St. Petersburg: Dmitry Sayenko; Nikodim, 2018. Limited edition. Hardcover. Fine. Item #20604 .
Two volumes, folio. Slipcased. One of 20 copies signed by Owens and Sayenko in the colophon. Prospectus laid in. The volumes are in fine, as new condition; the slipcase has a tiny bump on one corner else is fine.
The main volume, 56pp, hardcover is in full grey linen with a linocut paste-on and brass corners. Tan endpapers. All pages of handmade paper and uncut, replete with linocuts taken directly from the blocks and in multiple colors, with the text letterpress, deeply printed on dampened paper with Baskerville type.
Volume 2 is also folio, and in handmade paper wraps, the upper wrap with a linocut of Gawain and Ragnell taken from the block, and title by letterpress in red. (28)pp. The text is printed offset on ivory machine-made paper and contains the complete Romance as transcribed from the sole manuscript by Frederick Madden and rendered into modern English by James J. Owens, keeping the original cadence and rhyme schemes.
The artist explains the first volume: loose pages in an attic from an old book, some chewed by rats. The owner, realizing they are from the same book, puts them together as best he can, even though some of the pages are artfully torn by the artist to imitate the effects of rats gnawing through paper.
This is the story of Gawain and the Loathly Lady, Dame Ragnell. For Arthur's sake and safety, Gawain wed her, and when he did exactly the right thing, the spell was broken, she shed her ugliness, and became beautiful. The sovereignty of women was the key.
Dmitry Sayenko is a Russian printmaker and book artist. His works are in private collections and in special collections in Russia, Germany and England, among others. For this bit of artistry, he cut over 50 blocks, made the paper, printed it with text and illustrations while damp, and bound the books. The deep impression of the illustrations and the text on the handmade paper are superbly satisfying. His renderings of a morose Arthur, a gallant Gawain, a Lady with ugliness to spare, and finally the beauty in the ending: these are a perfect match for the text.