Rare Book Week

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:

  • Advantages:
    • 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
  • Disadvantages
    • 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.

Albert Camus. L'etranger. Librarie Gallimard: Paris, 1942. First edition, first issue. Bound by Pierre-Lucien Martin.
Albert Camus. L’etranger. Librarie Gallimard: Paris, 1942. First edition, first issue. Bound by Pierre-Lucien Martin. 5″ x 7″

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.

Wu Gray
Robert’s photos of “On a Favorite Cat.”

 

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.

My buddy Melissa Sanders of Red Queen Book Arts introduced me to the work of David Esselmont, resident of the USA since 2005, and showed me a mock-up binding by Jim Croft.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Boston

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Hilarious Arthur Johnson binding spotted at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair. Click for more information.

Homebound on the train from Boston, I thought about everything I’ve done and seen during the past week. The more I talk to binders, the more assumptions I didn’t realize I had are shattered. It’s wonderful! Break down my ignorance and build me up with knowledge. Bring it on!

On a related topic: I will be rewriting my Questions for Binders page as soon as possible.

I spent Monday afternoon with Sonya Sheats, all day Tuesday at the North Bennet Street School with Jeff Altepeter (I took terrible photos of some Polly Lada-Mocarski bindings and watched Sonya teach), and on Wednesday hung out with Jim Reid-Cunningham and the conservators at the Boston Athenaeum. We spent so much time in the conservation lab playing with Jim’s bindings and jabbering that there was no time for a tour. The Athenaeum was gutted and completely rebuilt since I interned there during library school (Fall of 1994?). I’ll take a tour another time.

Gavin Dovey was ubiquitous in absentia. I met Evan Knight in the Athenaeum lab. He worked in Gavin’s bindery, Paper Dragon Books, in Chelsea in 2006. I saw Uriel Cidor at the book fair. He is Gavin’s new I don’t know what. Assistant? Intern? Apprentice? Not sure. Everyone wanted to see the one piece of Gavin’s trade work my employers had with them at the book fair. He made it for a fragile, fan-freaking-tastic book. The binders all looked at the clamshell/slipcase combo and were suitably impressed by Gavin’s work, clearly redefining in their heads “trade” work. Then they looked at the book and pretty much said, “Oh. Cool.” That was the correct reaction.

Other binders I saw at the book fair: Abby Jones, Colin Urbina, and Erin Fletcher of A Flash of the Hand.

Next up: Sonya Sheats. You will feel even better about design binding once you know who she is and what she does.