JOURNAL — Bookends RSS



A Monk the Very Best

The Gothic Movement, in my opinion, remains the high-water mark of architectural and decorative art history.  The original movement spanned the 1100's into the 1500's.  Later, in the mid 1700's, there was a Gothic Revival movement in England, followed by a bigger one (throughout the Western World) during the first three-quarters of the Nineteenth Century (sometimes called "Victorian Gothic").  When the Arts & Crafts Movement flowered (circa 1900 - 1910's), Gothic elements and themes were often adopted as decorative influences and embellishments.  I am likewise smitten by these later revivals, too. These bronze-clad, Monk's head bookends, made in the 1910's or 1920's, tap a heavy vein of Gothic inspiration.  In addition to the clerical reference, you'll find a triptych of gothic arches...

Continue reading



All Elephants Are Lucky

I've sold dozens of elephant bookends over the years.  Elephants have always been a classic and popular theme in "bookshelf accoutrements."  I guess I also like the idea of promoting the welfare of elephants living today—both those in captivity and those in the wild. At some point—I guess it started with the Feng Shui trend of the Oughts—a minority of customers would refuse to buy any elephant unless its trunk was turned upwards.  "It is unlucky, otherwise," they would say.  Now, in truth, when dealing with items made 100 years ago, there was nothing I could do to change the direction of an elephant's trunk.  I would best remain happy to buy a nice elephant, regardless of the point of its proboscis....

Continue reading



Untapped Potential

These handsome Scotty bookends were made just outside of Pittsbugh, in the little town of Verona, PA.  Not much history can be found of the manufacturer, which is surprising, considering how well modeled, cast and finished these bookends are.  The "coat" of each dog is deeply textured.  The Argyle bases are a wonderful Scottish touch.  The clean casting of the cast iron is superb. And the bronzy-copper finish, now aged, is rich and even.  With this exceptional attention to detail, one might think that the company would have grown and become a bigger player during "The Golden Age of Bookends" (the 1920s and 1930s).

Continue reading



Le Penseur

In 1880, French Modernist sculptor, Auguste Rodin, was commissioned to produce a monumentally-sculpted main door for a planned Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. The aesthetic theme and subject matter was left to Rodin's discretion, however, it was agreed that the door would be delivered five years later, in 1885.  Rodin worked on the commission (on and off) for 37 years, until his death in 1917.   Rodin, inspired by the great Italian Poet Dante Alighieri, selected the theme "The Gates of Hell," taken from The Inferno.  He designed the model for a massive bronze door, embellished (on and around the door) with 180 cast figures (the smallest being about 6 inches tall and the largest a little over three feet).  Rodin...

Continue reading



"Il Sommo Poeta"

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265.  He is considered Italy's greatest poet and one of the most important writers in the Western Canon.  His most important work, The Divine Comedy, was groundbreaking in its day—and remains an artistic touchstone to this day. Dante's depiction of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) exercised wide influence on many writers and artists (painters, sculptors, musicians) who came after him—through which Dante affected the popular conceptions of the afterlife for centuries to come.  He did not write in Latin, the language of the educated elites.  Instead, he chose to write in the vulgate, the popular language of commoners (which allowed more people to read and understand his writings).  The popularity of The Divine Comedy demonstrated...

Continue reading



The Barbizon School

The Barbizon School of French painting flourished in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (approximately 1830-1870), an important and innovative movement before Impressionism entered the scene (later in the century).  The British painter, John Constable, was exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1824.  His landscapes, naturalism and manner of painting directly from nature was an antidote to the more formal "Academic" French painting that had been en vogue—and some of the younger French painters were inspired by his fresh, soft, Romantic Realism.

Continue reading



Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway (1556-1623), wife of William Shakespeare, lived most of her life in and around Stratford-on-Avon, England. Her husband, the prolific playwright, spent much of his time working in London, leaving Anne in Stratford with their three children. As a girl, Anne grew up in a spacious twelve room Tudor farmhouse, about a mile from Stratford-on-Avon.  The house, now called "Anne Hathaway's Cottage," was built over 500 years ago and has been added-to over the centuries.  It sat on a farm of 90 acres.  The timber-framed house has a thatched roof and multiple fireplaces, the largest of which was used for cooking.

Continue reading



Handsome & Useful

When there's a man around the house, things always seem go better when he's both handsome and useful. Likewise, these bookends will not disappoint. A muscular, fully-rigged ship plows toward the viewer, beautifully-sculpted with energy and intent—the ship seems to leap forward, off the bookends.  The iron castings have been dressed in a brass finish and supplemented with a verdigris patina.  They would make a handsome and useful addition to your library, office or bookcase.

Continue reading



God Loves a Terrier!

Anyone who has seen "Best in Show" will never forget Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy singing, at their backyard cookout, "God Loves a Terrier (Yes He Does!)"  The movie also makes it clear that "Dog Show People" can get pretty picky about the specific and different varieties of dogs in the world—especially all those terrier breeds!.  The American Kennel Club identifies 30 terrier breeds while the for-profit United Kennel Club identifies 44 different types. With such specificity at play, I find it unusual that the sculptor who modeled these cast iron bookends (in the 1920's) would choose to feature two different, albeit very handsome, terriers-in-profile.  Surely a breeder or a terrier owner wants to see his or her specific breed featured in bas relief.  Showing two varieties, while...

Continue reading



Fit for a King

World History is replete with great artists.  And I love many of them!  Yet, if nudged (even lightly), it's easy for me to name the greatest of all time: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 -1564).  He was a great architect: note the dome of San Pietro in Rome.  He was a great painter: note the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, also in Rome.  And he could really lay-out a square: note the fabulous Piazza del Campidoglio, yes, in Rome.  That's a lot of Rome for a Florentine!  But it makes sense, for Rome was pretty much the center of the world in Michelangelo's time.  He was brought to where the rich and powerful resided.  But don't feel too badly for Florence; he...

Continue reading



Hitting the Sweet Spot

There was a brief decorative period in England—a "sweet spot" in which Art Deco and Modernism combined to create a soft, warm, hybrid aesthetic.  The look was streamlined without being hard.  Slightly Industrial without being cold.  Utilitarian, yet inviting.  Flat surfaces were softened with rounded corners.  One of London's great stores, Heal's, has (for 200 years) been an emporium of new design and good taste.  During the 1920's through the 1940's, they produced and sold many furniture designs which artfully blended Art Deco wooden furniture with a soft, progressive Modernism. I do not know if these bookends were made by Heal's, but they capture the spirit, color and attitude of the shop's wares between the wars.

Continue reading



Summer School

If you thought this would be a kick-back summer, perhaps you'd better think again. "Science and Study" are the name of the game—at least according to the weary monks on these handsome bookends from the 1920's.  They were made by Bradley & Hubbard (Meriden, Connecticut) of cast iron and patinated with two bronze finishes: a traditional dark brown and a golden patina on the bas relief.  They are quite heavy—ideal for holding up those oversized illuminated manuscripts.  Or your physics, calculus and biology tomes.  

Continue reading



A "New" President

Over the years, I've collected and sold many pairs of bookends.  America's 16th President—Abraham Lincoln—has always been a popular subject.  By now, I thought I was familiar with the various "Lincoln Designs" which had been made, mostly in the 1920's.  And then I found this pair, which I had never seen (nor owned) in the past.  They were made by Bradley & Hubbard and have the characteristic heft for which the manufacturer is known.  But, in this pair of bookends, the President's image, which includes his upper torso, is fully in-profile (not a three-quarter resemblance) and the sculpted portion is a bit smaller than most other renderings—creating a handsomely tasteful depiction.  To my eye, it looks a little more "old fashioned" than...

Continue reading



Man(kind)'s Best Friend

Leonidas Hornsby had had enough!  Something had killed a few of the sheep on his Missouri farm and Hornsby vowed to kill the next dog or wolf who strayed onto his property.  Sadly, on 18 October 1869, Old Drum wandered onto Hornsby's land.  Hornby ordered Old Drum shot.  The dog belonged to his neighbor (and brother-in-law) Charles Burden.  Burden really loved Old Drum!  And he vowed that Hornsby would pay! Burden sued Hornsby for $100—what he believed was just compensation for the financial value of the dog plus the emotional loss incurred.  Burden argued that Old Drum was much more than a working asset or possession.  Indeed, Old Drum was a companion and valued family member.  The case was almost...

Continue reading



Father's Day

These extraordinary bookends, made almost 100 years ago, celebrate a quiet moment of a father spending time with his son.  The father is President Abraham Lincoln and he is reading to his youngest son, Tad, who would have been about 10 or 11 years old at the time.  The bookends were sculpted by artist Olga Popoff Muller as a special commission for the New York Decorative Arts League in 1922.  She based the composition on a well-known photo by pioneering photographic portraitist Matthew Brady (taken in 1864).  I have not been able to find much information about the sculptress, Olga Popoff Muller—a surprise considering the quality of her work as shown in these bookends.  She was born in New York City...

Continue reading



Countdown to Father's Day - IX

There is a lot of action packed within the bas relief sculpting of these bookends from the 1920's.  Saint George, astride his rearing horse, is delivering the coup de grâce to the Devil (here represented as a dragon who had been threatening a maiden).  These bronze-clad bookends tick the boxes for many "types" of fathers, including those who like: heroics, action themes, horses, Saint George, dragons, good sculpture, medieval mythology, armor, lances or (even) books.  

Continue reading



Countdown to Father's Day - VI

Few animals are as impressive as a massive bull elephant—worked-up, stomping and ready to protect his family.  These majestic creatures will often live to the ripe-old-age of 65 or 70 when left unmolested in the wild, not that much different from humans.  And, yet, the animal is so improbably designed—with its heavy, lumpy body, thick, lumbering legs, ivory tusks, and ridiculously extended proboscis.  I'd love, someday, to see a group of elephants in the wild.  I'm sure it would be an experience I would never forget.

Continue reading



Countdown to Father's Day - I

As we approach Father's Day, we'd like to share a few select items—perfect for that "Dad with Great Taste."  See them—and many other great gift options—in the on-line store at LEO Design. This very heavy pair of cast steel bookends were probably created to be given away by the foundry's salesmen—left behind on the desks of the purchasing agents who patronized the company, or perhaps sent as a holiday gift.  Handsome, yes.  Useful, sure.  But also a constant reminder that McKeesport Steel Casting Company was at-the-ready—always prepared to write-up that next important order.  They were made in the 1920's or 1930's in McKeesport, one of the many steel towns of Greater Pittsburgh, "The Steel City."  Because these were made for "promotional use...

Continue reading



Perilous Waters

In recent weeks, Shakespeare has been called-out for having been insensitive to important issues of racial injustice, White privilege and colonial oppression.  British academics are reviewing The Bard's works to highlight the offensive language—and to adapt that which can be saved and cancel that which is unredeemable.  I am not writing an essay on cancel culture.  But I'd hate to see Shakespeare revoked.  Let me make six quick points:

Continue reading



On the Hunt

I have never been a hunter.  Or have I? As an antiques dealer, I've frequently woken-up well before sunrise.  I've dressed for inclement, outdoor weather.  I've prepared my gear (cash, notepad, bubblewrap).  I've travelled long and inconvenient distances to "the best hunting spots."  And I've methodically stalked my quarry—sometimes in frenzied competition with my fellow hunters.  The goal: to make a "clean kill" (that is, a profitable purchase) after which I will "dress" (clean and prepare) the game, and drag it back to the shop (hoping it will someday feed my family).  Once in a while, I will keep a particularly prized specimen as "a trophy" for my collection.

Continue reading



Revisiting History

Amongst the nicest—and heaviest—bookends I've ever carried, these stunners were made by Judd Manufacturing in Wallingford, Connecticut in the 1920's.  They are made of cast iron, but refined with a bronze finish, which provides a smoother, more sophisticated surface appearance.  And the sculpting is very well done.  The handsome chief, shown in full, feathered headdress, is modeled with great skill and attention to detail.

Continue reading



Judd Manufacturing

Judd Manufacturing got its start as a blacksmith foundry in New Britain, Connecticut during the Revolutionary War.  It later reinventing itself as a harness maker, selling sleigh bells, saddles and other equestrian gear.  Over the years, the company grew, changed hands within the family, and even split into two separate companies—one moving to Wallingford, CT and the other moving to New York City.  In time, the New York City division prospered and bought-out the Connecticut factory.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Judd made decorative metalworks for household use: banks, doorstops, door-knockers, inkwells, animal sculptures and (most famously) bookends.  The company was purchased by Stanley Works (New Britain, CT) in 1954.

Continue reading



Wisdom

Wisdom just isn't what it used to be. For millennia, scholars, writers, theologians, philosophers and kings have sung the praises of Wisdom—the ability to think and act with understanding, knowledge, experience, prudence and common sense.  The Old Testament devotes a book to Wisdom.  Solomon valued Wisdom above all other blessings.   Jesus preached about the wise steward, the wise builder and the five wise virgins (with their lamps).  Saint Thomas Aquinas called Wisdom "the father of all the virtues."  Even the word philosophy means "the love of Wisdom."  She (for Wisdom is always a woman) was personified: the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman goddess Minerva represented this most important virtue.  And artists through the ages have painted and sculpted...

Continue reading



The King-of-the-Jungle

In nearly every world culture, the lion is admired (and equally feared) as a symbol of royalty, fierceness and brave leadership.  To "lionize" a person is rarely considered an insult. That's why the lion is called "The King-of-the-Jungle" and is often included in the heraldry of nobility wherever lions are known. In three short months, we'll be in the middle of the LEO sunsign (23 July - 22 August). Perhaps a handsome pair of bookends will make your favorite LEO happy?  This pair, made of cast iron in the 1920's, are graced with a regal bas relief portrait of a male lion.

Continue reading



Japanning

With the increasing trade between Europe and Asia in the 1600's, Europeans got their first exposure to many Asian craft forms previously unknown in the West. Rich Europeans went wild! They loved the Asian ceramics, woodcarving and metalworks brought-home by merchants—and they spent big money expanding their collections.  One of these "new" crafts was lacquerware. Europeans couldn't quite figure-out how to duplicate the Asian laquer process (in part because the necessary tree sap did not grow in Europe).  Furthermore, European collectors began to suspect that Asian lacquer craftsmen were holding-back their very best pieces for their domestic collectors (which is not surprising).  So, in the 17th Century, the Italians developed a faux laquerware which came to be called "Japanning."  It did not use the proper Asian tree...

Continue reading



Great Writers: Dante

Italy's greatest writer (indeed, one of the Western World's most important writers), Dante Alighieri, was born in Florence in 1265. Alas, he found himself on the wrong side of a political battle in his home city.  After supporting the (losing) White Guelphs, Dante was banished—upon pain of death—from his beloved Florence. After a bit of moving around, he settled in Ravenna, some 90 miles from Florence, where he died and is entombed to this day.   Dante's greatest work, The Divine Comedy, was written during his exile. It is considered one of the most important works of literature of all time, in any language.  And, unlike other important Medieval writers who wrote in Latin, Dante wrote in the vulgate, specifically the Italian Tuscan dialect.  After...

Continue reading



Great Writers: Shakespeare

We don't know the precise date on which William Shakespeare was born.  There is, however, a church record showing that he was baptized on 26 April 1564.  He was probably born a couple (or a few) days earlier.  23 April has become a popular birth date speculation—which also happens to be the day he died in 1616.  Although Shakespeare's first days are shrouded in mystery, his works—poetry, sonnets and plays—are famously the most important body of work written in the English language. Through the astounding range of plays, characters and dramatic situations he crafted, Shakespeare distilled the essence of what it means to be a human—plays, characters and human situations which still resonate today.

Continue reading



Great Writers: Longfellow

"The Song of Hiawatha" is an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published in 1855.  It follows a number of American Indian characters—notably the warrior Hiawatha and his lover Minnehaha—along the southern shore of Lake Superior.  It was an immediate success, selling over 50,000 copies in its first two years, and it created an indelible impression of Indian life and people in the popular imagination.  Critics condemn the poem as the romantic creation of a non-native writer.  Longfellow's source materials and understanding of real Native American culture have been called into question. Nevertheless, it is a monumental work of American Romantic literature and it played an important role in Nineteenth Century popular culture.

Continue reading



Champ & Major

After four years without (live) animals in the White House, first family pets are back! Champ and Major are two male German Shepherds, the family pets of the Biden family. Champ, now twelve years old, was purchased by Joe Biden from a Pennsylvania breeder to fulfill a promise to his wife—that he would get another family dog if he and Barack Obama won the 2008 election.  Major is three years old and is the first rescue dog to live in the White House.  Joe Biden's father would sometimes call the future president "Champ"—and this nickname was passed along to the older dog.  The younger dog may have received his name as a tribute to Biden's deceased son, Beau, who was an Army...

Continue reading



The Light of Asia

    Sir Edwin Arnold (1832-1904) was a British poet, journalist and educator.  He was sent to India in 1856 where he served as a school principal for seven years. While there, he was exposed to Buddhism, heretofore virtually unknown in the West.  After returning to England, where he worked as a journalist, he published The Light of Asia in 1879.  It was the first major exposure of Buddhism to the Western World.  The book was a great success and has been translated into 30 languages, including Hindi. The book takes the form of a poem and follows the life of Indian Prince Gautama Buddha, his renunciation of his formerly privileged life, and his pathway to Enlightenment.  Mahatma Gandhi, then a law student...

Continue reading



Innocence

Before eating from the forbidden "Tree of Knowledge," Adam and Eve had a pretty sweet life. No hunger, no work, no trouble, no shame.  And a beautiful garden, to boot.  But such wasn't to last—and here we are now. This pair of cast iron Art Deco Bookends, made in the 1920's, show Eve luxuriating before a date palm tree in the Garden of Eden. Let them bring some stylish "Biblical Literacy" to your desk, den or bookshelf.

Continue reading



From Russia, With Love?

WASHINGTON, 1 April  —  Assistant White House Press Secretary, M. Jess Kidden, reported to Reuters this morning that a year-old puppy had been left behind in the White House, possibly abandoned by the outgoing first family.  Members of the junior White House staff discovered the canine sleeping in a crate in the former Executive Chef's office. Facts are scarce, Kidden admitted, since none of the permanent household staff wishes to come forward with testimony, fearing they might be targeted for political retribution.  What is known is that an unnamed foreign ambassador quietly hand-delivered the Russian Wolfhound puppy during the summer of 2020.  A handwritten tag attached to the crate read, "Thank you for everything. I'll miss you. VP"  Advisors soon...

Continue reading



Happy Presidents' Day

It's the third Monday in February, Presidents' Day!  Or is it President's Day?  Or, perhaps, Presidents Day?  The answer will depend on the mood of the writer (and which state s/he inhabits).  Congress established a federal holiday, called Washington's Birthday, in 1879, intended to honor only the first president.  The holiday was initially observed on 22 February, the first president's actual birthday.  Individual states have similarly made it a state holiday—sometimes calling it Washington's Birthday or Presidents Day or President's Day or Presidents' Day.  In 1971, Congress "regularized" many federal holidays, placing them on a certain Monday of a given month (thus, creating more three day weekends and not having strange, mid-week disruptions to the workweek). 

Continue reading



Any Day Now...

As we approach the anniversary of The Great Covid Hibernation, most people I know are more than ready to return to "normal life."  We have places to go, friends to see, pounds to lose.  Luckily, a rapidly increasing schedule of vaccinating is helping to dig us out of our national hole. These Art Deco basset hounds, standing patiently atop their stepped bookend plinths, are biding their time, too.  "Any day now," they seem to be saying.  "Any day now...".

Continue reading



Great President, Great Man

On this day, 2/12—212 years ago!—Abraham Lincoln was born at his family's "Sinking Spring Farm" in Kentucky.  Raised to perform hard physical farm labor, he and his family moved several times during his childhood, eventually to Illinois when Abraham was 21.  Lincoln was not a pampered child, born to comfort and luxury; he faced difficult challenges throughout his life—the most difficult, no doubt, as the 16th President of the United States.  Lincoln was handed a country on the brink of civil war.  Conservatives in the South were outraged at the election of this gangly, progressive leader (and alarmed that he would challenge their economic prosperity, based on enslavement).  The month after his inauguration, the Civil War began.

Continue reading



The Bard Knew

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. -William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606) Today we shall witness a staged performance—dramatized for all the world to see—which Shakespeare described and might have predicted over 400 years ago.  Elected officials (some might call them "disciples") will demonstrate their blind allegiance to their shepherd—a figurehead they venerate above party or country.  They call him "The Chosen One" and they long for their master to recognize their piety and adoration. The Bard's words have proved durable; so will the judgement of history.  But, perhaps, history hasn't yet...

Continue reading



Dallin's Masterpiece

American sculptor Cyrus Edwin Dallin (1861 – 1944) was born in Utah and grew-up around many Native Americans, children and adults. He developed a sympathy to their history and their difficult plight. Dallin created a cycle of four sculptures portraying mounted Indian horsemen. His masterpiece, “Appeal to the Great Spirit,” was cast in Paris and unveiled at the Paris Salon of 1909—where it won the gold medal.  It became popular immediately—especially in America—and the image has been used everywhere from advertising to album covers.  Smaller copies of the work have been made and installed across the country.  One version is part of the White House’s permanent collection and was used to decorate President Clinton’s Oval Office. The original was installed in the forecourt of Boston's...

Continue reading



Catholic Queens

Some 85 miles north of London stands Peterborough Cathedral, one of the great churches of Britain.  Principally built between 1118 and 1237, this English Gothic masterpiece stands on the site of an earlier church, founded in 655. Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew look down from the three central gables, appropriate as the cathedral's official name is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew. The church was originally a Catholic house of worship. When Henry VIII "dissolved the monasteries"—thus stripping the churches of their precious objects and banning Catholic worship—it was converted to an Anglican cathedral. But Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had already been buried in the church—and remains there to this day. Later, the Scottish...

Continue reading



Where the Buffalo Roam?

Sticklers inform us that there is no such creature as an "American Buffalo."  Buffaloes, the pedants contend, live in South Africa (as Cape Buffalo) and in Southeast Asia (as Water Buffalo). "Bison," they inform us, are the creatures found "Home on the Range" (with the deer and the antelope). Technically, these spoilsports are correct. Nevertheless, there is a long written record of the word "buffalo" being used to refer to the American Bison—not to mention all the popular songs, images and folktales. For millenia, bison roamed much of North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States, and part of Mexico. But hunting of the shaggy bovids decimated their numbers; the bison population fell from a high of 60 million (in the...

Continue reading



Abingdon Pottery

Abingdon Sanitary Manufacturing Company, in Knoxville, Illinois, was founded in 1908 and remains in business to this day. Their initial business was making plumbing fixtures—sinks, toilets, urinals, water fountains—and their exceptional quality made them the gold standard for the industry. They used a dense, heavy white clay (some of it imported from England) which created very durable and watertight fixtures with beautifully smooth surfaces.  In 1928, they became the first manufacturer to produce colored fixtures.  In 1933, they were chosen to produce all the plumbing fixtures for the World's Fair in Chicago.

Continue reading



Remarkable "Ships of the Desert"

As wonderful as these cast iron bookends from the Twenties are, the camels they depict are even more remarkable creatures!  Their ability to survive in harsh, arid climes have earned them the nickname "The Ships of the Desert." There are two basic varieties of domesticated camels: the single-humped Dromedary Camel found in Arabia (94% of camels) and the larger two-humped Bactrian Camel of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan). Camels were first domesticated around 3000 years BC—and have been a reliable source of milk, meat and transport ever since.

Continue reading



Keep Going!

"If you're going though Hell, keep going."  - Winston Churchill Remember national leadership? Admittedly, 2020 was a tough year.  But it was hardly the worst year in human history. In fact, it was not even the worst year in American history.  And yet, we still pine for the days when our national leader would actually . . . well . . . lead. One could do worse than to study Winston Churchill for lessons in leadership.  His famous saying, quoted above, didn't paint a rosy picture.  Churchill didn't try to distract, dissemble or deceive.  Churchill didn't tell the British people that they were "rounding-the bend."  He acknowledged the challenges they faced and told his people to push-on.  People find comfort...

Continue reading



Awaiting the Golden Age

At the heart of The Eternal City lies the "Forum Romanum"—an expansive, sunken field of remarkable (though ruined) temples, arches and remnants of other ancient buildings, most over 2,000 years old. The Roman Forum was the center of life in the bustling ancient city, the place where government activity, judicial trials, mercantile trading, even gladiatorial events competed for space cheek-by-jowl. And for five centuries (from the Renaissance to the present), the Forum has provided rich inspiration for artists, architects and designers, each seeking insight into the timeless, classic beauty of a romanticized past.

Continue reading



Double Bison

Most pairs of bookends comprise two interchangeable members—two bookends from the same mould, modeled identically. This was a concession to ease and expense (and usually worked just fine for most purposes).  But, when a bookend maker wanted to take things to the next level, they created a "mirrored" pair of bookends, like the Bisons shown above.  To make a mirrored pair of bookends required a lot more work—at every stage of design, production and handling.  First, two different models needed to be crafted (one facing in each direction).  Likewise, two different moulds needed to be made and maintained.  Then, as the bookends were finished, packed and shipped, it was not enough to just grab two bookends; rather, a pair had to...

Continue reading



The End of the Trail

For five long years, America has been running-in-place—enduring an election campaign that just won't end.   While the contesting may not cease tomorrow (and chances are, it won't), it is, nevertheless, The End of the Trail.  Tomorrow the voting will end and we will wait as final ballots are received and counted.  May the good team win. These bookends, made in the 1920's, depict a bas relief representation of James Earle Fraser's End of the Trail sculpture.  Fraser, moved by the plight of Native Americans displaced from their homelands, sculpted an exhausted Indian atop his (equally exhausted) horse who have been pushed West, to the edge of the Pacific—where they can go no further.  Fraser began working on the idea as early...

Continue reading



All Saints' Day

Today is All Saints' Day, the day when all the saints in Heaven (known and unknown) are honored and celebrated.  It is preceded by All Hallows' Eve (Halloween) and followed by All Souls' Day on 2 November. The bookends shown here capture the important French Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims.  Built during the 13th through 15th Centuries, it has long been the site of the coronation of French kings.  From 1415 to 1429, the English occupied the city of Reims—and its cathedral—thus preventing the traditional coronation of King Charles VII.  Enter Saint Jeanne d'Arc who led the French Army to defeat the English, threw them out, liberated the city, and took-back the Cathedral so that Charles could be crowned.  Click...

Continue reading



Never Stop Pushing!

Changing a country—its culture, its people, its leadership—can seem Sisyphean.  Push as one might, the change just doesn't seem to occur.  But when The People all push together, change can happen, as difficult as it may appear.  Keep pushing and please vote! These bronze clad and patinated bookends were sculpted by Hungarian artist Julio Kilenyi  (1885 - 1959) and made in the 1920's.  They capture beautifully the spirit of "The Builder"—in the form of a straining human body—pushing with tremendous effort to achieve human progress.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



On the Prowl

2020 is my first presidential election in Pennsylvania and all I can say is, "Benji, I don't think we're in Chelsea anymore...".  Having previously lived in reliably blue states—Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York—I have never been subject to the "swing state crush" of advertising and campaign attention that is endured in a state like Pennsylvania.  In fact, I was unprepared for the "performance anxiety" that comes with living in such a state—responding to desperate enquiries from friends in all those blue states.  And, of course, not wanting to let them (and my country) down.  And I still have not gotten used to presidential candidates coming frequently to my state—and, oftentimes, my city!  They are candidates on-the-prowl for...

Continue reading



Home & Hearth

Autumn is surely here—with a decided nip in the air.  How nice it would be to sit with the feet-up, in front of the fireplace!  Instead, I find myself glued to the news, tracking the latest variance in the polling data.  Soon, soon we can rest—unplug, tune-out and repair. This pair of cast iron bookends were made in the 1930's by Bradley & Hubbard (Meriden, Connecticut).  Their heavy and solid mass will hold-up your favorite tomes (which you can read by the fireside).  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Before the Fall

Eve luxuriates in The Garden of Eden, reclining upon a date tree.  Is it the Tree of Knowledge?  We are witness to the final days Before the Fall; quiet, natural, complete perfection.  Oh, how far we've come. Poor Eve!  For centuries, (male) preachers and theologians have tried to pin her for The Fall.  And, it's true, Eve did acquire Knowledge before her husband did.  But, as I read Genesis, I see that God personally instructed Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (before Eve was even created).  But we do not hear God giving the same directive to Eve.  Nevertheless, many people (unfairly) blame the woman more than her man. The story gets even more dramatic after they've eaten.  Even as...

Continue reading



Grand Poet

One of America's greatest poets was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was born to a prominent, well-educated family in Portland, Maine (then a part of Massachusetts) in 1807. At the age of 15, he began studying at Bowdoin College (which had been founded by his grandfather). He graduated in two-and-a-half years, after which he toured Europe for three years—learning French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German in the process. While in Madrid, Longfellow befriended fellow writer Washington Irving who encouraged the young poet to continue his pursuit of writing. After returning to the United States, Longfellow began teaching at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard. Longfellow's first wife, Mary Storer Potter, was a childhood friend from Portland.  While on a trip together to Europe, she suffered...

Continue reading



Will Our Ship Come In?

I can see it on the horizon!  Or . . . I think I can.  It's our ship!  Coming-in! The next ten days will be tense, indeed.  But keep your eyes on the horizon.  That ship is due—very soon!  Rescue is at hand! This pair of cast iron bookends, from the 1920's, show a handsomely-sculpted galleon plying choppy seas.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Silent as the Grave

The Great Sphinx of Giza gazes eastward, over the River Nile—which, for millennia, was the source of life in the flat, sandy lands of the Giza Plateau.  Some historians consider it the oldest surviving sculpture in the world, built around 2500 BC for the Pharaoh Khafre (and bearing that pharaoh's face).  It was originally carved out of bedrock but has been restored (over the last 4,500 years) with blocks of stone.  It stands 66 feet tall (at the head) and 240 feet long (head to tail). These bookends are a stylized representation of the great sculpture—though reinterpreted though the lens of Art Deco fashion of the 1920's.  When Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered (98 years ago, next week), it kicked-off a...

Continue reading



Dog Fight

Tonight is the final presidential debate of the 2020 election—or, at least, it is scheduled to be.  Last week's debate was cancelled abruptly when the president backed-out of the event.  Candidate Biden opted to join a Miami town hall in its place. These dogs—bookends, actually—are interesting in that they are fully-sculpted all the way around.  If not holding-up books, they would make nice pair of (light) doorstops or look dashing as (two) handsome canine sculptures.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Elephant Walk

Lest some of my friends (well...let's make that relatives) across-the-aisle feel a bit left-out, here's an elephant—the lumbering mascot (with a long memory) of the Grand Ol' Party.  The population of elephants is on a steep decline.  In the wild, at least, this breaks my heart.  So I'll always have a soft spot for the peaceful pachyderm.  And I will always try to keep a nice selection of elephant bookends for my like-minded customers.  Note that this pair of bookends is "mirrored"—that is, cast from two different moulds which allows the pair to face each other.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome pair of bookends.

Continue reading



Joust A Fort Knight!

In just a fortnight, our modern day jousters will appear before the judges—and we, The People, will render the score.  May the better team win!  (And by "win," I mean receive the most votes.) These bookends, made in the 1920's or 1930's, are bronze clad, patinated and hand-painted with touches of vibrant color.  They capture all the energy, tension and anticipation of a great match to come.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Dance! Dance! Dance!

Is that a distant drum beat?  Boom, boom, boom.  I've been hearing it for weeks. Boom, boom, boom.  Election Eve comes in two weeks. Boom, boom, boom.  Get that ballot in!  And then, get ready to dance! These cast iron bookends scream Art Deco!  A dancer flexes on his foliated stage—a healthy measure of Radio City Music Hall and a generous touch of Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun.  I  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Slay the Dragon

Saint George was an early Greek Christian who was born in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) to a Roman Army soldier.  He died on 23 April 303.  Legend tells us of a fearsome dragon that demanded human sacrifices.  The people, attempting to placate the dragon, had offered-up a young maiden as his next meal.  This is when Saint George came along, slaying the dragon, saving the woman, and setting the captive people free. But the myth of Saint George did not become popular until many centuries later.  The first known written record of the legend is from the 11th Century.  As the Crusades ramped-up, and soldiers from different countries came together in the Holy Land, the story of Saint George and...

Continue reading



Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power.  And those who have the knowledge are most likely to become powerful.  For millennia, the best transmission of knowledge was through books.  Oral storytelling, on the other hand, has always been subject to the accurate recall of the listeners and the agendas of a line of subsequent storytellers.   The written word, on the other hand, allowed knowledge to be recorded in a way that was less likely to be changed over time (as long as the original manuscripts survived, and raises a different issue).  The problem was, very few people were literate.  Reading and writing were the domain of the highly educated—poets, clerics and scribes.  For this reason, the display of books (and images of people reading)...

Continue reading



Fala-La-La-La

"Fala" was President Roosevelt's beloved black Scottish Terrier, perhaps the most famous of White House pets.  Fala often traveled with the president, whether by auto, train, boat or plane.  The press (and political cartoonists) loved to share Fala's stories of life in the White House.  The dog was such a popular Democrat that even the opposition party attacked him when they could.  Republicans complained bitterly that Fala once had been left-stranded during a trip with FDR to the Aleutian Islands—requiring the president to send a US Navy destroyer back to collect the little rascal.  FDR made short work of his Republican critics; soon after, at a Teamsters' dinner and speech (which was radio-broadcast nationwide), Roosevelt pummeled the opposition for fabricating "libelous statements about my...

Continue reading



Night and Day

Michelangelo was in high demand.  Just because the Pope had conscripted him for four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (plus another five years to paint The Last Judgement), it did not follow that other rich patrons would surrender their final wish: an impressive, custom-carved, Michelangelo Buonarotti tomb!  Popes, cardinals, bankers and kings stood in-line, waiting for Il Divino to start chiseling.  Michelangelo designed many ambitious (and over-the-top) tombs for his fervent patrons.  Alas, the artist rarely finished many of  his complete original designs.  Nevertheless, just the pieces of tombs which he created are masterpieces—amongst the greatest works of any human hand (ever).  His Pietà—so beautiful it makes the heart race—was carved by the 24 year old artist for...

Continue reading



Leaps & Bounds

The tension is growing—by leaps and bounds—as the candidates stump, the pundits parse, and the votes are submitted by mail or early voting.  It should all come to a crescendo on 3 November (20 days from today!).  But that may not be the end of it!  Mailed-in ballots will need to be counted.  And there is always the chance that a candidate (or his party) may contest the results.  How much more can you take? An athletic gazelle leaps into action—ready to hold-up your precious tomes.  Made in the 1920's, this handsome pair of bookends is big on Art Deco style.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Steel City

In the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, Pittsburgh was one of the engines of America's national economic growth.  It was the height of American Industrialism and Pittsburgh was the heavy hitter.  Great fortunes were made in The Steel City—Carnegie, Frick, Mellon, Scaife, Heinz, Westinghouse—and they were fortunes which endowed other American cities (like New York and Washington, DC).  There were big companies, like US Steel, which (at its peak) employed hundreds of thousands of employees.  But there were many hundreds of smaller companies which serviced the giants or further-processed the raw material produced by the behemoths. Such a focus on industry came at a great cost.  It was terribly polluting.  It perpetuated a "caste system" that insured there always would be many more low-paid, interchangeable...

Continue reading



"Ex Scientia Tridens"

On this day in 1845, the United States Naval Academy was founded in Annapolis, Maryland. The Academy's motto, Ex Scientia Tridens, is the Latin for the phrase "From Knowledge, Sea Power."  It's comforting to know that some US leaders still appreciate the important link between knowledge and power! 33 miles from Washington, DC, the Academy admits 1,200 "plebes" each year (also called "Midshipmen") and graduates about 1,000 students as new officers, mostly for the US Navy or Marine Corps.  A prospective student must be 17 to 23 years of age, unmarried, without children, and be of good moral character.  Applicants are tested for physical, intellectual and emotional fitness and must have the recommendation of their state's US Senator, Representative or Delegate.  The...

Continue reading



Farewell to a Little Giant

Last night we lost a great American, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Though standing a mere five-foot-one, she towered as an intellectual and judicial giant—and she changed the course of life for millions of grateful Americans. She will be honored with solemn ceremonies at the United States Supreme Court and within the United States Capitol. She will lie-in-state at both "temples"—upon the very catafalque which bore the casket of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. The bookends shown above, made in the 1920's, portray a Neo-Classical "temple"—not unlike the Parthenon in Athens or the US Supreme Court in Washington.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Rushing Home

While I was in college—and during my early working years as a young adult—the Autumn was energized by the annual "migration" of my Jewish friends racing home for the High Holidays.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, was sometimes referred to as "Rush-a-Home-a"—and it was quite clear that eager parents would be waiting impatiently for their children to rejoin the family nest (and they better get home on time!).  I am not Jewish, but I nevertheless admired the unfailing, seasonal current that drew my friends homeward. This handsome pair of bookends, by Bradley & Hubbard, were made in Meriden, Connecticut in the 1930's.  Heavy and solid, they capture the spirit of the hearthplace—the romantic center of any household, especially when the...

Continue reading



World Book Day

23 April is World Book Day—a day devoted to the promotion of reading, publishing, book collecting and copyright protection.   This date was first marked by Catalan booksellers who, in 1923, wanted a way to commemorate the burial date of national literary giant Miguel de Cervantes.  Interestingly, William Shakespeare also died on 23 April (according […]

Continue reading



Just Whistle

This little guy—streetwise beyond his years—would be happy to find a home. Maybe your desk, office or bookshelf would do? Made of cast iron around 1930, these bookends are finished with a brass patina. Crafted in Connecticut by Bradley & Hubbard. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

Continue reading



Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Most of us have been "keeping the home fires burning"—and may be doing so for some time to come. What's a more iconic symbol of comfort-at-home than a fireplace? This pair of heavy cast iron bookends were made by Bradley & Hubbard (in Connecticut) in the 1930's. Sure to be appreciated by anyone who loves his or her fireplace—or as a gift to someone who aspires to have a fireplace some day. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District"...

Continue reading



Spring Fresh - part XI

Let's close-out our procession of "Spring Fresh" offerings with this boldly-handsome, yet simple, pair of hand-tooled copper bookends. They were made by Roycroft in East Aurora, New York, to accompany their Little Journeys booklets. In 1894, social reformer, Arts & Crafts proponent and all-around Renaissance Man Elbert G. Hubbard began publishing a monthly subscription he called Little Journeys into the Homes of the Great. Each month he sent-out a new edition, beautifully printed on a letter-press with handsome graphic decoration. Each edition comprised a short biographical study of a famous and accomplished man or woman of letters, an artist, orator, statesman, teacher, businessman, philosopher or other worthy and interesting role models. These little booklets could be collected between these copper bookends. When...

Continue reading



Spring Fresh - part VII

One of the most distinctive artists of the Art Nouveau period was the Czech artist, Alfons Maria Mucha (1860-1939). He was born in Ivančice, at the time part of the enormous Austro-Hungarian Empire (now part of Southern Czech Republic). After studying in Munich and Paris, Mucha experienced a fortuitous "stroke of luck." The great French actress, Sarah Bernhardt, happened to call her Parisian printer on the day after Christmas 1894; she wanted a new poster designed (immediately!) for her hit play Gismonda, which was being extended due to popular demand. All of the printer's regular "house artists" were away for the holidays—but the young Alfons happened to be in the workshop at the time, inspecting another artist's proofs as a favor....

Continue reading



Éirinn go Brách!

"Ireland Forever!"  Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Saint Patrick—spelled Pádraig in Irish—was born to a Christian family in "Roman Britain" in 387 AD. At the time, the island of Britain was nearly-totally occupied by Roman forces. Though his father was a deacon, Patrick was not religious or particularly faithful. As he wrote in his autobiographical Confessio, as a young teenager he was abducted by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He was made a shepherd and had plenty of time alone (with the sheep) to pray and contemplate his faith. He grew in his love of God, despite Ireland's hostility to the Christian faith (which was populated with Druids and Pagans). At the age of 20, he had a dream that...

Continue reading



March Forth!

I've always liked the sound of today's date: March Fourth (or "March Forth!"). It has a strong, determined resonance—full of possibility and brimming with opportunity. These bookends depict a knight, lance in-hand, atop his twisting (almost Mannerist) steed. They are bronze-clad and treated to a hand-painted "polychrome" finish. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private...

Continue reading



In Like a Lion...

The old adage informs us, "When March comes-in like a lion, it will go-out like a lamb." Today's forecast calls for 50º weather and lots of sunshine. If the weatherman is correct, it looks like we'll have a cold and stormy end-of-month. The lions above—shown in crisp bas relief on this pair of bookends by Bradley & Hubbard—are made of cast iron and face each other in a mirrored fashion. This was a more costly and time-consuming way of designing and producing bookends. First, two different moulds were required to complete a pair. Then, throughout the casting, finishing and packing, a true pair had to be monitored and intentionally kept together (which required more effort from the shop workers). These...

Continue reading



Spring Thaw

Spring begins in 30 days! Soon it will be time to resume those favorite outdoor activities: planting, painting, washing the car. For those who prefer long hikes in the woods, these pups are ready to join you! Made of cast iron in the 1920's, these bookends will add a bit of "countryside chic"—whether Maine Woods or Downton Abbey—to your office, den or mantelpiece. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

Continue reading



Ashes to Ashes...

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is the Christian season of abstinence, almsgiving and prayerful reflection—forty days of preparation before the most-important Christian celebration, Easter Sunday. On Ash Wednesday, the faithful are marked on the forehead with black ashes and instructed, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  The Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris is amongst the most famous houses of worship in the world. Last year, on 15 April—the day after Palm Sunday—the 850 year old Cathedral suffered heartbreaking damage in a great fire.  Ashes to ashes, indeed. For me, the heartache contains a personal resonance. I once attended Mass in Notre-Dame on a Palm Sunday, some years ago. The Mass was...

Continue reading



Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday! And, NO, I am not implying that these buxom beauties are fat! On the contrary, they represent the artistically-idealized female figure for most of the last four thousand years. These "Satyresses" (female Satyrs) convey the (extreme) Bacchanalian character of the last day before Lent. In Catholic households, Mardi Gras is the opportunity to eat-up and get rid of all meat, fats, sweets, alcohol and other gustatory indulgences before the proscribed Lenten abstemiousness begins the next day (Ash Wednesday).

Continue reading



Eternal Classics

The foundations of Western poetry and literature rest on the shoulders of two giants, who lived 2,000 years apart: Dante Alighieri (Medieval Florence, 1265-1321) and Homer (Ancient Greece, c. 700 BC). Although many great writers have come since them, many of the great Western scribes have credited these two—and their harrowing tales of travel and adventure (throughout the Ancient World and down to the Underworld).   Historians are divided over whether "Homer" was a single person or, perhaps, a group of writers (over time) who formed, re-formed and penned the Odyssey and the Iliad. On the other hand, Dante's authorship is undisputed. After supporting the losing side of a political war in Florence, he was banished from his beloved home city and took up residence in...

Continue reading



Oh, Those STEM Subjects!

Buck-up, STEM scholars! We're told that those of you who study Science, Technology, Engineering and Math will be well-employed in the future—and best-able to pay off those mountains of student debt. In the meantime, try to keep your eyes open during those late nights of studying. These studious monks seem to be drifting-off. But let's give them a break: they're nearly 100 years old.  These heavy cast iron "Science & Study" bookends were made by Bradley & Hubbard (in Connecticut) in the 1920's. Perhaps they'll quietly motivate your favorite STEM scholar-at-work or commemorate her graduation with a useful "trophy" to keep for a lifetime. Click on the photo to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is...

Continue reading



Epiphany

An "epiphany" is a life-changing realization—one which has the power to alter the course of one's future. An epiphany usually strikes suddenly and dramatically but it also can evolve over time with thought. These bronze-clad "Thinker" bookends, modeled after Rodin's "Le Penseur" (1902), seem well on their way to an epiphany. Click on the photo above to learn more about them. In Western Christianity, "The Feast of The Epiphany" is celebrated on (or about) the 6th of January. It represents the manifestation of the Christ Child to the Gentiles—usually symbolized by the Three Magi (the Gentiles) recognizing Jesus as God Incarnate and prostrating themselves before him.  The Twelve Days of Christmas end the night before (5 January, sometimes called "Twelfth...

Continue reading



Saint John Cardinal Newman

This morning, 13 October in Rome, Pope Francis canonized Saint John Cardinal Newman—Oxford educator, Anglican priest, writer, philosopher, and towering intellectual.  As a clergyman in the Church of England, he developed and lead “The Oxford Movement” which encouraged the return of his church to the Latin rites and theology used by the Roman church.  In 1845, Newman converted to Roman Catholicism and, eventually, was elevated to cardinal. In 2010, he was beatified (at which point he was called “blessed”) which was the final step before canonization to full sainthood.  In 1888, the first Newman Club was established at Oxford, inspired by the writings of Cardinal Newman.  Today there are Newman Centers found around the world—Catholic student centers at otherwise secular universities.  Newman...

Continue reading



Run for the Roses

All the long, lazy mornings In pastures of green The sun on your withers The wind in your mane Could never prepare youFor what lies ahead The run for the roses so red.                                        -Dan Fogelberg A handsome pair of horses—one "winning by a nose"—feature on each of this pair of bookends, made in the 1920's or 1930's. Crisply modeled and cast in iron, each pair is framed by a horseshoe. Is there any animal more noble than a horse? Made by Bradley & Hubbard, they would make a wonderful gift for your favorite equestrian (or bookie). Please click on the photo...

Continue reading



Addio, il Sommo Poeta - part II

On this day in 1321 (or was it yesterday?), Italy's greatest writer, Dante Alighieri, died in-exile in Ravenna, Italy. Dante, born in Florence, found himself on the losing side of a political battle, after which he was banished from his beloved hometown on pain of death. He settled in Ravenna, some 65 miles away. It was here that he wrote his greatest work, the Divine Comedy.  Ravenna, at first glance, is a somewhat modest town. But the city's plain appearance belies the glorious Early Christian (5th & 6th Century) mosaics which encrust the interiors of many churches and tombs. I sometimes imagine Dante standing before (or under) them—they were already 800 years old when Dante lived in Ravenna—gaining inspiration for his...

Continue reading



Ready for the Bell - part 5

Two British poets—a Scotsman and an Englishman—will bookend the growing library of your favorite British Literature scholar. Made by Bradley & Hubbard in the 1930's, they celebrate words, wisdom and knowledge. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

Continue reading



Ready for the Bell - part 3

What to give that Italian Classics major? She'd love this pair of stately bookends from the Twenties! Dante Alighieri, seated upon his chair of knowledge, leans forward, eager to hear every word. They are bronze-clad, patinated with an aged brass finish, and hand-painted in sections to give them a handsome "pop." And, while they will certainly supply inspiration during the school years, they will be a welcomed companion for decades to come—holding-up books and lending a classic air to any office, library or bookshelf. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell...

Continue reading



Two Lords A'Leaping

Not really "Lords A'Leaping." Not Donner or Blitzen, either. But we are four months from Christmas Day!  A good time to start shopping! Perhaps these Art Deco cast iron "Leaping Gazelle" bookends will do the trick. They're handsome, useful and very stylish—not to mention the ultimate "green gift." Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by...

Continue reading



Dog Days of Summer - part V

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. This pampered pooch is rendered beautifully in cast brass, made in England in the 1920's or 1930's. He'd make a perfect gift for the Pekingese lover in your life—and bring a little touch of Imperial Grandeur to your office, den or bookshelf. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them. More "Dogs of Summer" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we...

Continue reading



Dog Days of Summer - part III

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. American Bulldogs are a popular breed—as they were in the 1920's, when these bookends were crafted. Why, then, are Bulldog items so difficult to find? Perhaps bulldog lovers are loathe to give-up their treasured Bulldog accoutrements? In 25 years, I've found precious few Bulldog bookends, like the pair shown above. Click on the photo above to learn more about them. More "Dogs of Summer" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!...

Continue reading



Dog Days of Summer - part I

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. Bring a little touch of shooting party "Downton Chic" to your office, mantelpiece or bookshelf—while sparing the birds. This pair of "Hunting Bird Dogs" bookends, made in the 1920's, will hold-up your books loyally. Click on the photo above to learn more about them. More "Dogs of Summer" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be...

Continue reading



Born To Sculpt

John Ruhl (1873-1940) always knew he wanted to be an artist. His hardworking German father—who ran a shoe shop—discouraged his son's dream at every turn. Instead, 14 year old John was compelled to take a clerkship in an insurance office. The next year, John began taking art classes at the Metropolitan Museum where he entered an art competition (unbeknownst to his parents). When John's sculpture won, his father was impressed with seeing his son's name in the newspaper as well as the $100 prize—more than a month's earnings in his shoe shop. Ruhl was allowed to quit his job at the insurance company and apprentice himself to a prominent NY sculptor. He later joined the Piccirilli Brothers—one of the foremost...

Continue reading



Welcome Back, LEO!

It's 23 July—the first day of the sunsign LEO! It was during this month (24 years ago) that LEO Design first opened shop on Bleecker Street. What a time it's been! Although we've moved three times (eventually to Pennsylvania), we have not stopped buying and selling "Handsome Gifts" and home furnishings. Take this handsome pair of lions, perched on rocks, surveying their domain. They are bookends and are dated 1926—which makes them 93 years old. When I opened my store in 1995, they were only 69 years old!  That's the nice thing about antiques: they just keep getting older and older. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently...

Continue reading



Always Popular

Why are Teddy Roosevelt Bookends so difficult to find? While Lincoln bookends are somewhat commonplace, TR bookends are quite scarce—and, therefore, costly. I have a few ideas of why this might be. First of all, factory-produced bookends are an early Twentieth Century phenomenon—and really reached their production zenith during the 1920's and 1930's.  Before the Twentieth Century, few people who could afford to assemble large collections of books (only the wealthy). Working people (who made up the bulk of the 19th Century US population) might own a small handful of books—a Bible, perhaps a cookbook and a few books of poetry—thus, mass-produced bookends were not really needed. Wealthy collectors had rooms, shelved libraries, to protect, organize and store their tomes. Roosevelt's...

Continue reading



Fit for a Scholar

It's the Graduating Season and sometimes an uplifting gift is in-order. Amongst the world's best writers—and, certainly, Italy's greatest writer—is Dante Alighieri, scholar, poet and author of The Divine Comedy. In the Late Middle Ages, when Dante was writing, it was customary for serious literature to be written in Latin. Dante ignored this convention, writing in the Italian language (and, what's more, in the Tuscan dialect of his beloved Florence).  Since his death in 1321, Dante has influenced numerous writers, right up to the current age. Dante's relevance to the modern age is not confined to his writing—but concerns his politics.  It seems he found himself supporting the losing side of a political scrum in his home city of Florence. Alas,...

Continue reading



Bronze-Clad Beauties

These tenacious tuskers will really put their heads into keeping your books upright. Nicely modeled elephants are clad in a skin of bronze and finished with an antique patina—resulting in a handsome pair of bookends from the 1920's. They'd be right at home on your bookshelf, mantelpiece or holding-up reference tomes on your desk. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange...

Continue reading



Out, Out Brief Candle!

On this day in 1616—precisely four hundred and three years ago—the world’s greatest poet and playwright died in his home town of Stratford-on-Avon, England.  While there is some mystery surrounding Shakespeare’s death, we do know (or think we know) a few things.  He had returned to Stratford (and his family) after 20 years of working in London.  His day of death may have also been his 53rd birthday (though we don’t know his precise birthdate, only the day of his baptism).  And he was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church, whose then vicar, John Ward, was a fan of The Bard.  The cause of Shakespeare’s death has been debated.  The Reverend Ward wrote in his diary: “Shakespeare, Drayton and...

Continue reading



Good Friday

Today is the most solemn day on the Christian calendar—the day when Jesus endured His Passion, was crucified and laid into the tomb. Coming after Lent, a long period of atonement and reflection, this darkest of days will soon be followed by the most joyous of Christian events—Easter and the Resurrection.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram:...

Continue reading



Architects Attempt Sculpture

Though clearly Art Deco—in period and style—these 1930's bookends foreshadow the "Brutalist" aesthetic to come two decades later. Brutalism was a design ethic which swept worldwide architecture in the third-quarter of the Twentieth Century. Coming on the heels of the Second World War, it sought to overturn the (so-called) "frivolous" aesthetic of previous human generations, and, perhaps, to shock the world with its defiant rejection of grace. Brutalism is known for its brazen angularity and a lack of any concern for "fitting-in" to the existing community of buildings. Though it is often described as the expression of "function over form," it is more often perceived as an insolent disregard for traditional conventions of beauty. The new, post-War generation of designers...

Continue reading



The Temple of Concordia

The Tempio della Concordia in Agrigento, Sicily, is the best preserved Doric Order temple in the world (alongside the Parthenon in Athens). It was built around 440-430 BC when the pre-Italian island was an important part of the Greek world. It was later named after the Roman goddess of harmony. It is surrounded by 20 foot tall fluted columns—six along each short side and 13 along each long side—topped, naturally, with Doric capitals. Each column tapers subtly near the top and swells gently in the middle which gives the column a dynamic tension—as though the column were straining to bear the weight of the roof. The temple was converted to a Christian Basilica (of Saints Peter & Paul) in the...

Continue reading



The Horse Tamers

In the Art Deco period, "heroic" human figures—like this "Trojan Horseman"—would be used as decorative elements in the architecture of the day. Usually, the sculpture was designed to represent some intangible element of a robust society: commerce, labor, agriculture. A walk through central Washington, DC will present many such examples—on Thirties buildings which manage and guide the various important agencies for the nation. The theme of "Horse Tamers" in artwork is one that goes back to Rome with the monumental sculptures of Castor & Pollux (and their horses) standing near the Baths of Constantine on Quirinal Hill. A pair of sculpted Horse Tamers by Baron Peter Clodt von Jurgensburg (plus two more by a different artist) grace the Anichkov Bridge...

Continue reading



Peterborough Cathedral

Some 85 miles north of London stands Peterborough Cathedral, one of the great churches of Britain.  Principally built between 1118 and 1237, this English Gothic masterpiece stands on the site of an earlier church, founded in 655. Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew look down from the three central gables, appropriate as the cathedral's official name is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew. The church was originally a Catholic house of worship. When Henry VIII "dissolved the monasteries"—thus stripping the churches of their precious objects and banning Catholic worship—it was converted to an Anglican cathedral. But Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had already been buried in the church—and remains there to this day. Later, the Scottish...

Continue reading