Friday, March 26, 2010

Favorite Finds: "Destiny" by Otto Nuckel

In addition to finding a lot of my wardrobe at thrift stores and garage sales, I buy a lot of other things at these places as well. I've cultivated a modest, but respectable record collection from LPs I've paid less than $3 apiece for, and the bookshelves in our old house are absolutely overflowing. There's a near constant culling going on, and we still have stacks of books in corners of rooms as they look for homes on actual shelving.

A couple years back, I ran across one of my personal favorite book (and object) finds in a book by Otto Nückel, a German illustrator and graphic artist from the early part of the 20th century. I didn't know much about him at the time I ran across his book, but with a stunning 188 woodcuts (one on each page) in a cloth-bound hardback book from 1930, I knew that for $2, I needed to buy it.

Because this is a story told without words, the individual panels themselves are incredibly descriptive and beautifully rendered. They're also quite bleak, and while the title certainly refers to the story arc of the main female character, there's pitch-black humor in the title as well; Of course, everyone's destiny is that they eventually die.

This frame is not a spoiler, simply an illustration I found to be more animated, lest you think it is all still life.

It's not a particularly valuable book in that it sells for maybe $50 dollars or so in decent condition, but it's one of those titles that I've had for some time now and pull out every year or so just to look through. They simply don't make many books like this any more (although, I do have it sitting rather close to my Chris Ware collection on a shelf, and after a post-book discussion with Ware himself about Nückel, I feel like it's a fairly good choice).

It's also one of those completely random finds that you stumble across while buying things second-hand that you end up learning something from and then feeling like your life is a bit more rich because of it. Oh, and there's even a section with a clothing tailor.

For those not wanting to hunt down the out-of-print hardback version, Dover Publications put out a nice paperback reprint of the book in 2007. The book object is not the same, but the masterclass engraving work of Nückel is on full display.

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