Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels: How Joseph Cornell reinvented a French Agricultural Manual to create an American Masterpiece
Analisa Leppanen-Guerra and Dickran Tashjian
One of Joseph Cornell’s favourite pastimes was to meander through the used book stalls of lower Manhattan, rummaging around in search of items to spark his creative impulses. Some time in the early 1930s he came upon the Journal d’Agriculture Pratique (1911), a voluminous handbook of advice for farmers. Over time Cornell altered and reinvented many of the pages in the Journal. He inserted collages, photomontages and drawings; he crossed out words in the text and made French puns with others. Hand-coloured engravings, cutouts and lift-ups transport the reader from page to page. Owing to its fragility, the dazzling elegance of Cornell’s Journal has rarely been viewed. Now, in a unique venture, sixty of its extraordinary pages have been re-created in virtual facsimile, with cutouts, glue-ons and other handmade details. Included in a specially designed box are a DVD of the entire work, including pop-up commentaries, and a volume of illustrated essays on the Journal and Cornell’s own artistic practice.