"Mannings Coffee" Book, circa 1940 soot and saliva on paper 11 1/2 x 8 1/2in (29 x 21.6cm) together with Untitled book, circa 1933 soot on newspaper 17 x 11 1/2in (43.1 x 29.3cm)
James Castle (1899-1977) was born deaf and mute. He never learned sign-language, nor to read and write; his prodigious art output was a personal statement as well as a way of communicating with others. His works were typically executed with charcoal and soot, mixed with saliva, and he favored found materials such as butcher paper, wrapping paper or cardboard, binding his books with string, thread or yarn.
His work was discovered in the 1950s and a public reception of his work at the 1997 Outsider Art Fair established him as a major twentieth-century artist. For a more detailed discussion of the artist and his work, see Tom Trusky, "Found and Profound: The Art of James Castle," Folk Art, vol. 24, no. 4 (winter 1999/2000): pp. 39-47; and John Yau, James Castle: The Common Place, (New York, 2000).