Last week (March 31-April 6) was Rare Book Week in Manhattan.
New York is always the greatest book city in the world (I’m biased), but Rare Book Week is really something special. Living in Manhattan, and working for a local antiquarian bookseller, I have advantages and disadvantages during this time:
- I’ve already seen some of the exhibits at NYPL, Morgan, and Grolier Club, but if I haven’t yet, I’m still here and so are they
- I get paid to go to the book fairs, look at the books, and read as many dealer catalogs as I can get my hands on in advance
- I already know many of the dealers and they are a fun bunch
- I get to set up our booth at the ABAA fair the day before it opens, which means that I have extra time to see the goodies
- I can sleep in my own bed and sometimes see my family
- I’m working, not playing, so I have to keep to an agenda and timetable
- I work a six day week (lucky it wasn’t 7 this year), and some of those days are 12 hours or more
- I staff the store some days during the week, limiting my ability to chase after bookish novelties
- I have to squeeze in personal book interests after my professional duties are fulfilled
- I don’t get to spend nearly enough time hanging out with my dealer friends who I see only 2-4 times per year
The week was awesome, if exhausting. There was one event I wish I hadn’t bothered to go to (title of event withheld to protect the well-intentioned), and another, the Fine Press Book Fair, which deserved way more time than I had.
But what about the bindings, you may ask? The ABAA fair was full of them. I barely scratched the surface.
The award for Best in Show was independently awarded, both by me and Richard Minsky. We kept going back to visit it. I showed it to whomever I thought might care. Those guys at Chez Les Libraires Associés (Paris) were bemused, baffled, and finally, resigned to the attention. It’s a first edition, first issue of Camus’ L’etranger bound by Pierre-Lucien Martin, who was widely considered to be the successor to Bonet, in the 1950s. It stole the show.
I also saw some great North American bindings.
Robert Wu‘s miniature “On a Favorite Cat” by Thomas Gray is a jewel. It really wanted to come home with me, but my bank balance forbade it. Bromer’s had that Wu, as well as a full size Michael Wilcox with a matching mini. Take a look at Bromer’s Facebook page for images of their booth. The Wilcox is on the upper left. That’s a Silvia Rennie on the bottom shelf in the middle. The collection of miniatures the Bromers commissioned for the book fair is arrayed in the front case. I’d like to point out that, as far as I could tell, all but one book in this group was bound by either a fellow or licentiate of Designer Bookbinders (UK). Robert Wu is a Canadian practicing in Canada (yay Americas!) and therefore not eligible for DB.
I saw a pair of Tini Miura quartos (Barbier, George and Georges LePape–Louys, Pierre. Aphrodite. Paris: Les Bibliophiles de L’Amerique Latine, 1954) at Sims-Reed which were not on display because they had already been sold. They were very nice and showed them to me twice. I suppose it helps that I have known them for more than a decade. Priscilla Juvelis had a new Donald Glaister that I didn’t have a chance to get a close look at, but she promised me some pictures. I’m so grateful to Priscilla. I finally got a chance to sit down with her and talk about design binding and other book arts. She is so kind and generous. I can’t wait to speak with her again.
At the Fine Press Association fair, I saw some of the books that have been bound for the Contemporary Bindings of Fine Press Books exhibit and had a great conversation with Graham Moss of Incline Press. Nine binders chose books from his press to bind for the exhibit. I can’t wait to see the results. Also at the Fine Press fair, I met and spoke briefly with Coleen Curry who is not only beautiful and delightful, but also a fantastic binder. She has lots of pictures on her website which is a must see. I also met the elusive Lang Ingalls, binder and fine printer. Erin Fletcher recently wrote a month-long feature on Lang on her blog A Flash of the Hand, which shows more of Lang’s bindings in one place than I have ever managed to ferret out (that’s why I said elusive — I’m sure I could have simply asked for pictures). Definitely take a look.
Here are the books that have been bound, and the number of copies of each book submitted. The binders were giving so many great choices. These are all beautiful publications.
Printed in the United Kingdom
E. R. Weiss – the Typography of an Artist (2)
Steel Horizon – poems of the North Sea (5)
Danger and Destiny – folktales of the Brothers Grimm (2)
Palladio’s Homes (2)
Tonge’s Travel (2)
See images at web site above
Lens of Crystal (2)
Richard Barnfield’s Sonnets (1)
Land, Poems selected by Eric Williams, illustrated by Garrick Palmer (1)
Taliesin and the Mockers (1)
The Journey of Thomas the Rhymer (1)
TSAREVICH or THE PARADISE DRIVER (1)
Lost and Found (3)
Printed in North America
The Wasteland (1)
Simon Brett: An Engraver’s Progress (3)
CIRCUS:The Artist as Saltimbanque (3)
King of the Alps (1)
Of Woodland Pools, Spring-Holes, and Ditches (3)
Truth: I’ve been stalling on writing this post.
I visited Tini Miura a few weeks ago. We spent 3 hours talking. We probably could have spent 3 days. Or 3 weeks. I felt the same with Sonya Sheats, but this was a bit different. My dilemma, my reason for stalling, is that we immediately felt so comfortable together that our conversation got very, very personal very quickly. Much of what was said stays in the vault forever. Teasing out useable material about Tini’s experiences and thoughts on the art and craft of bookbinding has been difficult.
Tini is one of the greatest binders of the immediate post-war generation. She was born in Kiel, Germany in 1940. Kiel is a port city on the Baltic. It was a major naval base and ship building port for the German Reich. Therefore, the city suffered terrible bombing by the Allies during the war. About 80% of the city was destroyed. Quite naturally, Tini does not like to discuss the war except to say that the Marshall Plan allowed her to grow up quite differently from her husband, Einen. Einen is Japanese. His country did not have the benefit of four years of post-war economic support from the United States and other relatively unscathed nations.
This wasn’t meant to be a history lesson, but it’s important to me. Tini is the only binder I’ve met whose formative years were spent in this context. It’s a melancholy thought that, without two world wars, Tini would probably not have been able to study in Paris with some of the great French masters. I think that two wars dramatically thinned the male population of potential binders in Europe, leaving a little more room for women to be taken seriously.
So how did Tini become a designer bookbinder? How did she get to the point where she could study in Paris with these legendary binders? Tini was lucky in many ways, but the most important was the encouragement and insight of her father. While Tini originally wanted to be an archeologist and was (and still is) deeply interested in mythology, she decided that she wanted to go to art school and be a book illustrator. She had always drawn and painted and had a
great love of literature. Sounds like a plan, right? Her father, an art teacher, saw things a bit differently. Being a book illustrator is a wonderful goal, but he thought Tini should know how a book is put together first if she wanted to work in that field. He thought she should first learn what goes into making a book: she should learn to bind. This was a very unusual, even controversial, suggestion. A well-educated young woman from a family of intellectuals should go to university, not a trade school. Her grandfather was especially upset about the plan. Tini liked the idea, though. She enjoyed working with her hands.
The program was quite rigorous. It was ages before the students were permitted to bind a book from start to finish. Prior to that, each step was practiced over and over again until mastered. Possibly this is the source of Tini’s attention to every detail of craftsmanship (we really need a better word for this – craftsperson just sounds stupid). Bench time was alternated with history of the book and visits to great libraries. FINALLY, Tini and her cohort were allowed to put everything they had learned together and actually bind their own books. When Tini looked at her completed book, she knew that this was it: her medium as an artist was bookbinding.
The world of bookbinding is lucky she made that decision. Tini has lived in 7 countries. She has taught in many more. She is one of the founders and a faculty member (1993-2003) of the American Academy of Bookbinding. She has published several books (of which I own two) and there is another to come, on her bindings since 1990. I can’t wait to see it.
Second EARA International Art Bookbinding Competition 2014
Organized by EARA (Encuadernadores Artesanales de la República Argentina), The Book and Language Museum, The Argentine National Library and Eduardo Tarrico.
Here are some, but not all, details (make sure you check the link above for the full details in Spanish and in English (sorry – no French).
10,000 Argentinian pesos are the total amount for prizes and they are divided as follows:
1st Prize: AR$ 4,000.00.
2nd Prize: AR$ 2,500.00.
3rd Prize: AR$ 1,500.00.
1st Honorary Mention: AR$ 500.00.
2nd Honorary Mention: AR$ 500.00.
Prize to the best Argentinian or Argentinian resident bookbinder: AR$ 1,000.00.
The last day for enrolling to the competition will be June 30th, 2014.
Each participant can freely choose the book to bind. It has to be a printed book, it can not be a book filled with blank pages.
The maximum allowed measurements of the final bookbinding are:
Height: 30 cm
Width: 25 cm
Thickness: 6 cm.
The exhibition of the Second EARA International Art Bookbinding Competition 2014 is going to be held in November 2014 at The Book and Language Museum, 2555 Las Heras Ave., Buenos Aires.
The cost of enrollment is:
Argentinian bookbinders or residents in Argentina: AR$ 300.00.
EARA’s Argentinian members or residents in Argentina: AR$ 250.00.
Foreign bookbinders or non-residents in Argentina: USD $70.00.
EARA’s foreign members not resident in Argentina: USD $60.00.
The enrollment cost includes the return of the work by certified mail and a sample of the catalogue published by The Book and Language Museum and The National Library.
October 1st, 2014 is the deadline for receiving the final works.
Monique Lallier is no stranger in the world of designer bookbinding. Her dedication to service in the field is extraordinary, as is her binding. She began to teach bookbinding in 1976 in Montreal, where she is from, and where she received her initial training in design bookbinding. For more than a decade, she traveled to Europe to study with masters in the field. She served as chair of the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence for twelve years and as director of The American Academy of Bookbinding from 2005-2009, succeeding Tini Miura who was the founding director (more about Tini very soon). Monique continues to teach at AAB and at her studio in Summerfield, North Carolina.
There is much more information about Monique on her website, on the AAB and GBW websites, and other sites all over the web. You can do the googling yourselves. What I have is different.
Monique has been kind enough to allow me to show two bindings that have yet to be published anywhere. The first, Winter Walks, was made for a demonstration on edge-to-edge doublures at the Society of Bookbinders Education and Training Conference in Leeds in August 2013. The other, Lost and Found, is Monique’s contribution to the upcoming Designer Bookbinders exhibit of bindings by North American and British binders (see last post). In Lost and Found, Monique uses a technique that is very unusual and special to her work. Much as a dos-à-dos binding allows for decoration on two more surfaces than usual, Monique creates additional surface area for her design by incorporating an overleaf cover panel. The effect is quite surprising and beautiful.
First, Monique’s binding from Leeds:
And now…Monique’s entry for the exhibit Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books:
Designer Bookbinders has sponsored an exhibition of over 60 bindings by designer binders working in either North America or the United Kingdom (sorry Central and South America). The invited participants could choose from a group of private press books: four printed in the UK and 5 printed in North America. The bindings were due on February 3rd, and the selection and photography will commence on the 13th (today!).
As far as I know, this exhibit is a first. Designer Bookbinders has an annual competition for UK based binders only and a triennial international competition. I’m very excited because whatever the result, this is going to be a fabulous opportunity to see the work of many North American binders all in one place. I think we are going to see bindings by binders who rarely compete. Another great feature of this exhibit is that it is neither a set book, nor thematic. I am sure that allowing the binders to choose from so many lovely books provided scope for imagination and inspiration. I can hardly wait to see the bindings!
The chair of the committee for the exhibit is Sayaka Fukuda, a licentiate of Designer Bookbinders. I do not know who else is on the committee. There will be a catalogue of the exhibition and a tour.
The tour schedule is:
15 May – 22 August St Bride Foundation
11 Sept – 13 December Houghton Library
10 Jan – 28 March 2015 MCBA, Minneapolis
10 Apr – 19 Apr 2015 Bonhams, New York
6 June – 5 July 2015 San Francisco Centre for the Book, San Francisco
I really like the looks of the tour schedule. St. Bride’s makes perfect sense, as it is the home of Designer Bookbinders. Hitting the East Coast, the Midwest, and the West Coast is great. We could argue about Chicago vs Minneapolis and ask why there is no stop in the South. However, we must keep in mind that you have to have willing hosts, a vacant slot in the host’s exhibition schedule, and a space that can comfortably accommodate the exhibition. The tour lasts over a year. I hope we can all make it to one of these book meccas. The exhibit dates at Houghton Library (who do you have to know to get an exhibit placed there?) will very nicely overlap with the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, an annual event sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, which usually occurs in mid-November. I don’t know the dates for 2015 yet, but the brief appearance in New York may be during or just after the ABAA/ILAB antiquarian book fair. For those who don’t know, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is a Very Big Deal. It’s huge. It’s International. It’s New York. Bonhams is a few blocks from the fair. The Center for Book Arts is a very long 40 blocks away.
So, I’ve mentioned antiquarian book fairs twice. What does that have to do with contemporary designer bindings, you may ask? Simple: there are quite a few dealers who specialize in bindings, artists’ books, and book arts: antique, contemporary, and that fuzzy area in between. The next ABAA/ILAB book fair will be in New York, the first weekend in April. The one after that is in London in May. There are other ILAB book fairs. Paris and Frankfurt, I think. The one in Los Angeles just ended. Next year it will be in San Francisco. Check the ILAB website for dates.