I Sold Some Books in San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed of book arts with a long-standing tradition of French-style binding. Historically, binding in the Northeast US owes more to the English and Germans. I’m not going to discuss dates, patterns of immigration and migration, or happenstance. The research has been done and written about by actual binder-scholars. I refer you to the index to the journal of the Guild of Bookworkers. These days, in San Francisco, you can get excellent training in both French and English binding methods from the many binders who reside and teach in the area.

The point is that in San Francisco there is an especially appreciative audience for exquisitely crafted fine art bindings such as the ones I brought to CODEX.

As I mentioned (several times), the Hand Bookbinders of California sponsored a panel discussion at the San Francisco Center for the Book two days before CODEX, in which I participated. It was really fun and remarkably well attended. Bonus: an exhibit of the works of Claire van Vliet, who was in attendance. The SFCB is celebrating the 60th anniversary of her Janus Press. I got to look at the exhibit before the panel started. She does really incredible work. I don’t know why, but it was a bit unnerving to be looking at an exhibit with the only other person in the room being the artist herself.

I like the way they roll at SFCB. Cocktail hour before AND after the event. I chatted with Rich Spelker, bookbinder, desert explorer, and emissary of Tim Ely (who was unable to visit San Francisco in person this year); and Nick Yeager, master of many book trades, among many other people.

Sol Rèbora, whom I adore and finally got to meet in person the night before, took a few photos during the event.

HBC panel discussion

There I am, in the middle, talking about myself. They asked me to. From left to right: Lang Ingalls, Momo Moore-Racine (who organized and moderated the panel for HBC), Coleen Curry, me, Bill Stewart of Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, Sabina Nies, and Dorothy Yule. My fellow panelists had really interesting things to say about their design processes, perspectives on collecting (both personally and about institutional collections and librarians), and finding the right match between artist and bookseller. I was asked to talk about how I went from being an archivist and rare book librarian to representing fine art bookbinders. It’s a long story, very briefly summarized in the “About” page on this blog and on my business website.

It is always fantastic to meet and hang out with people in the trade. The day before the panel, I spent well over 5 hours with Eleanore Ramsey at her bindery (I will write a post about that soon) and had dinner at The Slanted Door in the Ferry Building with Lang Ingalls, Ed Moore, Coleen Curry, Marc Lamb of Harmatan Leather, and Sol Rèbora (photo taken by our very accommodating waiter).


On Saturday, the day before CODEX, Christine Giard and I spent the entire day at the ABAA antiquarian book fair in Oakland. It was exhausting. I had so many old friends to visit and there were so many bindings and artists’ books to examine. We saw a beautiful Robert Wu blank book at the Kelmscott Bookshop booth, and many lovely bindings by binders not from the Americas.

wu etude
Binding by Robert Wu

On to the main event: CODEX

I could not have asked for a better book fair companion than Christine. We set up my table with plenty of time to spare. We are quick. We have done this sort of thing many, many times. Still, I was unprepared for the first day crowd. Despite the vile weather on Sunday (rain with gale force winds), there were over 1100 visitors. I don’t know what the total number of visitors was over the 4 days, but the weather could not have been better during the rest of the fair. We had fun setting up the books differently every day. The view of San Francisco Bay was glorious. Our position, the farthest row from the door, did not slow down the fans of fine binding. So many blog readers and attendees of the HBC panel sought me out. Thank you all for your support!

Codex day 1
Codex set up day 1. Look! I’m a blur!
Codex day 2
Codex set up day 2.
Many thanks to Christine, who set up the table and disappeared, returning with the makings of a sun shade for the books.
The weird black shape in the upper right corner is the sun shade, pre-adjustment.

Codex was like an informal fine art binder’s convention and a tiny slice of heaven for a fan like me. I got to see Tini Miura again, and finally meet Monique Lallier in person.  In addition to those I’ve already mentioned, I met Don Etherington, Donald Glaister, David Esslemont (I love his InsideOUT binding), Cathy Adelman (Very exciting! I own her InsideOUT binding). Sol Rèbora was showing her work, as well as that of Dos Amigos Press of Buenos Aires, Argentina. David Esslemont was representing his Solementes Press, but had some of his bindings, too. There was so much going on that it was hard to get people to stand still for photos. Apologies to the anonymous photographers and those caught in awkward poses.

David Esslemont
Monique, Coleen, and Sol
Christine’s selfie with Sol and Sol’s bindings
Christine took a quick snapshot of me with Sol.
Everyone wanted a picture with Sol.
Lang Ingalls, David Lanning of Hewit Leather, Cathy Adelman, Marc Lamb of Harmatan Leather, and Coleen Curry


Too busy to take pictures of our day 3 and 4 table set up.
Here is the aftermath.


Exhausted, filthy, but happy.
Exhausted, filthy, but happy.

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