far from the institution itself.

Rijksstudio offers free high-resolution images to the public. They are undergoing a large digitization project of their full collection, a staggering one million works. You can download images from their site, but you’ll have to sign up first. You can create personal galleries of images and have the option to save zoomed-in details of an artwork. The Rijksmuseum encourages users to download and re-purpose or tamper. “We’re a public institution, and so the art and objects we have are, in a way, everyone’s property,” said Taco Dibbits, the director of collections at the Rijksmuseum, in a NY Times interview.

Stamhoofd Coba (Kobe) met grenadiersmuts, schild en assegaaien, Robert Jacob Gordon, ca. 1777

Zonder titel Vignet voor boek 'L'art Hollandais contemporain' van Paul Fierens, vogel op het water., Leo Gestel, 1932 - 1933

P.S.  The Public Domain Review scoured the Getty Museum’s  images  for their favorites and shared them here.

Images from the Rijksmuseum.

 

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