Sol Rébora bindings: Argentine Eye Candy revised

The first time a saw a picture of a Sol Rébora binding, I felt weak in the knees. It was (and still is) on the Designer Bookbinders of America web site.

There is an extensive interview with Sol in The Thread That Binds. (Seriously, people. You have to get a copy of this book.) Coming from a family of artists and bookish folk (an aunt was an antiquarian bookseller!), it seems that Sol was born to be a designer bookbinder. At art school, Sol chose bookbinding as one of her classes three years in a row, despite planning to be a fashion designer. Call it coincidence; call it fate. Whatever you call it, bookbinding kept throwing itself in her path. First, her aunt needed some bindings done for books in her store. Her brother, who worked in a store selling conservation and restoration materials, introduced her to an artist who needed help figuring out how to put her work into a book to show at a gallery. The curator wanted to know who made the book. He turned out to be the editor of books with very small limitations. The edition of 40 copies he’d just done needed boxes. Guess what? His bookbinder had just died! Sol got the job and found her first binding mentor and cheerleader. When she showed him the design bindings she had been goofing around with at school, he showed he a book with pictures of 20th century French bindings (was it the one by Alisdair Duncan?). Once she saw those pictures, Sol knew that was what she wanted to do. At the time, no one in Argentina was doing design binding. Now what?

First, Sol studied privately with a bookbinder, learning traditional French fine binding. Eventually, though, Sol knew she would have to go abroad. There were many obstacles, but Sol is a lucky woman. After a few false starts, things started to fall into place. Sol was finally able to study with masters in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The results of her hard work, combined with her natural talent, are impressive (understatement).

Neale Albert has a couple of her miniatures in his collection, so I was able to experience her work up close.  Her technique is superb.

I had a quick Facebook chat with Sol recently. She was so nice. She answered my questions about my favorite binding and offered to send me more pictures.

Alice in Wonderland. Dos Amigos Press. 33cm x 27cm Shown at the Buenos Aires Antiquarian Bookfair 2011
Alice in Wonderland. Dos Amigos Press. 33cm x 27cm
Shown at the Buenos Aires Antiquarian Bookfair 2011
The flowers are goatskin onlays and the tooling and lettering are done with candle soot over blind tooling.

Rebora Alice upper board

Rebora Alice spine

Rebora Alice w box

Society of Bookbinders 2007 Award for Craftsmanship Maria Sol Rebora Carta de Anastasio el pollo sobre el beneficio de la Senora La Grua
Society of Bookbinders 2007
Award for Craftsmanship
Carta de Anastasio el pollo sobre el beneficio de la Senora La Grua
Society of Bookbinders 2009 Harmatan Award for Forwarding Milongas by Jorge Luis Borges Full leather with a design in five sections. Edges gilt. The spine and front edges are red goatskin, the central panels are onlays. The doublures are also red goatskin. The title has been tooled in gold along the spine.
Society of Bookbinders 2009
Harmatan Award for Forwarding
Milongas by Jorge Luis Borges
Full leather with a design in five sections. Edges gilt. The spine and front edges are red goatskin, the central panels are onlays. The doublures are also red goatskin. The title has been tooled in gold along the spine.
Balada Para un Loco By Horacio Ferrer Single copy with Calligraphy, Design and Illustration by Nancy Leavitt Bilingual edition (English translation by Alberto Paz) Published - 2009 Size - 284mm x 182mm A full goatskin binding that is divided into six pieces by inlays with different levels worked with onlays in relief, with violet and white goatskin worked with sandpaper to change the shades. Tiny circles have been inserted across the cover.
Balada Para un Loco
By Horacio Ferrer
Single copy with Calligraphy, Design and Illustration by Nancy Leavitt
Bilingual edition (English translation by Alberto Paz)
Published – 2009
Size – 284mm x 182mm
A full goatskin binding that is divided into six pieces by inlays with different levels worked with onlays in relief, with violet and white goatskin worked with sandpaper to change the shades. Tiny circles have been inserted across the cover.
First Prize 1º Premio Competencia Internacional EARA Fernando Noy - Hebra Incompleta.  French structure. Full goatskin leather cream color, with inlays on natural  and cream colors. Blind tooling around the circles. Title in blind.
First Prize
1º Premio Competencia Internacional EARA
Fernando Noy – Hebra Incompleta.
French structure. Full goatskin leather cream color, with inlays on natural and cream colors. Blind tooling around the circles. Title in blind. 19.7 x 13 cm.

Hebra

Romeo and Juliet 1973 French binding construction, covered in full goat skin leather; natural, white, yellow, black and brown onlays, leather sanded to get different tones of color. Doublure and flyleaves on goat skin, black and brown color. Décor of gold and blind tooling. Top edge gilt.  35 x 26 x 3 centimeters. Created 2005.
Romeo and Juliet 1973
French binding construction, covered in full goat skin leather; natural, white, yellow, black and brown onlays, leather sanded to get different tones of color. Doublure and flyleaves on goat skin, black and brown color. Décor of gold and blind tooling. Top edge gilt. 35 x 26 x 3 centimeters. Created 2005. Lent by the Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University for the Guild of Book Workers 100th Anniversary Exhibit, 2006.
Distinguished Winner Designer Bookbinders International Competition 2013 Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Michèle Forgeois. Calligraphy by Mark Livingston. The Allen Press, California, 1988. 28 x 18 cm Full white goatskin with red goatskin underlays. Titled in blind on the spine. White goatskin doublures and dyed Japanese paper flyleaves.
Distinguished Winner
Designer Bookbinders International Competition 2013
Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Michèle Forgeois. Calligraphy by Mark Livingston. The Allen Press, California, 1988.
28 x 18 cm
Full white goatskin with red goatskin underlays. Titled in blind on the spine. White goatskin doublures and dyed Japanese paper flyleaves.
Cole Porter. Brush Up Your Shakespeare. 3 x 3 inches Photo by Hannah Brown
Cole Porter. Brush Up Your Shakespeare. 3 x 3 inches
Neale Albert Collection
Photo by Hannah Brown
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s To a Skylark French structure. Full black goatskin with low relief covered on natural color goatskin and relief pieces in white goatskin and black goatskin worked with mixed techniques. Doublures of patinated embossed black goatskin. First flyleaf in patinated light gray goatskin.
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s To a Skylark
French structure. Full black goatskin with low relief covered on natural color goatskin and relief pieces in white goatskin and black goatskin worked with mixed techniques. Doublures of patinated embossed black goatskin. First flyleaf in patinated light gray goatskin.

10 detalle tapa 1 mail

11 detalle tapa 2 mail

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Gerard Charriere

Gérard Charrière is a Swiss bookbinder and artist who practiced in the United States from 1965-2001. He now lives in Berlin.

I recently acquired the catalog pictured below. Sadly, all the images are in black and white. It has been a bit of a struggle to find color images of his work. 

Gerard Charrière: Reliures d’art: An exhibition in The Thomas J. Watson Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York — November 30 to December 31, 1982

The first color image I saw of one of his bindings is in the retrospective section of the Guild of Book Workers 100th Anniversary Exhibition catalog (another recent acquisition). The catalog is online, but I wanted my own copy.

Eleanor Wolff, Spaces, 1973 Bound in full purple chagrin leather; sewn on recessed cords; green suede leather doublures and flyleaves; green handsewn silk endbands; top edge gilt; décor of blind tooling with multicolored leather onlays; title tooled in gold. 24 x 16 x 1.5 centimeters
Eleanor Wolff, Spaces, 1973 Bound in full purple chagrin leather; sewn on recessed cords; green suede leather doublures and flyleaves; green handsewn silk endbands; top edge gilt; décor of blind tooling with multicolored leather onlays; title tooled in gold. 9.5 x 6.25 inches

The Center for Book Arts had an exhibition of Charrière bindings in 1990, Gérard Charrière Unique Books and Reliures D’Artbut only the wraps are in color:

Les Pyramides, 1989. Unique. Mixed media paintings. Triangular binding. Spine in black leather. Cover in tuquoise leather with silver leaf. Signed. 8.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 inches
Les Pyramides, 1989. Unique. Mixed media paintings. Triangular binding. Spine in black leather. Cover in turquoise leather with silver leaf. Signed. 8.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 inches

There’s a really terrible image of the binding on the back of the catalog. Fortunately, I discovered that Bowdoin College in Maine has several Charrière bindings, including that particular binding and a binding quite similar (but not identical) to the one in the 1982 exhibit. Bowdoin has excellent images embedded in their online catalog, bless them:

Limbour, Georges, 1900-1970 Masson : dessins / Georges Limbour Paris : Braun, c1951 Bowdoin Spec. Coll. copy bound by Gérard Charrie`re in turquoise oasis with multicolor leather and paper onlays and gold tooling; ultra suede doublures; housed in an oasis and silk solander box 11 p., 16 leaves of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 32 cm Jane Webster Pearce Collection Bowdoin College
Limbour, Georges, 1900-1970
Masson : dessins / Georges Limbour
Paris : Braun, c1951
Bowdoin copy bound by Gérard Charrière in turquoise oasis with multicolor leather and paper onlays and gold tooling; ultra suede doublures; housed in an oasis and silk solander box.
11 p., 16 leaves of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 12.5 x 10.5 inches
Jane Webster Pearce Collection Bowdoin College
Traveling Through Dream Landscapes "Artist book with four original signed drawings. Oil crayon, ink and bookbinding tools on Rives. One-of-a-kind"--Colophon Bound in full black oasis, with black leather onlays and palladium and oeser tooling 1 v. (unpaged) : chiefly col. ill. ; 16 x 27 cm Jane Webster Pearce Collection, Bowdoin College
Traveling Through Dream Landscapes
“Artist book with four original signed drawings. Oil crayon, ink and bookbinding tools on Rives. One-of-a-kind”–Colophon
Bound in full black oasis, with black leather onlays and palladium and oeser tooling
1 v. (unpaged) : chiefly col. ill. ; 6.25 x 10.5 inches
Jane Webster Pearce Collection, Bowdoin College

Two more spectacular Charrière bindings from Bowdoin College Special Collections:

Tzara, Tristan, 1896-1963 Entre-temps / Tristan Tzara ; avec une eau-forte et quatre dessins de Henri Laurens [Paris] : Le Calligraphe, 1946 Bowdoin Spec. Coll. has copy no. 78 from the "original edition," signed by the author and the artist; provenance: Jane Webster Pearce Bowdoin Spec. Coll. copy bound by Gérard Charrière (1974) in full purple shagreen with mlticolored leather onlays and gold tooling; doublures in green ultra suede; housed in a quarter-calf decorated paper chemise with matching solander box
Tzara, Tristan, 1896-1963
Entre-temps / Tristan Tzara ; avec une eau-forte et quatre dessins de Henri Laurens
[Paris] : Le Calligraphe, 1946
Bowdoin Spec. Coll. has copy no. 78 from the “original edition,” signed by the author and the artist; provenance: Jane Webster Pearce
Bowdoin copy bound by Gérard Charrière (1974) in full purple shagreen with multicolored leather onlays and gold tooling; doublures in green ultra suede; housed in a quarter-calf decorated paper chemise with matching solander box. 8.5 inches
Charriere Billy Budd
“The text of this edition was edited from the manuscript by Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr., copyright 1962 by the University of Chicago”–Verso of t.p
“This limited edition of 185 books was made by Benjamin and Deborah Alterman … All the artwork was printed directly from engraved endgrain woodblocks. 160 copies (Arabic numerals 1-160) were bound with a patinated bronze spine and wooden boards … 25 copies (Roman numerals I-XXV) were issued in sheets. Deborah engraved the woodblocks and Benjamin did the typography. Together they designed the book and the artwork”–Colophon
Bowdoin Spec. Coll. has copy no. 16;
100 p. : ill. ; 10 inches. Provenance: Jane Webster Pearce
Bowdoin copy bound by Gérard Charrière (1992) in blue oasis, with mixed media collage and gold tooling; gold decorated endpapers; housed in a cloth solander box decorated in black and white acrylic, with ultra suede lining

Deborah Evetts, or Synchronisity

For weeks I have been contemplating a post on Deborah Evetts, but Susan Mills beat me to it with a Bookbinding Now podcast  interview just this week.

I had been thinking about Deborah Evetts and had been scanning her bindings published in books and catalogs I own. The impetus was Hannah Brown‘s upcoming visit to New York City.  I offered to give her a personalized, idiosyncratic tour of the city, the highlight being a visit to the reading room at The Morgan Library. You can’t just waltz into the reading room at The Morgan. First you have to apply to be an approved researcher. I am one already, but you can’t bring guests. Hannah had to fill out a application form online. I know the head of readers’ services, John Vincler, so we corresponded about the research Hannah and I intended to do. While we awaited approval for Hannah (John does not vet potential researchers; someone else does that), I used the tricks John gave me to scour the vast bindings collection at The Morgan. One has to submit a list of books to be pulled several days, preferably a week, in advance. The reason is that, not only do the books have to be located and brought to the reading room, but also bindings are on “high reserve for binding study only.” We had to wait for my selections to be approved.

The plan was two-fold: find as many bindings as possible incorporating embroidered leather, Hannah’s specialty; and examine as many Deborah Evetts design bindings as possible. CORSAIR, The Morgan Library’s online catalog, is incredibly powerful and their catalogers are really good. However, since Deborah Evetts was the conservator at The Morgan for decades, when I did a general search for her name I got over 2000 hits. That’s because the catalogers are so good. The vast majority of the hits were because Deborah had made a conservation binding, repair, or enclosure for the book, a fact recorded in the correct field in the book record. Over 2000 mentions in The Morgan Library catalog. That is a monument to Deborah’s contribution to the field. Binders and conservators: if you work in-house at a library or museum, is your work logged?

I followed John’s advice (once again, always ask the librarian). Hours of strategic searching of the catalog resulted in only 3 bindings that may or may not have embroidery on leather. The catalog descriptions of bindings are precise in library terms, but not quite as specific as I needed. Keep in mind that library cataloging standards and practices have changed drastically over the last couple of decades, let alone oddities resulting from retrospective conversion of card catalog records to digital records. I requested the 3 most likely candidates. But how was I to extract any of Deborah’s design bindings out of the over 2000 records that bear her name in one field or another? It wasn’t easy, but I picked five. I submitted those requests.

Hannah and our books were approved and seats were reserved for us. Awesome!

I got together with Hannah and her husband, George, on Tuesday. Classic NY diner lunch. Lots of fun chit-chat about books, their trip, what they had done and seen so far in NYC, and plans for the rest of the week. I gave George my admission card for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and off Hannah and I went to The Morgan.

Here’s where I goofed: I thought the reading room was open until 5. We got the the Morgan at nearly 3:30. After checking in at the security desk, confirming our appointment, receiving ID badges, passing through two locked doors, being escorted by a security guard to the elevator where a key was used to allow us up to the reading room, being buzzed into the reading room foyer, locking up all of our belongings, washing our hands as instructed, and being buzzed into the reading room itself, we were informed that the reading room was to close in 20 minutes. Ooops.

Fortunately, John took a look at the embroidered leather bindings in advance, and immediately handed us the one he knew we would want to spend the most time with. It was a gorgeous thing. It was a Book of Common Prayer (1716) bound with the Psalms (1718), both printed by John Baskett of Oxford. I got that info from the library catalog; books for binding study may not be opened wide enough to actually read the title page. I’d guess that the binding was contemporary to the time of publication. The leather was burgundy and most likely goatskin. The entire binding, front board, spine, and lower board, was covered in silver thread embroidery. The leather must have been pared quite thick to handle so many needle holes, so close together, and not fall apart or tear. We took pictures, but you’ll have to use your imaginations. I am not allowed to post the images on my blog.

That left us with about 10 minutes to look at 7 more bindings. Not nearly enough time. I think I especially liked Deborah’s Black Sun Alice in Wonderland, but I didn’t really get a good look. No time, even though John was nice and let us stay until nearly 10 past 4. It turns out that he is a bit of a binding geek, too.

Since I can’t post any pictures from The Morgan, here’s what I’ve scanned or found in online exhibits:

Adam and Eve and Pinch me
Engelska bokband. 1966 exhibit in Sweden.
Fassam. An Herbarium for the Fair. London: The Hand and Flower Press, 1949 26.2 x 20.5 cm Handbookbinding today, an International Art, 1978
Fassam. An Herbarium for the Fair. London: The Hand and Flower Press, 1949 26.2 x 20.5 cm
Handbookbinding today, an International Art, 1978
Upper board of Ourika bound in 1981 Lewis. Fine Bookbinding in the Twentieth Century, 1984
Upper board of Ourika
bound in 1981
Lewis. Fine Bookbinding in the Twentieth Century, 1984
Eric Gill, illustrator, The Four Gospels, 1931 Bound in full black Morocco; top edge gilt and gauffered with fore edge and tail trimmed deckle; décor onlaid with black calf and decorated with gold tooled lettering. 35 x 24 x 4.5 centimeters. Created 1982.
Eric Gill, illustrator, The Four Gospels, 1931
Bound in full black Morocco; top edge gilt and gauffered with fore edge and tail trimmed deckle; décor onlaid with black calf and decorated with gold tooled lettering. 35 x 24 x 4.5 centimeters. Created 1982.
Evetts Ourika contemp am
Contemporary American Bookbinding, 1990.
Contemporary American Bookbinding, 1990.
Contemporary American Bookbinding, 1990.
The Grolier Club Creates: Book Arts by Club Members, 2009.
The Grolier Club Creates: Book Arts by Club Members, 2009.