Images from “In Retrospect: Designer Bookbindings by Michael Wilcox”

 

wilcox st john

Saint John the Divine. The Apocalypse. Woodcuts by Jim Dine. San Francisco: Arion Press, 1982.
Lent by Jeremy M. Norman.
Full black goatskin, with coloured leather onlays and gold and blind tooling.
382 x 282mm. Bound in 1988.
In Retrospect: Designer Bookbindings by Michael Wilcox
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 1998.

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.

 

wilcox wizard

L. Frank Baum. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Illustrated by Barry Moser, with an appreciation by Justin G. Schiller. West Hatfield, MA: Pennyroyal Press, 1985.
Lent by Justin G. Schiller
Full green goatskin, with colored leather onlays and gold tooling.
343 x 332mm. Bound in 1989.
In Retrospect: Designer Bookbindings by Michael Wilcox
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 1998.

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.

 

wilcox coat

Irving Arbella. A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada.
Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited, 1990.
Lent by Andrea M. Bronfman.
Full black goatskin, with coloured leather onlays and gold tooling.
257 x 228mm. Bound in 1990.
In Retrospect: Designer Bookbindings by Michael Wilcox
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 1998.

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.

 

wilcox gill song

The Song of Songs. Illustrated by Eric Gill.
Waltham St. Lawrence, Berkshire: Printed and published at the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925.
Lent by Shelagh and Franklyn Smith.
Full scarf-joined red and navy goatskins, with leather onlays and gold tooling.
262 x 194mm. Bound in 1992.
In Retrospect: Designer Bookbindings by Michael Wilcox
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 1998.

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.

 

wilcox dracula

Bram Stoker. Dracula. Westminster: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897.
Lent by Eric Robertson.
Full maroon goatskin, with red and black leather and white tawed skin onlays and gold tooling.
196 x 128mm. Bound in 1995.
In Retrospect: Designer Bookbindings by Michael Wilcox
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 1998.

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…”


New Acquisitions and Some Clarifications

Clarifications:

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.

Recent Acquisitions:

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.

 

Canadian Fine Press

 

 

Wilcox In Retrospect

 

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.

 

ARA xi 1


I Have a New Job!

I have news!
As of August 1st, I am an independent rare books and archives consultant. I am very excited to be starting this new chapter in my professional life.
Please check out my new LinkedIn profile:
I look forward to hearing from you!

Michael Wilcox Eye Candy

wilcox in retrospect poster

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.

wilcox bowdoin

Unidentified Wilcox binding in the Jane Webster Pearce Collection at Bowdoin College.

wilcox art nonsense cbbag 97

Art-Nonsense, CBBAG exhibit 1998, Juror submission

Alice in Wonderland. Private Collection. Photo from Lili's Bookbinding Blog, 2009.

Alice in Wonderland. Private Collection. Photo from Lili’s Bookbinding Blog, 2009.

Close-up of Alice.

Close-up of Alice.

Wilcox origin 2002 cbbag

CBBAG 2003 exhibit Art of the Book.
The Origin and Progress of Writing
Medium brown Morocco with gold tooling and Morocco onlays of various colours.
31 x 25 x 4.5 cm. 2002 JUROR


Revival

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 LombardiSaira 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!

Recent acquisitions:

demi-siecle 1984

 

Jean de Gonet

 

DBinNA

 


Cathy Adelman Eye Candy

It’s MINE!!!

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.

Leather spine with wooden boards covered with grey bird's-eye maple veneer inland with aluminum rods. The rods are arranged in the spoke pattern of a bicycle wheel. Grey Fabriano 'Roma' enpapers. 238 x 150 x 20mm

Leather spine with wooden boards covered with grey bird’s-eye maple veneer inland with aluminum rods. The rods are arranged in the spoke pattern of a bicycle wheel. Grey Fabriano ‘Roma’ endpapers. 238 x 150 x 20mm

 

Detail

Detail

 

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.

 

Stone Eye.  Multi-colored silk endbands, marbled end sheets, graphite edges. Covered in full black oasis goatskin with leather hinges. Onlays of variously colored leathers. Blind tooled, title tooled in gold. Created by Richard Taylor, Kentucky's former poet laureate, and Gray Zeitz, letterpress printer and publisher of Larkspur Press. Wood engravings by Canadian artist Wesley Bates. Minnesota Guild of Book Workers exhibit 2002.

Stone Eye.
Multi-colored silk endbands, marbled end sheets, graphite edges. Covered in full black oasis goatskin with leather hinges. Onlays of variously colored leathers. Blind tooled, title tooled in gold. Created by Richard Taylor, Kentucky’s former poet laureate, and Gray Zeitz, letterpress printer and publisher of Larkspur Press. Wood engravings by Canadian artist Wesley Bates. Minnesota Guild of Book Workers exhibit 2002.

 

Oasis goatskin binding with raised bands, blind and gold tooling, silk endbands, graphite edge; matching chemise and slipcase; marbled paper by Karli Frigge. 26.5 x 19 x 3 cm. Bound in 2002 for CBBAG The Art of the Book exhibit 2003

Recollections.
Oasis goatskin binding with raised bands, blind and gold tooling, silk endbands, graphite edge; matching chemise and slipcase; marbled paper by Karli Frigge.
26.5 x 19 x 3 cm.
Bound in 2002 for CBBAG The Art of the Book exhibit 2003

 

 

Franz Kafka, Josephine the Singer, Press Intermezzo. This millimeter binding is covered in paper designed by the binder, with leather trim at the head and tail of spine. Leather endbands, graphite edge, leather label, titled with foil. 20cm x 16 x 1cm. Edelpappband Bind-o-Rama 2005.

Franz Kafka, Josephine the Singer, Press Intermezzo.
This millimeter binding is covered in paper designed by the binder, with leather trim at the head and tail of spine. Leather endbands, graphite edge, leather label, titled with foil.
20cm x 16 x 1cm.
Edelpappband Bind-o-Rama 2005.

 

Estonian children, The Best Thing in the World, 2005. Poems and fairytales written by Estonian children, bound in a bradel style binding with a gray leather spine, gray bird’s eye maple boards, graphite edge, leather endbands, paladium title. The endpapers and slip case cover are original drawings by the binder. 26.4 x 20.5 x 2 centimeters. Created 2005. Guild of Book Workers 100th Anniversary exhibit, 2006

Estonian children, The Best Thing in the World, 2005.
Poems and fairytales written by Estonian children, bound in a bradel style binding with a gray leather spine, gray bird’s eye maple boards, graphite edge, leather endbands, paladium title. The endpapers and slip case cover are original drawings by the binder. 26.4 x 20.5 x 2 centimeters.
Created 2005.
Guild of Book Workers 100th Anniversary exhibit, 2006

 

Edward Lear, Another Nonsense Story, The Old Stile Press, GB, 1990; Dos-a-Dos structure, marbled paper binding with leather endbands. Hand Bookbinders of California exhibit 2006.

Edward Lear, Another Nonsense Story, The Old Stile Press, GB, 1990; Dos-a-Dos structure, marbled paper binding with leather endbands. Hand Bookbinders of California exhibit 2006.

 

John Muir. Heaven on Earth. Illustrated by Charles D. Jones. Austin: Press Intermezzo, 1998. A French style binding with laced-on boards. The top edge is graphite with red silk hand sewn endbands. The book is covered in black goatskin with black emery paper and black morocco onlays, enclosed in a traditional chemise and slipcase. The shape and texture of the onlays suggest the mountain ranges dear to John Muir in his exploration of Yosemite. Sample binding submitted to the 2009 DeGolyer competition

John Muir. Heaven on Earth. Illustrated by Charles D. Jones. Austin: Press Intermezzo, 1998.
A French style binding with laced-on boards. The top edge is graphite with red silk hand sewn endbands. The book is covered in black goatskin with black emery paper and black morocco onlays, traditional chemise and slipcase. 
Sample binding submitted to the 2009 DeGolyer competition

 

 

Letter of Elizabeth, Lady Chandos, to Francis Bacon. French Style binding in full box calf leather with box calf doublures, fly leaves and onlays 20.3 x 15.5 x 1.4 cm Philadelphia Guild of Bookworkers show at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, June, 2011 and Venice Italy, October, 2011

Letter of Elizabeth, Lady Chandos, to Francis Bacon. French style binding in full box calf leather with box calf doublures, fly leaves and onlays 20.3 x 15.5 x 1.4 cm Philadelphia Guild of Bookworkers show at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, June, 2011 and Venice Italy, October, 2011

 

Dires Erotiques Haikus. Society of Bookbinders exhibit 2011

Dires Erotiques Haikus. Society of Bookbinders exhibit 2011

 

La couleur du vent. Full leather. Mosaic décor set with dark red box. Bound ca. 2013 for ARA exhibit 2013-2014

Gilles Vigneualt. La couleur du vent. Full leather. Mosaic décor set with dark red box. Bound ca. 2013 for ARA exhibit 2013-2014

 

 

 


I Was Wrong. Ish.

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.

The Rules

  • 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.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,063 other followers