Bromer Booksellers and Gallery is a hidden wonder tucked away on the second floor of an otherwise-unremarkable Boylston Street building. It is a bookstore and gallery specializing in rare, antique and miniature books and prints. The gallery part opened up just last year, and the blend of books and art creates an exciting milieu of creativity. Bromer “strives to complement the art of the book with the book as art.” And their upcoming show, “Barry Moser: The Storied Artist,” certainly encapsulates that theme.
Barry Moser is a master illustrator known for his wood engravings. He studied under Leonard Baskin shortly after moving to Massachusetts, and then went on to begin graduate studies in printmaking at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied bookmaking, design and illustration with Jack Coughlin and Fred Becker — and almost gave up in his attempt to master wood engravings — but Becker, thankfully, insisted he continue his quest for perfection.
Moser founded his own publishing company, Pennyroyal Press, soon after his newfound printing passion took hold of him, and there will be many prints on display from books published by it.
The pièce de résistance of that press is the Pennyroyal Caxton edition of the King James Bible, which many believe to be the finest illustrated bible of the 20th century. The two largest prints in the show come from this bible edition, the “Gospel of Mark” and the “Gospel of John.” Both prints mark the beginning of their title’s section of the book, the gospel of Mark represented by a great lion, and the gospel of John represented by a fierce eagle.
There is also a collection of prints in this show from Moser’s production of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which won the American Book Award for Design and Illustration; prints from Moser’s editions of Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There,” Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” will also be on display.
Moser modeled his illustration of Alice after his own daughter, and the White Knight — from “Through the Looking Glass” — after Carroll. The print of Alice, specifically, is wonderfully detailed. Her face and wild hair are what the eye is drawn to first, but then it wanders to the faint, intricate background details: the red queen’s ominous face over her left shoulder, another two faces just to the right of the queen. The details to the right are harder to make out, but yet another face looks down upon her and a distinct, singular eyeball stares intensely at the viewer in the center of Alice’s torso at the bottom edge of the page. One could gaze at this engraving for hours and still have more to see.