Two volumes: Matching monographs on Franciszka Themerson (1907-1988) and Stefan Themerson (1910-1988), both born in Poland, met at University, married in 1931, to Paris in 1936, planning to live there, World War Two, both enlisted, separated, twists and turns of wartime, together in London in 1944, moved to Chelsea, later to Maida Vale, where they lived until their deaths in 1988. Two spectacular, not untypical, twentieth century European lives.
The Themersons founded the Gaberbocchus Press in 1948, their co-directors were the translator Barbara Wright and the artist Gwen Barnard. Gaberbocchus published 60+ books over the next thirty years, innovative, spectacular productions many designed and illustrated by Franciszka Themerson, some written by her husband and the most eclectic selection of authors. Both Themersons worked and collaborated in other complementary areas: Franciszka – painter, graphic design, illustrator, stage design, and Stefan – author, scriptwriter, filmmaker, composer, inventor and philosopher; and turned the basement of their office into the Gaberbocchus Common Room, a venue for meetings, screening movies, performing plays and poetry readings.
‘Franciszka Themerson’ contains thirty-three pieces (many by Nick Wadley, the original editor), all illustrated, attempting to net as much as possible from across the range of her artistic and personal activities – ‘Unposted Letters’, ‘Calligrammes’, ‘Genesis of a Painting’, ‘Bi-Abstract Pictures’ – many by her, also Edward Lucie-Smith, Stefan Themerson, Michael Meschke and Mark Sebastian; and including an illustrated checklist of Gaberbocchus’ publications.
'Stefan Themerson’, published four years later as a companion volume to ‘Franciszka Themerson’, contains twenty-six pieces, illustrated, containing a similar combination of titles – ‘The Poet and the Angel’, ‘The So-Called Ephemera’, ‘The Common Room’, ‘The Future of the Cinema’, 'St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio or Brother Francis’ Lamb Chops’ – written by a wider range of authors, including the subject, the editor, Nick Wadley, John Henshall and Walter Van Der Star.