Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Bindings of Trevor Jones

Jones, Trevor, Angela James and Colin Hamilton (editors). The Bindings of Trevor Jones. Foss: Duval & Hamilton, 2015. 9.5 x 11 inches. ISBN 9780950135519. 160 pages. Hardcover, dust jacket, $75.00. For orders outside of the Americas, cost is £45+ postage outside of UK. Please contact the publisher, duvalandhamilton@gmail.com to order.

Reviewed by Amy Borezo

“I consistently design beyond what I know I am capable of doing, and have to discover or invent the means as I go along.” – Trevor Jones (1931-2012)

The Bindings of Trevor Jones catalogs over 140 works by this eclectic bookbinder who sought experimentation with materials and a connection with fine art in his designs. In this impressive collection spanning nearly fifty years, his legacy in the history of bookbinding is made more than apparent. As one of the founding members of Designer Bookbinders, he and his colleagues helped revive the art and craft of bookbinding in Britain during the second half of the 20th century. The images in the catalog are supplemented by detailed sketches and notes from the binder, as well as articles he wrote in the 1980s and 90s that are as informative and enlightening today as they undoubtedly were then.

Cat 49, Ivor Bannet, The Amazons

The full color images of the bindings are arranged in chronological order, from Jones' first experiments as a student to the fully formed, complex and expertly executed designs of later years. His early work was influenced by his first binding instructor, Arthur Johnson, who displayed a modern design aesthetic that echoed the fine art of the middle of the 20th century. Jones' early bindings, in their asymmetrical compositions, amorphous color onlays and fluid black tooled lines, call to mind the bindings of Johnson and Edgar Mansfield, as well as painters like Miro and Picasso. At that time and in the years to come, Jones was inspired by the work of his peers and teachers rather than the purely decorative or overly restrained bindings of the past.

This forward looking approach to binding led to a great sense of experimentation. The catalog contains an informative essay on the use of spirit dyes, which is one of the many inventive techniques Jones utilized in his work. The freedom which the use of these dyes gave him was essential to his artistic development and allowed him to incorporate his training as an illustrator into his bindings. Jones often used the cover of a book as a painter would a canvas, filling it completely with pictorial, painterly representations, frequently of the human form. In his design of James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach, the binder made an innovative structural decision based on the need to have a long horizontal surface on which to depict a reclining nude. He doubled the amount of board surface by hinging another board to both the front and back covers. These inner covers are hidden when the book is fully closed, revealing only a portion of the female nude figure on the exterior. He used this cover structure many times throughout his work to increase the surface area on which to construct a design while simultaneously creating a cinematic effect of a long horizontal image fully revealed only through manipulation by a reader/viewer.

Cat 64, James Joyce, Pomes Penyeach

During the 1970s, many binders responded to new movements in visual art and architecture that exposed the function of an object and incorporated it into its design. During the same time period, the massive flooding of libraries in Italy brought to light many examples of historical binding structures which complimented the new functionalist art movements. Jones took note of these developments and made use of the sewing support as a design element in several of his best bindings. Dark cords and lacings snake across covers showing themselves in unexpected places. In the description for his binding of Edgar Mansfield's 11.2.80 On Creation he reveals that he used a method of chance to determine the composition of the cover, lifting the long cords up and letting them drop repeatedly, tracing the results. This method of discovery and openness to process is indicative of much of his work. The design for this same binding continues on the inside of the covers where the laces from the exterior appear again, embedded in the doublures of grey goatskin, having emerged through eyelet holes or wrapped around edges.

Cat. 80, Edgar Mansfield, 11.2.80 On Creation

One of Jones' most ambitious projects is his first binding of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The structure of the book and its casing is artfully complex and captures the ominous mood of the text. The binder uses old leather gloves to create onlays in dark browns and reds, cutting and spreading single gloves out to construct seemingly monstrous hands that appear to be reaching, flailing, or grasping. Three sewing tapes are exposed on the spine and ten dark leather thongs trail across the front and back covers, gathering at each corner and spilling over the covers as loose ties. The closed book sits in the chest area of a large straight-jacketed, simplified human form sewn from canvas in muted colors. The human form wraps around the book, snapping closed, revealing the roughly stenciled title of the book. The whole is contained in a hinged, wooden box. Every detail of this work, including the custom paste paper flyleaves, evokes a powerful and haunting image of the human soul, psychologically bound and oppressed.

Cat. 75, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Cat. 75, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

In Nineteen Eighty-Four and other work, Jones incorporated found materials in his designs, such as leather gloves, scraps of clothing, fur, handbags, wallets, and lacings. The found materials seem to share a connection to the human body, with the marks of time and use celebrated and highlighted by the binder. Jones also integrated into his designs the raw edges of the animal skins he worked with and would reinforce the grain of the leather and purposefully pucker and manipulate the skins, creating texture and dimension.

Cat.118, Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Cat.118, Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Jones had a deep connection with much of the work he chose to bind. He states in one of the catalog's essays that “[E]ven when I am binding a book for someone else I am at the time making it for myself.” The texts he worked with have a distinctly modern character, including those by James Joyce (of which there are many examples), George Mackay Brown, George Orwell, Arthur Miller, and David Jones. For the binding of Arthur Miller's, Death of a Salesman, Jones used onlays, inlays, cracquelle work, and stenciled spirit dyes to create two gripping, large scale self-portraits on front and back covers. The perspective and scale of the faces allow the viewer to connect with the deeply flawed everyman at the center of Miller's story. The tone and color of the portraits is dark and beautiful, ranging from a warm honeyed brown, like an aged photograph, where the cracks and fissures of the cracquelle work are most apparent, to the deep complimentary blue and purple-blacks. These are not just book covers, they are compelling paintings as well.

Trevor Jones created deeply personal work, unique in the history of bookbinding. The craftsmanship and art-making on display in this collection is informative and inspiring for anyone interested in the art of design binding, while the essays and historical context for the work advance and enrich the field of bookbinding on an international scale.

An excerpt from the introduction can be read on Oak Knoll Books' site.



Amy Borezo Amy is an artist, bookbinder, and the proprietor of Shelter Bookworks, a bookbinding studio in Western Massachusetts.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

BLOOKS: Bind-O-Rama 2015 Entry Form Now Online


Deadline for Entries, 10/31/2015


The 2015 Bind-O-Rama is devoted to the subject of BLOOKS, objects made in the emulation of books. This is an opportunity for blook artists of ALL creeds (binders, printer, papermakers, decorated paper makers, …) to apply your creative energy and bookbinding talents to making a book object that examines and expresses your relationship with the book. Around the world, for hundreds of years, people have been making book-objects that reflect their devotion and respect for books and for each other. There are countless examples; they include bars, cameras, radios, banks, toys, memorials, food tins, desk accessories, book safes and boxes, vases, musical instruments, magic tricks, furniture, jewelry and artworks. Blooks embody the same characteristics as books and many take the form of specific titles and book formats. They signify knowledge, education, taste, power, wealth and more. They have been treasured and passed down through the generations, and many thousands reside in private homes, public and private businesses and in museums and libraries around the world. Blooks have been used to celebrate and memorialize important occasions and personal losses and successes. They serve as reminders of memorable visits to important places, as receptacles to hold valuable and practical objects and are the source of great amusement. Start making your heirloom now and let your imagination run wild!

If you are interested in participating in the Bind-o-rama but need some inspiration or challenge for an idea, or want to base your design on an historical object, contact Mindell Dubansky  or see her blog About Blooks

The exhibition Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't  (book objects from the collection of Mindell Dubansky) will be on view at the Grolier Club in New York City from January 28-March 12, 2016. A full-color, 9 x 11 inches, 96 page, paperback catalog will be available. For a limited time, Mindell is taking orders for unbound copies for hand binders. The price is $45 plus shipping, pre-payment is required for books in sheets. If you are interested the exhibition, it's programs, reserving an unbound copy or pre-ordering a bound copy, contact Mindell and visit the Grolier Club website later this year.

Entry Deadline: October 31, 2015.

Entry Criteria:

  • Must be made from scratch, NO ALTERED BOOKS. Other objects can be included.
  • May include actual books in the design but the primary object should be something that is made to look like a (any kind of) book but isn't. Examples are book-like kits, games, boxes or sculpture.
  • Single or multiple blook works can be made alone or in a setting (bookshelf, tableau, etc.)
  • All materials are acceptable
  • Your object can be inspired by any genre of text or bookbinding structure or format.

Links:

Find inspiration on the AboutBlooks blog with links to other relevant sites.

We look forward to your entries. For entry questions or problems, contact Peter Verheyen.




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tricks of the Trade, Confessions of a Bookbinder

Jamie Kamph. Tricks of the Trade: Confessions of a Bookbinder. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2015. 6 x 9 inches. ISBN 9781584563341. 144 pages. Hardcover $39.95, softcover $24.95.

Reviewed by Karen Hanmer*

Cherish each step along the way and perform it as completely and gracefully as possible.

Jamie Kamph’s Tricks of the Trade: Confessions of a Bookbinder is part memoir, part how-to, and part a collection of essays on the engineering aspects of binding, all gleaned from this design binder/conservator’s forty years of experience.

Kamph clearly and generously shares her process, though this is not intended to be a step-by-step manual, and the book is written with the experienced practitioner in mind. Binding, repair, design, and finishing are all addressed. Well-illustrated with diagrams and in-process photos, plus images of forty of her completed design bindings, the book also serves as a catalog of Kamph’s work.

An introduction provides Kamph’s philosophy of binding. Her process is one of both prudence and decisiveness: “At each step of a binding or rebinding I evaluate my work and decide if it is good enough to continue.” Throughout the book she echoes a sensible rule-of-thumb to bind by and to live by: “Don’t do anything you can’t undo.” She ends with a reading list of her go-to sources for binding history and technique.

M.F.K. Fischer, Deux Cuisines en Provence

The book proceeds with Kamph’s career transition from publishing to bookbinding after writing an article on hand bookbinding in New York City. Kamph had an ulterior motive in accepting the assignment: a book collector since her college days, she hoped to find a local source for repair of her own collection. Interviews with numerous binders led to an invitation to a one-evening “try-out” class with Deborah Evetts to determine if she had potential as a binder, then weekly lessons with Hope Weil, and finally establishment of her own Stonehouse Bindery.

Kamph continued her study independently, offering to examine every binding in nearby Princeton University’s rare book collections, and to report to the curator on bindings of note. The objective of her survey was twofold: research not only historical finishing design but also how various binding methods had withstood centuries of use. Kamph was seeking a structure that would support the designs that have become her trademark: elaborate tooling and onlays on the spine extending across the joints and onto the boards. A tight back spine might not be smooth enough to take gold tooling well, and the flexing from opening could cause the gold to flake off. The opening of a hollow back can exert enough pressure on the joints to cause the boards to detach over time. She found the engineering solution she was seeking in a 16th century Swiss binding: a tight back with a leather spine lining. With further refinements, this is the structure she still uses today.

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, vol. 1

Kamph next address her signature design style, illustrated by photographs of her completed bindings, sometimes shown alongside the period works she used for reference or inspiration. Her broad design vocabulary draws on a variety of mediums: visual and decorative arts, maps, architecture, and garden and textile design. Typography and decorative elements from the text often inspire a pattern which might be repeated, rotated, reversed, exploded. She also draws on historical book decoration, fragmenting or exaggerating elements to provide a more contemporary, often playful feel.

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

She gives us a window into her design process, whether searching for just the right antiquarian image of an angel, finding an astrological map for the night Captain Ahab’s ship left Nantucket, or borrowing watercolor techniques to capture the play of light on a tableau of fruit.

This introduction to Kamph and her work is followed by twenty-some brief chapters, arranged roughly in the order a book is bound or by complexity of repair, followed by finishing techniques and tips on developing a design. Though Tricks of the Trade is not a step-by-step manual, much how-to information is provided in the narrative. Each chapter is a stand-alone essay on one step in the binding process, peppered with tips and anecdotes. The feel is that of the conversations binders have following a lecture or demonstration: colleagues swapping their personal techniques and the tribulations that got them there.

Topics covered include humidity in the studio, useful bindery items borrowed from the medicine cabinet and toolbox, adhesives, paper repair, board attachment, zig-zag endsheets, backing, spine lining, the inseparable actions of sharpening and paring, headbanding, headcaps, and corners. Later chapters address repair: inner and outer joints, cloth cases, rebacking. A chapter is devoted to the repair of a set of three nineteenth century novels in their original but very damaged paper bindings. Before and after photos show new bindings that retain the spirit of the modestly elegant originals.

Throughout, Kamph shares her preferred materials and suppliers, and describes equipment of her own design: a brass-edged recasing press, her tool-polishing set-up, a holder for rolls of gold leaf. I found numerous tips I may or may not have ever arrived at on my own: using tweezers when I might have reached for a thin folder, substituting thin Reemay where I would have used Japanese tissue, using book cloth matching the case for a hollow where I would have used paper, application of glair with a refillable water brush when I would have used a brush or the much more difficult to maintain technical pan, silicone release paper when I would have used Mylar.

 She offers a multitude of possibilities for altering new plain or decorated paper to match old. She addresses making endband cores and reveals a clever method for anchoring the core to the text block to ease the awkward initial wraps before the first tie-downs.

Particularly welcome are chapters addressing the dual nemesis of many fine binders: headcaps and corners. She notes that a well-formed headcap is in fact the convergence of numerous steps properly executed: not just covering but also spine lining, leather paring, headbanding, and attention to the appropriate historical style for that particular book. Kamph provides three options for forming corners, all illustrated with step-by-step diagrams. The most interesting, borrowed from Swiss binder Gerard Charrière, oddly resembles the historical tongue corner but with a shorter tongue pared very thin and folded beneath the two side flaps, which meet seamlessly above it.

A chapter on repair of the brawny, brittle family bible acknowledges this quotidian mission that binders love to hate. Kamph describes her method of washing and drying the text pages in “clumps,” repairing pages, and resewing to control swell, followed by backing to fit the old boards, or if new boards must be selected, the luxury of selecting a thicker pair to comfortably fit a generous shoulder.

Another chapter is devoted to a case study of Kamph’s treatment of a dilapidated first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. The two volumes bought at auction by a long-time client came with detached boards, some missing pages, and no leather remaining on the spines. However, the sewing was mostly intact, and rubbings of the spine reveled that the old glue still held impressions of the original tooling. Scans of the missing pages were acquired, printed onto paper toned to match the text and sewn on, new cords were attached to the old and the boards reattached, the books were rebacked. Using the spine rubbings as her guide, Kamph drew a design for a decorative tool to be made to match the original and purchased the 24-point Times Roman Condensed that was a reasonable match for the original titling font.

First edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, before treatment

First edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, after treatment

The greatest strength of Tricks of the Trade may lie in the final chapters on finishing techniques and generating design ideas. First Kamph describes the process of transferring the design of onlays, gold lines and titling to the binding by tooling through a pattern on translucent graph paper. This process is illustrated with photographs of a full pattern, a close-up of the pattern showing the numerous line segments marked to designate each tools that makes up each segment of the design, and the completed binding. Further instructions are given for cutting onlays to the precise size and shape required and setting them in place.

In just fourteen, highly-efficient pages, Kamph presents design possibilities, tools, and techniques for gold tooling. She discusses the optimal binding structure and choice of leather to lay the foundation for tooling, how to form an intricate design using just a few tools, how to modify tools to build the desired pattern, and when blind tooling might be a better design choice than gold. She outlines each step of the process: blinding-in, applying glair, polishing the tool, applying the gold, cleaning the impression, applying additional gold as needed and troubleshooting. Kamph uses ribbon gold, a roll of gold wound on a spool, interleaved with thin tissue. Ribbon gold is not applied directly to the book like leaf; instead it is picked up with a greased, heated tool which is then applied to the blind impression. The chapter concludes with a very useful matrix laying out methods for managing the interactions of leather, gold, glair, heat and pressure, tools, patterns, humidity and boards when conditions are “bad,” better,” or “best.”

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

In “How to Cheat at Gold Tooling,” Kamph offers suggestions for replacing missing tooling or refreshing damaged tooling on the fragile leather of antiquarian bindings, or adding tooling to a reback that will be a reasonable match to that on the remnants of the original spine.

The final chapter addresses generating design ideas. First, look to the book itself: read the text, look at the images. What is it about, where and when does it take place, what are the larger themes, and what items might be associated with any of this? A quick Web search will yield numerous possibilities, which can spur many additional ideas.

Kamph presents multiple techniques for onlays, some unconventional. She often repeats an onlay shape as a frieze extending across the spine from foredge to foredge. Instead of using these leather shapes themselves as onlays, she sometimes applies the strip of thinned leather they were cut from to the book, with the negative space making shapes appear in the leather the book is bound in. Kamph ends with a reminder to include the title in the design process. Freedom from traditional placement and content can reinforce themes in the text while enhancing the design.

Walt Whitman, The Half-Breed and Other Stories

A photograph of Kamph’s Stonehouse Bindery wraps from the back to front cover of Tricks of the Trade. Her New Jersey farm is visible through bench-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the studio. This scene completes the profile of the binder, her methods, and her work.

* Karen Hanmer was an early reader of this book.




Karen Hanmer’s artist-made books are physical manifestations of personal essays intertwining history, culture, politics, technology and arid wit. Her work is included in collections ranging from The Getty Museum and the Library of Congress to Yale University and Graceland. She is winner of the Jury Prize for Binding in the 2009 Helen Warren DeGolyer American Bookbinding Competition and is one of only eight graduates of the American Academy of Bookbinding’s Fine Binding program. Hanmer is a leader in the book arts community, having served on the editorial board of The Bonefolder, as Exhibitions Chair for the Guild of Book Workers, and as frequent exhibition curator and juror. She offers workshops and private instruction focusing on a solid foundation in basic binding skills. www.karenhanmer.com

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Upcoming Posts and Other Musings

It's summer and things have been rather slow. While we wait for some excellent reviews of The Bindings of Trevor Jones, Tricks of the Trade by Jamie Kamph, and the catalog to Hello Hedi at 23 Sandy Gallery I offer this diversion.








It's summer, and what can be more seasonal than enjoying an excellent fermented beverage, in this case beer, especially when the label is designed by a well known graphic artist whose work some of us have had the honor to bind.


The beer, Bell's Two Hearted Ale, a nice play on the short story be Hemingway... The artist...? Ladislav Hanka, a friend of Jan Sobota and many others. His books Corn, County Survey, Scripta Naturae, and Opus Salvelinus were all bound for the 50 x 25 exhibit held at Southern Methodist University's Bridwell Library. Most recently Hanka published a memorial book, Remembering Jan Bohuslav Sobota, about his friend Jan Sobota that was bound by many of the same binders as in 50 x 25. You can see some of the bindings here. Hanka's archive is housed at Western Michigan University, also home to half of the 50 bindings in 50 x 25 - each binder bound two of the same title, with one going back to the artist...

Fishing is a large part of Hanka's life, often featured in his prints, and beautifully bound. So, open a Bell's Two Hearted Ale (if available in your area), crank up À la Poupée & the Chine-Collé's music, and take a look at this man's etchings.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bookmaking of a different kind



Hey, we made The New Yorker this week... 

“Vinnie, we gotta talk about what ‘bookmaking’ means.”

From this week's issue of The New Yorker.

You have no idea how many bookies are out there wanting to learn about making books, at least based on my my referring URLs...  This opens possibilities for further workshop venues - metaphor as material anyone?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Spirit Books of Susan K. Gaylord

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. The Spirit Books. Newburyport, MA: Self-published, 2014. Available at Etsy for $20.

Reviewed by Velma Bolyard

The rich world of artists’ books encompasses so much work, from peculiar and fascinating ‘zines to amazing unique books, and all sorts of work in between. Each book made has purpose, each book is read in some way, each maker presents something to experience. As a maker and reader, I revel in the current variety and am always curious about seeing work that is new to me. Last April at the University of Southern Maine, Portland’s Book Arts Bazaar I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord and spending a tiny bit of time looking a Spirit Book that she was showing. What I saw was stunning and made me want to spend more time with these pieces. Nothing had prepared me for the impact of “meeting” a Spirit Book. And this is why her new book The Spirit Books about this series is so generous, it gets you very close to these books the way you need to actually experience them. She’s added text that explains more about the making of each piece.

The Spirit Books begins with a sensitive and reflective introduction by Rosemary Noon. Noon writes, “The series claims mastery of a whole realm of knowledge outside language.” This rings true to me. Gaylord, a calligrapher, seems at ease with making wordless books, or rather books without words to frame experience while “reading” the piece. Marks on the pages are etched or sewn in a variety of ways, still missing are words. But the presence of many sorts of markings evokes meaning, feeling, contemplation, examination. The Spirit Books give the reader an insight into Gaylord’s thinking and process answering some questions while stimulating more.

Spirit Book #13: Hope Offering

In a brief and cogent artists statement about the body of work Gaylord writes: “Each page is a meditation that echoes nature with both repetition and variety.” I think she is completely correct here. Each book is intended to be a contemplative experience. I was surprised by the complex and at times subtle layers of meaning in the Spirit Books. Each Spirit Book is made from textural and earthy papers, with marks evolving from a variety of means; sewn beads, bits of twigs, seeds, plants, threads, wires, and patterns carefully composed for careful looking. They are meant to be displayed opened for viewing each in its own cradle or nest. This supporting structure is designed to fully compliment the book it supports. Further, the books appear as small alters of contemplation, meditations in fact. Gaylord achieves this by presenting each book as an important artifact, elevated to viewing by each one’s unique stage. The Spirit Books serves as a catalog of the series and is the next best thing to seeing a piece, you can get very close. The photography is clear and intimate, one sees the fibers lifting off the edges of pages, the gleam of an amber bead, the carefully placed stitches, or trimmed twigs delineating pages.

This modest book cataloging The Spirit Books series presents a grouping of 35 from the total of at least 73 books. Gaylord explains that the series remains fluid, sometimes she disbinds a book and re-composes it into another piece. Each Spirit Book is presented as a discrete contemplation placed in its own unique cradle, or nest, or one might even say alter built specifically to present and contain its book. On the verso page Gaylord names the book photographed on the recto. She describes the book including a few words about the making and naming of it. Gaylord wisely lets the photos present the books as singular objects. Her descriptions are sparse, but there is enough information to prompt thinking. Book number 1 is called Sewn Prayer and “it was named for the act of sewing which is considered a symbol of life and its temporal nature.” What The Spirit Books does so well is present a hint of the breadth of the series. It suggests how rich the visual and emotive experience of the Spirit Books series must be. In that busy, energetic marketplace of the Book Arts Bazaar, I wanted to stop and think about what was being offered. This book reminds me of stopping and looking.

SpiritBook #43: RenewedWisdom

I can imagine hiking in my own northern woods and coming upon a granite ridge face with a naturally occurring mossy niche, surprisingly holding a Spirit Book. I can imagine pausing, looking carefully, reading, and thinking this most appropriate. I can see that each page, each leaf, might echo the experience Gaylord is seeking to prompt. Alternatively, I can see an installation of many Spirit Books, in a space that is conducive to contemplation, with the books elevated and accessible so that you could look deeply into the architectural environments of each one while moving around them. Lacking the opportunity to see these books in person, or to act as a memento of this singular series, The Spirit Books by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord is a fine alternative.

[Note: to view more of the Spirit Books online visit Susan K. Gaylord's site online]



Velma Bolyard teaches emotionally disturbed children in Potsdam, NY. She also teaches papermaking, book arts, and fiber arts workshops, often at her mill, Wake Robin Papers. She holds a BS Design, MS Teaching, with elementary, art, and special education certifications, and has studied fiber, paper and book arts in the US and Canada. In 2000 she received the Nell Mendell Scholarship for PBI (Paper and Book Intensive). She has shown her work in fiber, paper, and books for many years.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Émigrés, The Transformation of Art Publishing in Britain

Anna Nyburg. Émigrés: The Transformation of Art Publishing in Britain. London: Phaidon Press, 2014. ISBN 0714867020. 288 pages.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Morris

Drawing upon her previous publication, From Leipzig to London: The Life and Work of the Émigré Artist Hellmuth Weissenborn, Anna Nyburg presents a broader view of the impact of émigré publishers, artists, and art historians upon the cultural landscape of Britain in Émigrés: The Transformation of Art Publishing in Britain. Although Émigrés contains a good deal of interesting information about the cultural background of émigrés, as well as deeply personal characterizations of these important figures, it should not be viewed as a thorough and scholarly publication.

The main purpose of the text serves to highlight the role of three publishing houses with Viennese roots, Phaidon, Adprint, and Thames & Hudson, and the paths of their founders through personal accounts and portrayals, with a heavy emphasis on the personal lives of Phaidon’s Béla Horovitz and Ludwig Goldscheider. While the first half of the text focuses on providing biographical information of noteworthy individuals in publishing from the first half of the 20th century, the latter half explores the outcome of publishing houses Phaidon and Thames & Hudson post-1950, with a brief chapter on Adprint, founded by Wolfgang Foges, and the concept of ‘book packaging.’

Interspersed within the first chapter of character ‘portraits’, the reader will find fundamental  information about the developmental elements and genius of émigré book design and production; however, the sparseness and organization of this material is such that it might easily be missed. Even when Nyburg makes key points about book design, the reader is left without an image to illustrate an example of these transformative interior layouts. For example, Nyburg writes “He was particularly skilled at choosing details: selecting and highlighting a corner from a painting or sculpture and cropping the photograph, producing a fresh and different image with a technique that was unusual at the time” (p.15), but fails to provide an example and does not give a date or time-frame for when this ‘new’ approach was employed.

Moving onwards, Nyburg provides some cultural background for the émigrés of Mitteleurope, and how their education and immersion in the Classics, Literature, and Art aided in their natural abilities for design and publishing; the emphasis is again placed on Phaidon’s Horovitz and Goldscheider, along with Walter and Eva Neurath of Thames & Hudson. Additionally, there is more contextual information of what life as a Jewish person in Nazi Germany was like through personal accounts of the countless difficult decisions and hardships that were encountered during the late 1930s.

Chapters 4 and 5, ‘Arrival and War: Publishing Émigrés in Britain’ and ‘A New Start: Phaidon and Art Publishing after the War’ add value and necessary context as the book becomes more descriptive and focused on the specific elements for the arrival of émigrés in Britain: how they were able to assimilate into British culture, the processes in place for registering as aliens and the tribunals, and the creative relationships that arose from being placed within internment camps, such as the Isle of Man. There were also personal anecdotes from émigrés on the discrimination they encountered from British citizens who were unemployed or unsure of their alliance to Germany, but also how they were able to assist in war efforts from creating ‘black’ propaganda to fire-watching duties.

Nyburg also discusses the influence and guidance that was provided by Zwemmer’s Bookshop and Gallery in London to both émigré and British publishers and citizens, as they created a physical and intellectual place for art education and connoisseurship. She also discusses the role of Teddy Schüller, who moved to London in 1932 and was a lifelong Anglophile, and his work in creating the Oxford Companion to Art, published by Oxford University Press. He relied on his network of German-speaking art historians, including E.H. Gombrich (The Story of Art published by Phaidon), to complete this work that was realized in the 1930s and finally published by 1970. The text, however, begins to take a more negative approach to discussing the difficulties in the relationship between Phaidon’s Horovitz and Sir Stanley Unwin, when Phaidon moved to independent ownership, resulting in severed ties between the two parties. Continuous personal instances of uncited and biased information detract greatly from the main mission of the book in providing a narrative of this much underrepresented topic.

Moving on to Chapter 6, ‘Between the Pages: Typography, Design and Illustration’, the reader is able to find the necessary and much-needed historical context of the publishing and book arts landscape pre-WWI that illuminates the cooperative and collaborative relationships between English and German publishers and artists. Nyburg describes the influential relationships of great artists and typographers such as William Morris, Eric Gill, Stanley Morison and Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson on key German artists and publishers like Anton Kippenberg, Rudolf Koch, and Karl Ernst Poeschel. Although this chapter illustrates key elements in the transformation of British publishing, Nyburg writes with a biased voice about how German contributions to the book arts outweigh those of the British. In doing so, Nyburg presents contradictory information, as British publishers did in fact work for and employ German typographers and designers before WWII, and continued to do so throughout the 20th century (p.109). She also notes several British publishers that were knowledgeable and trained in German book production and design, such as Oliver Simon, Sir Francis Meynell, Stanley Morison and Abram Games, despite also noting the lack of professional training in publishing and exposure to fine art for British culture; additionally, British publishing giant Penguin Books, headed by Allen Lane, is briefly discussed.

Nyburg writes that typography and overall book design became ever increasingly important and ‘essential’ for all German publishers and book designers throughout the first three decades of the 20th century, but that it was only bibliophiles and collectors who were concerned with these aspects in Britain; however, earlier in the same chapter (Chapter 6) Nyburg discusses the start and influence of art nouveau movements in each country at the end of the 19th century that led into the early 20th century, which drew upon the exchange of education and influence between key British figures with German counterparts, such as Anton Kippenberg, owner of Insel Verlag. In 1905, Kippenberg “was so determined to keep his books free from the over-the-top Germanic style that he employed English book designers and typographers such as Eric Gill” (p.102). Such contradictory statements, confused further by jumping continuously across periods of time, create an unclear narrative that leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

One of the more interesting portions of the book comes from Chapter 8, ‘The Rise and Fall of Adprint’ since it discusses the extremely innovative practice of ‘book packaging’ as it transformed the practice of art book publishing in Europe. Further, it explores advances in publishing with color images, collaborative work with Penguin Books, the significant Britain in Picture series, the diminishing power of Adprint, and in particular on the personal career of Wolfgang Foges and the bitter rivalry between Foges and Neurath. The final chapters move on to discuss the Neuraths of Thames & Hudson and touches upon many others of importance for image reproduction such as Jarrold of Norwich Printers. However, there is some confusion to be found within the personal narratives of second, third, and even fourth generational émigré family members from publishing giants on their cultural background and training. While some individuals, including Eva Neurath, believe that the advancements of the émigré publishers would have achieved notoriety regardless of geographical location, Nyburg argues that the success of Phaidon and Thames & Hudson in the latter half of the 20th century is due largely to the cultural values passed on from the émigrés as second, third and fourth generations acquired, operated and continued in the world of art book publishing in Britain. Richard Schlagman, who acquired Phaidon books, is described as saying, “…he questioned any notion of Phaidon’s Jewishness, saying that the tradition of culture often attributed to the Jews of ‘Mitteleuropa’ was more likely a product of central Europe itself’ (p. 187).

The most confusing aspects of the book lie within Nyburg’s negative stance on British culture, education and artistic efforts, as well as with the complete lack of design elements that are noted as being the transformational elements of art publishing (note: this book is published by Phaidon). Nyburg makes a series of criticisms of British culture and art, such as on p. 37, “In the visual arts, the only modernists who made their mark were Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson, in sculpture and painting respectively,” and education on p.211, ‘…the English working-class teenagers. Not only were they technically incompetent, unable to use a pencil or a brush correctly, but they were also embarrassed by the very notion of art other than as a form of technical reproduction.” Furthermore, she gives a disparaging portrayal of Sir Stanley Unwin throughout the latter portion of the book, who assisted Horovitz and Goldscheider in their personal and professional migration to England, despite Unwin taking on the responsibility for the personal safety and well-being of the émigrés for at least a decade (p.61-62).

What's more, the book is written in a manner that suggests the reader should have some prior knowledge of the subject, as well as with key figures of émigré publishing, writing and book design. Herman Ullstein, Jan Tschichold, Dr. Franz Leppmann, Ruth Rosenberg, Fritz Landshoff, Walter Landauer, Henrich Hauser, Bermann Fischer, and Peter Suhrkamp… are all mentioned within two pages (p.52-53) without any clarification as to how these individuals fit within the overall narrative, a common approach found throughout the text.  Although they may provide singular, tangible examples of a point Nyburg is trying to convey, it only adds further confusion as to whom they are and the role they played within the transformation of British art publishing. Short biographical information as an added appendix would have been particularly helpful for readers to refer to as they navigate and conceptualize the turbulence of these times and events.

In terms of book design, the text is extremely limited in images and illustrative examples of the transformation of art publishing; the majority of color images included are of book covers and very few page spreads. Other images interspersed within the text are black and white photographic reproductions of the émigrés and their family members, serving more as an archival exploration of the families instead of art publishing. Nyburg ironically groups together the core color illustrations of art books in the middle of the text using color plates, a common practice in art books before the evolutionary practices of Phaidon, Adprint, and Thames and Hudson (p.151). What Nyburg praises for the transformation of art book publishing by the émigrés is completely contradicted by the design and layout of this text, which is meant to detail and explore this specific topic. One highlight of the text is the appendices, which provide published books by Phaidon by year from 1932-55 and a list of books published by Thames & Hudson from 1950-1959. Additionally, the book boasts a rich bibliography of resources that will aid anyone in further research on this topic.

Ultimately, there is not enough information on the actual transformation of publishing in technical terms, particularly for image and photographic reproduction which played an immense role in the art publishing landscape, and an overabundance of information about the personal lives of the émigrés, including that of second and third generational émigré family members. The book would have been a richer resource had the technical processes and design elements been described in greater detail, and if Nyburg would have defined what constitutes an ‘art book’ in the transformation of the publishing landscape from the onset, the overall goal of the text may have been more clearly elucidated to the reader.

It could be argued that rather than the émigré publishers transforming the landscape of British publishing for art books, that the transformation lies within the collaborative relationships and exchanges between émigré and British art historians, publishers, artists and designers that were in place pre-WWI, and continue to the present day. Due to the Anschluss, many citizens of Central Europe were forced to leave their homes and find refuge in other countries, Britain being one of the most central. It was these circumstances which have led to the creation and foundation of British art publishing in the 20th century, and the ability for these relationships to prosper for over a century should be applauded.




Beth Morris is Assistant Librarian at the Yale Center for British Art, Reference Library and Archives, where she started a preservation program with in-house book repairs for the collection. She holds an MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she completed her thesis on artists' book collections. Additionally she holds a BA in Fine Art from Elon University.