Featured Item from the Yale Bookplate Collection

[I.V.P. Her Book] by Vojtěch Preissig, 1914, 7.7 x 5.5 cm.
March 4, 2014

Vojtěch Preissig (1873-1944) was a prolific Czech artist whose work spans graphic design, book illustration, typography, printmaking, and painting. This four-color zincographic bookplate, dated 1914, is likely one of several that Preissig designed for his wife, Irena V[aňousová] Preissigová.

Having studied in Prague and then Paris at the turn of the 20th century, Preissig set up his own studio in Prague in 1904 and began publishing the journal Česká Grafika among other ventures. In 1910 he moved to the United States, where he held teaching appointments at the Art Students League in New York and Teachers College of Columbia University and later the directorship of the School of Graphic Arts and Printing at the Wentworth Institute in Boston. In addition to working for various book and magazine publishers, Preissig was deeply involved in the Czech National Association and designed WWI recruitment posters aimed at Czech and Slovak immigrant audiences. The girl shown in profile in this ex-libris design wears a traditional Slovak bonnet. Preissig’s patriotism even extended into designing a Czech version of the Old Style typeface Antiqua to better accommodate the language’s diacritical marks.  

By the early 1930s Preissig moved back to Prague. He joined the Czech resistance to Nazi occupation and focused his efforts on the banned magazine V boj [To Battle] together with his middle daughter, Irena "Inka" Bernášková, who eventually became the magazine’s editor, publisher, printer, and distributor. Both Preissig and his daughter were captured and imprisoned in 1940. Bernášková received a death sentence and was executed in 1942; Preissig died of typhus in 1944 while serving a three-year sentence at Dachau. During the latter half of the 20th century, Preissig gained recognition as a significant figure in Czech modern art. His influence, particularly regarding book design and typography, reached beyond the Czech lands to elsewhere in Europe as well as the United States.

The Yale Bookplate Collection comprises an array of graphic works in addition to both archival and published materials. ​Early and mid-20th-century Czech graphic artists are especially well represented.  

References

Rytíř, Václav. Vojtěch Preissig--popisny seznam jeho ex libris. Prague: Nakladem V. Rytíře, 1927. Arts Library Special Collections Call Number: Z996.P77 R97 1927 (LC)

Vlčková, Lucie, and Branislava Kuburović, trans. Vojtěch Preissig. Řevnice: Arbor vitae; Prague: Museum of Decorative Arts, 2012. Haas Arts Library Call Number: NJ18.P8898 V52 2012 (LC)