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You could walk around Venice, Italy this summer with one of these pocket size original works by John Ruskin (1819-1900), like the one pictured above in a fin de siecle (Art Nouveau) binding in your coat pocket. After all in roughly 160 years since the original text of Stones of Venice was published, no less than about 90 editions have been printed, and the book is still in print as of today. The green and gold characteristic lilies once so very common along country lanes, and used a lot in that particular period are still very visible.

Although the copy here certainly is not among the first ones printed by any stretch of the imagination, it does match up in age with the two stereographs in this post dated approximately from the same era as the printing of the book.

stereo italy venice In the case of the one with the Ca Foscari Palace in it, slightly earlier by some twenty years. Much in Venice did not change during that period, and those quiet images give us a feel for the backwater Venice once was.

stereo italy venice foscari palace-a.periniThe small book with its 322 pages was more or less intended as a companion to the proverbial Murray Travel Guide that an Anglo Saxon traveler would carry with him. John Ruskin was an exceptional man in many respects. He was a gifted artist, England’s best known art critic, and a forward social thinking philanthropist who was able to delve into many different subjects throughout his life. Ruskin was able to convey his love for Italy, and convey its history into words. Old will never seem to amaze those who have read his books and seen the sights he describes.

The book St. Mark’s Rest by John Ruskin with its faded blue and silver binding was printed by a different printer, and dates approximately from the same period. Interesting is the phrase on the title page Who still care for their monuments”, perhaps we can detect a hint of despair or tiredness in those words, as if the author warns us of the uphill battle to convey the uniqueness of the place, and the battle for conservation Venetians face everyday, in a city with its regular high tide eats away at the stones of Venice.

img257In an earlier post, we showed an albumen print of the Rialto Bridge (shown below) which dates from the era when Ruskin would have crossed it.  Please click on this Rialto Bridge link to our previous post for more information.

img015Ruskin did not stop at writing about Venice and the fabulous architecture there. The waterlilies on the brown binding printed in silver of the volume Mornings in Florence (shown below) was again indicative of the period and printed also in Chicago by the same printer as Stones of Venice. Yet the printer’s address only has the number 407 Dearborn Street in it, and one can thus safely assume it is an earlier printing.

In the preface of the book, Ruskin advises the traveler to pay an amount to the custodian of the place you are visiting. This will guarantee a better look and visit for a longer period of time at those treasures, and perhaps you would discover some other ones only the custodian could unveil. This practice will not do anymore today. Now, a heartfelt Grazie Molto will do wonders for the waiter’s pride on a terrace in the sun, and the word Bellisimo will help you strike up a conversation with a citizen in any city you will visit this summer in Italy. Enjoy!