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

Treasures at The Strand, Part 1

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.

One of my treasures
Laid in was a price list

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).

Bliss, Carman. Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics. London, Chatto & Windus, 1930 Full white alum-tawed pigskin with pigskin hinges and gold sewn headbands. Gold tooled. Green and light burgundy feather onlays. Tope edge gilt. Yellow calf doublures and cream laid endpapers. Signed: P. L.-M. [ca. 1960] 7.75 x 4.5 inches
Polly Lada-Mocarski
Bliss, Carman. Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics. London, Chatto & Windus, 1930
Full white alum-tawed pigskin with pigskin hinges and gold sewn headbands. Gold tooled. Green and light burgundy feather onlays. Top edge gilt. Yellow calf doublures and cream laid endpapers.
Signed: P. L.-M. [ca. 1960] 7.75 x 4.5 inches.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsommer Nights Dreame. San Francisco: Grabhorn Press, 1955 Full purple French Levant with tight back, levant hinges, and purple and gold sewn headbands. Gold and palladium tooled. Top edge gilt. Hand-painted silk doublures. Bound in 1980. 11.5 x 9.25 inches.
Donald Glaister
Shakespeare, William. A Midsommer Nights Dreame. San Francisco: Grabhorn Press, 1955
Full purple French Levant with tight back, levant hinges, and purple and gold sewn headbands. Gold and palladium tooled. Top edge gilt. Hand-painted silk doublures. Bound in 1980. 11.5 x 9.25 inches.