Newport, Rhode Island: John Stevens, 1938. First edition. Octavo (9 inches tall), original staple-bound violet wrappers, printed on laid paper with a deckled edge. Housed in a custom chemise and slipcase. Shallow fore-edge indent, early owner signature to bottom blank endpaper, slight wear and toning to spine-fold. A near-fine copy. Item #454
"FOR NO ACTION IS WORTHLESS, AND THE FULLNESS OF GOD IS WORTHY TO BE GLORIFIED IN ALL THINGS"
Limited first edition, one of only 400 copies printed, of this scarce early work by an important iconographer of the Catholic Worker and Liturgical Arts movements. Ade de Bethune was a Belgian immigrant who became a part of the circle around Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day. Bethune's artistic style, emphasizing a modern interpretation of traditional themes, represented a decisive break with the often-sentimental sacred art of the previous century. Her work was a critical visual hallmark of The Catholic Worker paper during the Great Depression and the Second World War. In 1938, Bethune moved to Newport and established a studio at the John Stevens Shop. "Whenever I visited Ade I came away with a renewed zest for life. She has such a sense of the sacramentality of life, the goodness of things, a sense that is translated in all her works whether it was illustrating a missal, making stained-glass windows or sewing, cooking or gardening. To do things perfectly was always her aim'" (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness).
Work included three stunning wood-engravings by Bethune, including Our Lady of Home Work and her splendid image of the Holy Family (which first appeared in the Catholic Worker in January 1937). The Holy Family captures the Catholic Workers "belief in the nobility and sanctity of work. Joseph at left and Christ in the middle are engaged in carpentry while Mary stitches a garment. The drawing is accompanied by the motto of the Benedictine order, 'Ora et Labora,' or 'Pray and Work.' The figures in the image wear contemporary clothing and use modern tools. The men wear pants and closed shoes. Joseph also has a brimmed cap. He uses a modern hacksaw, while Mary works with straight pins and a pair of scissors. By updating the figures’ dress and tools, Bethune brings them forward in time, closer to the audience she hopes to reach. At the same time, the simple, non-specific architectural setting and the hand-tools (as opposed to mechanized ones) allow the image to concurrently occupy the past." (Rachel E. Norton, Useful to the Mind: Ade Bethune's Illustrations for the Catholic Worker). Printed by The Ward Printing Company with a limitation page on the final leaf.