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Collecting Memories in Chicago

February 19, 1989|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Chicago abounds in collectibles--from contemporary crafts to old baseball cards. To find them, however, it takes browsing off the beaten path in little neighborhoods and stores that most tourists pass.

Begin with the Illinois Artisans Shop at the State of Illinois Center, 100 W. Randolph St., (312) 917-5321, where you'll find art of the state of Illinois. The decorative and functional contemporary art by more than 200 Illinois artists and craftsmen is superb.

Included are sculptural wooden boxes by Larry Anderson ($32 and up) and Kyle Kinser (featuring intriguing Japanese-style locks, $40 and up), quilts by Marion Huyck ($325 and up), flaxen baskets made of coiled waxed linen on rush by Char Wiss ($325 and up), ceramic miniature rooms by Ellen Sherwood ($175), hand-painted ceramic trivets by Ertworks Studio ($8) and twill tapestries by Marilyn Hawrylewicz ($225 and up).

Gold and Silver

Chiaroscuro, at 750 N. Orleans, (312) 988-9253, represents hundreds of artisans, including jewelers who work in gold and silver, semi-precious stones, enamel, ceramic, wood and other elements. Their works cost from about $15 to hundreds of dollars.

In addition there are hand-woven baskets made of reeds and handmade paper by Barbara Davis, paper sculpture reliefs of sailing ships ($370) and other objects by Paul Johnson and quilted change purses ($21) by Sonya Barington.

Deborah Exum's "Dessert Chair" ($750) is a colorful and decorative artwork that's also a piece of furniture. There are complex constructions and assemblages (about $600 and up) based on baseball, ballet and other popular themes, as well as amusing and splattered T-shirts ($40).

In the same building, at 750 N. Orleans, the Gallery Vienna, (312) 951-0300, features Jugendstil furniture and art objects made in Vienna between 1900 and 1930.

The gallery has a collection of museum-quality Josef Hoffman pieces including a beechwood table (dated 1910, priced $3,300), a beechwood and cane Thonet armchair (circa 1930, $975), a black and white porcelain butter dish (circa 1900, $1,650) and an engraved glass vase (circa 1916, $2,500).

Beechwood Settees

There are also several Josef Hoffman beechwood settees; each set has one bench, two armchairs, four side chairs and a center table, dated around 1905, at $20,000 to $21,500.

Pieces by other designers are less expensive. A blond bentwood and cane settee with four chairs made by Fischel in 1900 still has the original cane and costs $3,500 for the set. The gallery also shows original period posters, paintings and drawings. Gallery Vienna's picture catalogue ($15) is available by mail order.

The Prairie Avenue Bookshop, 711 S. Dearborn St., (312) 922-8311, is the Western Hemisphere's largest source of books, magazines, rare books and documents on architecture, urban planning, design and building technology, with about 3,500 titles and items from Pre-Columbian to Post-Modern times published in English, French, Italian and other languages.

The store has a fascinating four-volume set of the first English translation (dated 1721, priced $3,500) of the works of Andrea Palladio (1518-1580), the Italian architectural genius. There are also illustration plates by Wasmuth (Germany, 1910, $300 to $1,500). The shop's catalogue lists upcoming publications in addition to those in stock.

Many Lincoln Pieces

Illinois is, of course, the land of Lincoln, and history buffs should be delighted by one of the nation's finest Abraham Lincoln memorabilia collections at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, a wood-paneled library and shop at 18 E. Chestnut St., (312) 944-3085.

In addition to fascinating and well-informed conversation filled with Lincoln lore, you'll find almost every title ever published about the 16th President. If it's not in stock, proprietor Daniel Weinberg will help you track it down. The shop also has many of Lincoln's own writings.

There are many original editions, some autographed, and many out-of-print titles. The shop's catalogue indicates the depth of the collection--about half of the 680 items listed are Lincoln-related. The rest are about the Revolutionary War, Frontier and Indian wars, U.S. military history, women and the Civil War era, and U.S. judicial and diplomatic history.

Look for the Lincoln autograph book, with signatures by Lincoln and his cabinet members (Seward, Stanton, Welles, Blair, Bates, Usher and Chase) as well as 225 senators, representatives and delegates of the 37th Congress (1861-63, at $9,750).

There is an 1863 printing of the Gettysburg Address ($1,500), an 1864 autographed letter written by Mary Lincoln from the Executive Mansion ($3,250) and signed and numbered copies of Carl Sandburg's "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years" ($525 a copy, 260 copies total). In the more modern arena is an original edition of "Masters of Deceit" signed by author J. Edgar Hoover, for $95.

Much Baseball Material

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