38 - 39

Is this a different kind of refashioning? Yes, and yet the story told is essentially the same. It is in the consummate manner of presentation that Hughes and Baskin have re-presented the Oresteia. From the large conceptual plan of the book, down to the smallest detail of typography and layout, they have reset the trilogy to a fresh temper and mood.

In the Satyricon, the freedman Trimalchio comically explains the origins of Corinthian bronze to his dinner party guests. Professor Connors makes a case that Trimalchio’s idea that Corinthian bronze is derived from an amalgam of statues made of various metals can serve as a metaphor for


Petronius’s own method for recycling the past: “Petronius self-consciously represents the process of fragmentation, refashioning and recognition which constitutes parody.” Amalgamators in their own right, the artists of the works presented here also purposefully generate ideas by combining word and sentence fragments, merging differing texts, adding imagery, highlighting the material presence of the book as a sheer object or otherwise refashioning their source material. These artists offer up social commentary, literary interpretation, ironic statement and pure visual pleasure.

The Oresteia
Leonard Baskin; translation by Ted Hughes

The Oresteia, written in the 5th century BCE, is comprised of three plays chronicling the House of Atreus. It movingly relates the process by which Greek society moved from a culture based on personal vengeance to one predicated on social justice though a court system.

Hughes contributed a free verse translation specifically for this edition. To complement the poet’s lines, Baskin created each woodcut, their motifs based on events depicted in the text. The woodcuts, be it a rendition of an anguished head, a figure group, or the Furies, sits frontally on the right-hand page, surrounded by a generous expanse of white paper.


Meanwhile, Hughes’s well-spaced lines tread lightly down the opposite page, unobtrusive in type and spacing, as though in quiet visual deference to the turbulent knot of energy that is Baskin’s illustration.

As with all books in this series, the book is printed on the finest hand-made paper – a paper that allows the ink to settle gently into its compliant fibers. Few books can match the pure beauty of this book as a material object. To this add Baskin’s keen sense of scale and space, the sophisticated yet primal thrust of his images and Hughes’ compelling translation, and you have a book of unparalleled excellence.

The Oresteia
Leonard Baskin; translation by Ted Hughes

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