Fun fact: The two black goatskins on this binding were tanned using aluminum triformate. At the time, this chemical was used to improve the durability of leather. Unfortunately, when Wilcox purchased it he did not realize (nor did many others) that gold does not adhere to it well. Hence, his gold tooling is restricted to the onlays, while the black is tooled in blind.
Fun fact: Almost all of the buildings depicted in the skyline are based on structures in New York City. The gateway to the Emerald City is Manhattan Bridge; the ornamentation above the gate is from the roof of City Hall. Also visible are the New York City Service Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. The Wizard’s Palace is based on the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Fun fact: This is one of six copies commissioned by Andrea Bronfman, the others to be given as gifts. The color schemes are different on each. The design is an abstraction of the menorah and the maple leaf. The clusters of rectangular tooling are bunches of grapes.
Fun fact: The bee, the flower and leaves of the pomegranate, the “eye” of the peacock feathers, and the small triangle used to make the peacock’s crest, were made with tools created specifically for this binding.
Fun fact: The binding depicts how Dracula can discern at a great distance the existence of a potential victim, “…his strange power can infect the particles of dust in the moonbeams and can inhabit wild animals…”
First, I thought this was obvious, but it seems that it is not: I am not a bookbinder, restorer, or conservator. I never was. I never will be. I just love bindings.
Second, I resigned from Bauman Rare Books last week after working there for over 14 years. They are the best, but it was time. I have added a page to the blog about me, so you can find out where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and what I do (or am going to do) now.
Many, many thanks to John Shoesmith of the Fisher Library for sending me a copy of the catalog from the exhibit he recently curated on Canada’s small and fine presses AND the Michael Wilcox catalog. I plan to post some scans of bindings from the catalog along with some quotations of Wilcox’s commentary.
I am also extremely grateful to Marc Lamb of Harmatan and Oakridge Leathers and Rob Shepherd of Shepherds Bookbinders for causing a copy of the Exposition Internationale de relieur de création catalog to land in my mailbox. There are so many mind-blowing bindings in there, including quite a few from binders based in the Americas. There will be a post soon with more details about the exhibit and those binders.
Michael Wilcox is a Canadian binder. He was born in Bristol, England in 1939. Michael began his training in 1955 as a forwarder at Edward Everard in Bristol. Then he moved to Toronto in 1962 with a five-year contract in the restoration department at the University of Toronto. During that time, he began to refine his skills and explore the freedom of designing his own bindings. He has never looked back. These days, he lives very simply in Ontario, making design bindings by commission.
Michael’s work is distinctive, precise, and beautiful. I have had the pleasure of handling a couple of his bindings: one at The Grolier Club, the other in Neale Albert’s Brush Up Your Shakespeare collection, some of which was exhibited at the Rylands Library in Manchester, England in 2012. Here is a pdf of the catalogue from the exhibit, which has a much better picture of the binding than the one I took at Neale’s apartment. A much better picture of the binding I photographed at The Grolier Club can be found in the online exhibit of his work at The Museum of Canadian History. In 1985, he was presented with the Museum’s Bronfman Award for Masters of the Craft. There are 13 fantastic images of his work. Make sure you also check out five more recent bindings on the same website. Click on each image to get a complete view of each book.
In 1998, the Fisher Library at the University of Toronto mounted an exhibit of his work. I’d love to be able to show some images from the catalogue. It would help if I could get my hands on a copy. I am hampered by my current inability to walk, having broken my foot two weeks ago, and the temporary closure of the reading room at The Grolier Club.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to track down a few other images of his work.
This blog is not dead.
Sorry for the silence. I’ve had a few things going on. I’m sure you will all be pleased to know that my husband is recovering extremely well from his cycling accident and my daughter has successfully completed the fourth grade.
You know what else is not dead?
The Guild of Book Workers New York Chapter. After a hiatus, it is up and running again thanks to Celine Lombardi, Saira Haqqi, Jane Mahoney, and Carol Margreither Mainardi. The first event organized by the new board was the Spring Swap Meet, graciously hosted by Judy Ivry at her bindery on East 4th Street, a couple of weeks ago.
I recently joined the Guild and the NY chapter. I was pretty excited to talk to binders I’ve heard of, met only briefly, or have only communicated with via email. Plus, I heard that some binders would be selling books, catalogues, and journals from their personal collections. Pathetically, I couldn’t get my butt there until 2pm, so I missed many binders and books. I heard that the fine press books in sheets sold in minutes. I don’t want to know which books they were. I’m sure it would just make me sad. Still, I managed to pick up some nice items for my collection of catalogues (thank you, Jenny Hille!), some back issues of The New Bookbinder, and a back issue of The Guild of Book Workers Journal.
The whole event was kind of a blur for me. It was a constant stream of book folk coming and going. I finally met Celine in person. We had been corresponding sporadically ever since I coincidentally met her brother in January. I was delighted to meet Judy Ivry and Ursula Mitra (with whom I have also corresponded, but never met). Then I went into a world of bliss with Christine Giard and her laptop. Her website has a very small sample from the hundreds of bindings she has created. She showed me over two hundred photos of her design bindings (and at least as many of her amazing marbled papers). Ursula asked Christine how many design bindings she has made. Christine shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Maybe 500 or 600.” Jaws dropped.
Christine’s bindings vary widely in design and materials. I was blown away by her range. She is such a tease. After a while, she started making me guess the materials just by looking at the picture. I got just a few: wood, polycarbonate and automotive paint, brass with copper wire, box calf. Here are some others: neoprene, rubber intended for shoe soles, acupuncture needles, plexiglass, rubber cut from motorcycle tires (she’s a biker), and japanese paper covered relief structures that make the binding look like pleated fabric. I’m not going to give it all away here because I am going to write at least one post about her, with lots of pictures and details. Christine takes excellent photographs, not just of her bindings.
I hear all of you saying, but she is FRENCH! Yes, but Christine has lived and practiced in NYC for over two years.
I claim her for The Americas!
I won the drawing for the book I wanted in the InsideOUT exhibit: Cathy Adelman‘s binding of The Bicycle Diaries, text by Richard Goodman, color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec, published by Midnight Paper Sales, 2011.
Everything about it is right for me: American binder, American press, American artist, meaningful New York topic, and drop-dead gorgeous binding. Plus, my husband is an avid cyclist.
In celebration of my first acquisition (commissions not yet delivered don’t count), we are going to have a little Cathy Adelman fest. Make sure you take a look at her stunning portfolio on her website as well. I’m hoping to avoid duplication.
In early December, I wrote a post that generated the most comment activity on this blog…so far.
I created a set of rules; guidelines for what a binder should bind if left to his or her own devices. I’ll reproduce the list below for easy reference, embarrassing though it is.
- Bind books in English if you live in an Anglophone country
- Follow the flag: an axiom in the book trade with few exceptions. Ex. US author, book must be published in the US.
- Is the author still in print? You’re on the right track.
- Were you forced to read the book in school? This is a good sign.
- Is the author or illustrator alive? Don’t risk it.
- Do not bind books on books, collecting, reference books, or anything of the sort.
- Avoid Franklin Library and Easton Press.
- Is the book signed or inscribed by the author? Do not bind.
- Does the book have the original dust jacket? Do not bind.
- Is the book collectible in original condition?
I was wrong.
At the time, I had the collecting market in 20th and 21st century first editions on my brain. That’s been part of my day job for 14 years so far, so you’ll have to forgive me. It’s a kind of brainwashing. Forget first editions (not ALWAYS, but for the moment). I know design binders love fine press books. I am aware that binders love to sink a needle into fresh signatures of quality paper. Certainly, that is one reason to love fine press books. But what about the content? I’m fussy.
Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about the upcoming InsideOUT exhibit (thank you for changing the name!). In order to do that, I have spent quite a bit of time looking at fine press books, including a painfully brief visit to the Fine Press Book Fair. I have concluded that I should toss out most of the above. I still think Franklin Library and Easton Press should be shunned. I still believe you should not bind books on books, binding, printers, typographers, and the like, unless for your personal collection. I still think you should bind books in the language of the country where you practice. I’ll add that if any of you bind yet another copy of Fleurs de Mal, I’m going to puke. Binding that title isn’t a requirement for becoming a binder, is it? It sure seems like it. Please stop.
Anyway, contemporary fine press books; I think I’m starting to “get” them. I’m still pretty opinionated (stay tuned for the inevitable I Was Wrong, part 2 post). There still has to be a magical marriage of typography, layout, art, and text to make me care. If the binding is just right in design and craftsmanship, I’ll melt. One book in the InsideOUT catalog hit me just right. I’ve entered the lottery for purchase of the bindings, which occurs on May 14th.
I’m pretty excited about the lottery. I’ve commissioned bindings (which aren’t ready yet), but I’ve never purchased one. A lottery may seem like a weird way to make my first purchase, if I am so lucky as to have my request for that binding drawn before anyone else’s. I feel like I’m going about my entry into collecting backwards. Don’t most collectors start with buying bindings from a dealer? Maybe I’ll do that one day, too.