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F A N T A S T I C A :   T H I R T E E N   D R A W I N G S   B Y   L E O   B E N S E M A N N.   1 9 9 7

This is a new edition of a remarkable book by the artist and printer Leo Bensemann (1912-1986) first published in  Christchurch  by The Caxton Press in 1937. It was at the time the most ambitious publication attempted by the printing and publishing firm established by Denis Glover and John drew in 1935. In A Catalogue of publications from the Caxton Press Christchurch up to February 1941, Fantastica was described (presumably by Glover) in these terms: "Nothing quite like these drawings has appeared in New Zealand. Mr Bensemann has a unique gift as an illustrator and book decorator, and his choice of text is informed by a quiet humour . . . The cylinder press behaved with unwonted docility, and we are proud to have printed this book so well. The engravers should share any praise for the quality of the work." The drawings were originally executed in pen and ink, Bensemann's favoured medium at the time.

The present edition is printed from the same blocks as the first edition, Bensemann having carefully preserved the metal blocks in his studio. Each drawing illustrates a different literary text drawn from a diverse range of sources including Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus, the Brothers Grimm, Sir Thomas Browne, Japanese folk tales, and the Arabian Nights. The drawings are equally various in their stylistic origins. Among the many influences on Bensemann's eclectic but unique style are Albrecht Durer, Aubrey Beardsley and Japanese woodcuts.

Peter Simpson's introduction places Fantastica within the context of Bensemann's career and draws attention to the subtle interconnections between the drawings arguing that far from being a random assortment of items Fantastica is a unified whole in which word and picture combine to tell a compelling 'story'.

Out of print.


Holloway Press