Arion Lyre

57. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, with 12 drawings by Wayne Thiebaud.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, translated and with a new introduction by William Weaver, with 12 drawings by Wayne Thiebaud, 1999.

Page from Invisible CitiesItalo Calvino, regarded by many as the greatest master of Italian fiction in this century, first published this work in 1972 as Le citta invisibili. A tale mixing fantasy, reality, and philosophy, it recounts a long conversation between a young Marco Polo and an aging Kublai Khan. The book was lauded by Gore Vidal as more than a novel, more like a "meditation or poem" and "perhaps his [Calvino's] most beautiful work". William Weaver, who translated it from the Italian into English, considers that among his translations, "it is the one I reread with the most pleasure".

The artist Wayne Thiebaud contributed 12 drawings, with the idea that the images of cities and objects remain invisible until the reader takes action. To realize this concept, Andrew Hoyem designed the book with the drawings printed on clear plastic in different colors of inks, each matching the color of the following sheet. The images are revealed only when the transparent sheet is turned back onto the preceding page, a white sheet with printed text. Thiebaud also made an etching, entitled "Souvenirs of Cities", based on a drawing of abandoned objects, which can be purchased along with the book.


Title page for Invisible CitiesFormat: 14 by 12 inches, 164 pages. The paper, both colored and white, is Italian Tiziano, mouldmade at Fabriano mill. The types are Veronese (Monotype and handset) and Twentieth Century (handset). The type (on paper) and the photopolymer plates for the drawings (on mylar) were printed by letterpress. The book is bound in an anodized aluminum ring binding with U-posts, allowing the leaves to be turned over in sequence. A back cover supports four U-posts, a lid has four slots through which the U-posts rise, and a locking pin of aluminum rod slips through the hoops securing lid to base. The binding was fabricated by Paul Sheet Metal Works in San Francisco. The titling is screen-printed onto a side of the lid. Numbered and signed by the artist. Edition of 400, Out of print.

Extra print: Etching, "Souvenirs of Cities" printed in black ink with chine collé on Italian mouldmade Tiepolo paper. The plate is 14 by 11 inches, the sheet is 22.5 by 19 inches. The intaglio printing was done by R. E. Townsend, Inc. in Georgetown, Massachusetts. Numbered and signed by the artist. Edition of 40, $1,750.00. Sold with the book for $2,500. Out of print.

Title page of Invisible Cities

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“Souvenirs of Cities” by
Wayne Thiebaud, signed (view larger image)