Sims Reed Rare Books×

Shakespeare's XXXth

Williams, Emmett

(Cambridge, Mass.). (Edition Noël). 1979
Emmet Williams' novel approach to Shakespeare's sonnet 'When to the sessions of sweet silent thought ... '.

From the edition limited to 26 lettered copies with each plate titled, lettered, signed and dated by Williams in pencil, this copy with a long explanatory text and presentation from Williams in black ink in German to the front cover; four proof copies were also printed.

For 'Shakespeare's XXXth' Williams has taken the sonnnet 'When to the sessions of sweet silent thought ... ' and has produced what appears to be a standard letterpress version of the verse for the first plate. For the second and ongoing iterations, Williams has enlarged the first plate for the second, and then the second for the third, the letters becoming spidery at first before losing coherence. By the fifth iteration, Shakespeare's text is unrecognisable and the sheet is covered with an increasingly spidery cuneiform with some - perhaps - visibly abstracted letter forms.

This portfolio comprises one of five suites of screenprints Emmett Williams produced with Edition Nöel, the publishing house established by his wife, Ann Noël (the others were 'Eros', 'A Journey', 'Impressions of Japan' and 'Incidental Music for Yo-Yo Ma'). Williams stated: 'All of them are based on experiments in the electrostatic distortion and generation of texts and images. To oversimplify: I used the Xerox 3100 duplicating machine at Leverett House, Harvard University, as a creative tool to perform tasks that makers, buyers and users of such machines used to consider (a) a misuse of sophisticated hardware, (b) a costly waste of time, and (c) the sign of a slight aberration on the part of the artist. But I'm happy to say that many of these makers and buyers and users have added these five suites to their collections over the years.'
[5 unnumbered leaves]. Folio. (639 x 469 mm). 5 monochrome screenprints by Emmet Williams, each titled at lower left, lettered at lower centre and signed and dated at lower right in pencil (sheet size: 393 x 519 mm), the plates held within folded proof of the first plate on larger tan wove paper. Loose as issued in original publisher's portfolio with flaps and ties, manuscript title and inscription to front cover (see below).