Monday, Marianne and I jaunted up to the Big Apple to visit my friend and sometime-publisher Henry Wessells, who works at that renowned occasion of sin, James Cummins, Bookseller. (Click here to begin browsing and subsequently resolve to become so very rich that you can put the establishment on speed-dial.)
There are a lot of items there worthy of admiration. (I particularly liked the unique book which Bill Mauldin had created by making erotic drawings in a collection of poetry, and three newly-discovered letters by Mervyn Peake.) But what inspired out trip was a chance to see a bound set of first editions of all eighty etchings in Goya's Los Caprichos.
I didn't ask and so I can't even imagine how much such a thing cost (Goya himself only sold 27 sets before the series got him in such hot water that the king had to bail him out by buying all the remaining etchings and the plates as well). But whoever winds up buying it will get his or her money's worth.
The first prints are always the cleanest, of course, and most of the reproductions you've seen are based on later editions. (The last of which was in the twentieth century!) Plus, there's details lost in even the finest reproductions. So it was a treat to be able to turn the pages by hand -- such good paper! -- and pore over the fine work that Goya did.
Years ago, I created a series of flash fiction, one for each plate, for Eileen Gunn's late and lamented online SF e-zine The Infinite Matrix. It was a revelation to lean close to the real thing and see all the fine detail I'd missed out on, working from a paperback. In several of the plates, what looks like murky shadow revealed itself to be a shadowy, supernatural figure, possibly death, bending low over a cluster of oblivious fools and scoundrels. If only I'd seen him then, I'd've worked him into the series.
It was a delightful experience, Those who haven't seen The Sleep of Reason, can find it here.
Above: Prick the Donkey at play. Prick started out as a parody of a certain Republican president and quickly became the most lovable character in the series. Go figure.