Bound by: Timothy Ely

Flight into Egypt

Colfax, WA: Timothy C. Ely, 2011-12. Unique. Hardcover. Fine.


A unique set of 4 books, a variant of Ely's famous (and enormous) single volume book Binding the Book:The Flight Into Egypt (1985). This specially commissioned grouping, collectively titled The Flight into Egypt, comprises four volumes: Atum, Fulcrum, River, and Thoth, with a combined total total of 23 fully illustrated spreads. The original version of Flight into Egypt is about Ely’s grandfather, the journal he left behind about his mysterious trip to Egypt between the wars, bookbinding, and the geography of Egypt. For much more information about Binding the Book: The Flight Into Egypt (unique, 1985), see The Flight into Egypt: Binding the Book (Chronicle Books, 1995). In this version of Egypt, Ely focusses more on the geography, geology, and mythology of Egypt rather than on his grandfather's travels per se. He also omits explicit allusions to his studies in bookbinding. Each of the four volumes in this group contains a title spread and four or five additional spreads of original art housed in a unique binding. Spectacular images of scarabs, Egyptian deities, geological formations, and star maps feature heavily in this version of Flight into Egypt, all extensively annotated in Ely’s secret writing called ‘cribriform.’ These gorgeous, intricately painted and drawn books are deeply evocative of Egypt on many levels. They are a particularly fine example of Ely’s lush treatment of a beloved subject, yet Ely, as always, leaves plenty of room for the viewer’s imagination to take flight. 4 drum leaf bindings. Illustrated and hand-tooled fabric spines, each with a cutout revealing painted and hand-tooled paper. Boards covered in drawings by Ely and hand-tooled by him. Hand-made paste paper endpapers by the artist. Completed by Ely in 2012. Housed in a custom dropback box made and decorated by Ely, with paper spine label. Each volume 28cm x 33.3cm. Timothy C. Ely (b. 1949) is a renowned and enigmatic figure in the book world. His one-of-kind manuscript books combine elaborate and often mysterious painted and drawn folios contained within finely crafted bindings, which are his inventions or variations on traditional binding techniques. Each book carries layers of both materials and meaning. Much of Ely’s work is richly annotated with his own glyphs he calls “cribriform.” While they are made up of a finite set of marks, they take on many different “meanings” depending on the tool with which they are drawn. He has written and spoken often about the roots and evolution of these drawings. Gestural in their formation, these trailings evoke a sense of language and meaningful discourse. Though suggestive, they never yield up a firm translation. Born in Snohomish, Washington, Ely has been making books since he was a child, mixing drawing, painting, and words in his journals and stapled comic books. His childhood interests in such topics as astronomy and chemistry have carried forward into his adult work. He was deeply influenced by his father’s hardware store and the local public library, where he spent his time after school. It was later, during his undergraduate studies (Western Washington University, BA 1972), that Ely’s philosophy of art, expression, and books began to coalesce. Following graduate school (University of Washington, MFA 1975), Ely undertook a self-directed study of bookbinding and began to fabricate the work he is known for today: a fusion of his unique take on English style binding techniques with his visionary drawings. With a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1982) Ely traveled to Japan, Italy, and England to study bookbinding and paper making. He then moved to New York where he established a studio and taught at the Center for Book Arts. During his decade in New York, Ely traveled to Europe, Central America, and Scandinavia lecturing, exhibiting, and teaching. From New York, he moved his studio to Portland, Oregon, back to his native Pacific Northwest. Ely currently lives in rural Eastern Washington near Spokane. He has had numerous solo exhibitions, most recently at the Schack Art Center, Jundt Art Museum and The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and has participated in countless group exhibitions. His work is in many private and public collections, including the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Museum, the Boston Athenaeum, the Getty Research Institute, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Lilly Library. See: Timothy C. Ely: 8 Books (Abby Schoolman, 2016) for more about Ely’s methods.

Price: $50,000