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The Biennes Center Rare Books Collection
A bazaar of color — Vojtech Kubasta's "Aladin A Kouzelná Lampa"

A bazaar of color, Vojtech Kubasta's 'Aladin A Kouzelná Lampa' (Aladdin and the Magic Lamp) features the requisite genie on the cover, and a porcelain vase draped and full of jewels on the back. And in between, beguiling images—a marvelous, tiled archway, a skeptical vezir, a sorcerer… (The Bienes Center Collection.)

Jim Findaly and The Bienes Center For The Literary Arts rare book collection.
Jim Findlay, Librarian of The Biennes Center for the Literary Arts, unlocks a door, and you find yourself bathed in yellow light (for preservation) and amidst towering stacks full of books and, Jim explains, "children's toys made in the 1930s by the American WPA, our current Bienes Center Exhibit."

Next to the door, a large, black metal cabinet contains the Bienes Center's Kubasta poster collection. "Kubasta is only well known for his pop-up pieces," Jim says, "not for his other beautiful graphic designs and posters."

He opens a drawer, lifts a protective cloth cover and tissue paper, and a child's face peeks out at you. "If you're familiar with Kubasta's work," Jim says, "you're familiar with all these children's faces: they're on his postcards, pop-ups, his books—and his posters. This is a reading poster.

"I have about fifteen posters and advertisements that I found in Prague. This is a seven foot by six foot fashion poster. Here's one for an industrial fair. This is a movie poster.
Here's the light bulb poster, 'Praga.'"

A bird sings to his unappreciative neighbors—a hare and a cat—in this miniature Kubasta pop-up book. (The Bienes Center Collection.)

An Aladdin-like figure in harem pants, pointed shoes, and eastern hat, holds a lighted lantern. Emanating from its smoke, a genie floats above, holding a light bulb with the word "Prague." What an original image for an electric company!

"Here's another movie poster," Jim continues. "You know that Kubasta used women that he knew in his illustrations? This could be his wife, or Dagmar, or his sister. Look at this cave full of stalactites. And this mountain scene…"

"Moving Father Christmas," the front cover of an eponymous pop-up crčche (shown below) from The Bienes Center For The Literary Arts collection.
Jim closes the cabinet, and moves towards the book stacks. "We have a lot of greeting and post cards in our collection," Jim says, "and these are all the Kubasta flat books that most people aren't aware of." He raises his hands and takes a book from the top shelf. It's 'Aladin A Kouzelná Lampa' (Aladdin and the Magic Lamp). "This is one of my favorites: look at this beautiful cover. The illustrations are wonderful (see images, top of page.) These aren't really pop-ups: they're more like three-dimensional stage sets. He did all these beautiful drawings, and Kubasta didn't travel to all these countries. So he must have used reference materials…"

Spoken like a true librarian. Dagmar has spoken to you about her father's extensive reference volumes, and his attention to detail. A Greek vase had to look authentic, and so did a vezir's garb
A book about ants displays cut-out that show the reader the action on a following page. (The Bienes Center Collection.)

"Everything you pick up is just amazing," Jim says. "Here's the cover for my show catalog. And here we have the Kubasta miniature pop-up books. Some of these are stunning. Kubasta worked on so many different mediums and sizes.

"We have books in German, French, Spanish, Czech, Japanese, Portuguese, Slovak. Nothing in Greek—but I have one in Turkish! Here's his Indians book. Marco Polo is just fantastic. Have you seen his Christopher Columbus? Look at this amazing pop-up of Columbus three ships!

"Look at this wonderful cover. This is one of his cut-out books. A cut-out on a page allows the action of the next to show through.

"This is a Tip and Top store display that I found. It just goes on and on. When you think you understand, you find something unusual that I hadn't known before. This is his too, a book of poetry, for which Kubasta did this unusual cover. Isn't it an amazing collection?"

It certainly is. And you have a feeling that its librarian who created this collection is not just a proud curator, but a fond book lover as well.

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