Lucky, lucky me!
One of the problems with being a native New Yorker is that I take amazing cultural resources for granted. Not only do I live in a city with great collections of fine bindings, but I also have the bookstore of legend: The Strand. I am embarrassed to admit that I’d never been there before.
With my new obsession, The Strand is the obvious place to go. I recently lost track of time (quite a lot of time) in their Books on Books section. It’s only one aisle in their miles and miles of stacks, but it is a delicious treasure trove of book geek goodness. The number of fantastic books they manage to pack into that small space is just short of miraculous. Off I went with a list of books I saw on their website.
This is the wrong approach. At The Strand, serendipity is your best friend.
The stacks are a goldmine. I am in love. I creep on the floor; I climb higher than prudent. I discard my list. My pile of books is large. Way too large. I forget that I am not building a library of Books on Books. I refocus and reshelve (you’re welcome). I depart with two treasures, both of which turn out to be even better than I imagined. I spent $15.
The Guild of Book Workers was founded in 1906, so the exhibit was in 1981. I read this baby cover to cover. It’s a trove of information and images. The first half of the exhibit is a retrospective of the best work of Guild members prior to 1975. The number of women binders represented blows my mind. I’ve never heard of most of these binders.
The second half is contemporary work, by Guild members, executed after 1975 and never before shown in a major exhibition. There are 124 entries, not all of them are bindings. Some of the bindings are truly gorgeous. Some should have never seen the light of day. I’m beginning to realize that is par for most competitions.
I’m particularly charmed by a binding by Polly Lada-Mocarski (more on her later) and an early Donald Glaister (more on him later).