Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sarah Bryant Lecture at Hobart and William Smith College

Sarah Bryant of Big Jump Press published an article on the making of Biography entitled "Evolution of an Artist’s Book" in the last issue of The Bonefolder, Vol 8. She recently spoke about Biography and her latest work Fond at Hobart and William Smith College in scenic Geneva, NY. These works explore what "we" are made of and defines us, as well as the extent to which small, personal items encapsulate the bigger picture. Assistant Professor of Architectural Studies Kirin Makker introduces the lecture and curated the accompanying process oriented exhibit in Houghton House.

Those that could not make it can view the lecture below

... or directly on YouTube at <>

See for the story of Fond, and for more information.

An illustrated lecture about her work Biography is online at

NEW on 12/12 an interview with Susan Mills on the Bookbinding Now podcast series.
Designer, printer and binder Sarah Bryant is the proprietor of Big Jump Press. She was the 2008-2011 Victor Hammer Fellow in the Book Arts at Wells College and the 2011 winner of the MCBA Artist's Book Prize.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Airbrushed Decorated Paper - By Amy Borezo

One of my great  pleasures in hosting the Bind-O-Ramas is to to see binders and book artists challenge themselves to try new techniques and often create something truly special. In this case the standout for me is Amy's decorated paper. Below her description of how she created it. Thank you Amy. View all entries featuring bindings of "The Bone Folder" in the 2012 Bind-O-Rama here.

Our guest blogger today is Amy Borezo, book artist and edition binder.

For the Bind-o-rama exhibit featuring the set book The Bone Folder by Ernst Collin (translated by Peter D. Verheyen), I was inspired to create a version of the German Stiffened Paper Binding. The portion of the text itself which most interested me was the section on decorative papers. While the binding style is modest, I wanted the decorative paper used for the covering material to be inventive — having both a modern feel to echo the graphics of the time period in which the book was written, and a contemporary, process-oriented sensibility. To accomplish this, I used a bone folder (in keeping with the title of the book) to score a pattern on paper, which I then folded and airbrushed to create a unique geometric design. To begin, I first scored a hexagonal grid onto a piece of Cave paper using a metal bonefolder. Next, I folded the paper into a concertina in one direction (horizontal) along the scored lines. Leaving the mountain and valley folds intact, I aimed the airbrush so that the paint would only hit one side of the mountain fold with red paint.

Click to enlarge.

I then turned the paper around 180 degrees and painted the other side of the mountain folds with the airbrush in yellow. The color dries fairly quickly and I was able to now flatten the paper and begin folding along the diagonal scored lines. I changed to white paint and repeated the process of aiming the airbrush to only hit one side of the mountain fold with the white paint. I decided I liked the variation of having heavier coverage of white near one corner with a gradual fade to the other corner. This effect was easy enough to produce by angling the airbrush slightly.

Click to enlarge.

I flattened the paper again and folded along the opposing diagonal for the final application of white paint. I debated whether to continue along more folds, but felt like the resulting pattern was visually strong. I particularly like that the final design has a strong Art Deco look and that the paint was used to capture the physical process of the pattern being made through folding. I finished the binding by adding a subtle color fade to the book cloth on the spine with the airbrush in red.

Click to enlarge.

Go to Amy's blog for detailed views of this fantastic binding.

Amy Borezo received an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from RISD in 2000. After graduating, she worked both as a bookbinder in a production bindery and as a book mechanic at Daniel Kelm's Wide Awake Garage where she learned that you can reinvent the book each time you make it. Amy is now a contemporary book artist and the proprietor of Shelter Bookworks, an edition binding studio in Western Massachusetts.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bind-O-Rama 2012 Now Online

Though often cursed as constraining choice, set book exhibits can also be fun as exemplified by the entries that largely stayed true to the Germanic nature of the text. High-points for me were the decorated papers and the adoption of more basic structures, including the stiffened paper binding. Sometimes less is more. We hope you will enjoy this exhibition featuring the work of established and  nascent binders.

Now Online – Click Here to View

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dead Technology and Public Outreach in Library Preservation

Two unrelated events, Beth Doyle's Quick Pic: Before There Was Power Point post on Duke University Libraries' excellent Preservation Underground blog that reintroduced us to slide/tape shows. At about the same time there was also discussion of this technology on the the ARSC listserv (starting with , then scroll through the thread clicking the forth button from left at the top…), and cleaning up parts of our departmental reference collection here at Syracuse lead to the rediscovery of The Care and Handling of Books produced by Yale University Library with support from NEH in 1980.  I had the pleasure of helping mail out numerous copies of these while working at Yale ('91-'92) and remembered it well.

Long story short, the opportunity was too good to pass up. With the permission of Bobbi Pilette, Director of Preservation at Yale I had our audio engineer digitize the audio cassette (still in very good condition after all these years) including the pulses to advance the projector and had the slides digitized as well. The result is now available on YouTube in all its glory. Processing of images was minimal so the full retro effect is there. View direct at YouTube here.

The script is linked to in PDF form under "bullet 3" when one clicks on show more below the video at YouTube or direct here.

The presentation was prepared at the Yale University Library under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities by Anne Dutlinger, Peggy Madison, Jan Merrill-Oldham, Pamela Spitzmueller. Jane Greenfield and Gay Walker were project directors, .

While the fashions and hair are (still) vintage, the information is as relevant as ever and worth sharing more widely.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't mess with your bookie!

Carrying on the theme started by Audra of The Vespiary with Chris Ware's Great Book Trimming Machine...

From Le Petit Parisien June 19, 1910... The story reports that the bookbinder got behind on his payments to his bookie (note fingers already cut off) and did himself in. Whether he did it himself is debatable as the screw for the press bar in the guillotine seems higher up than he could reach, never mind operating the lever/wheel on what seems to be a manual device. Regardless, it is a cautionary tale that one should not betray a bookie.

Addendum: And thanks to David Amstell, here the text translated by Google from the French... A simple malfunction it seems, not a murder/suicide... I think I like Charlene's version better. Besides, what was his head doing clear through on the other side and where is the stuff he thought he was cutting??? The reader's comments ask these questions too...

The image is from the collection of Charlene Matthews of Bindery in Hollywood, California.

Below the original description of the scene of the crime.Click link in caption to get to full sized image.

Le Petit Parisien. Supplément littéraire illustré (Paris)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2012 Bind-O-Rama Entry Form - Now Online

Below the entry form for the 2012 Bind-O-Rama (not to be confused with the Bonefolder Bind-O-Rama, but yet a continuation of the tradition).
The Book Arts Web annual online exhibition on
The Bone Folder, by Ernst Collin

We are pleased to present The Bone Folder, by Ernst Collin as the 2012 Book Arts Web Bind-O-Rama. This year's event will be a set book affair with participants being asked to bind the same text.

Translated by Peter D. Verheyen as The Bone Folder, Der Pressbengel (1922), is Collin’s best-known work, and first republished in 1984 by the Mandragora Verlag and later translated into Italian as Dal Religatore d’Arte (1996). Conceived as a dialogue between a bibliophile and a master bookbinder on all aspects of the bookbinding craft as well as specific techniques, the original German has a charming if somewhat pedantically formal “school primer” tone, in keeping with the time in which it was written. The question-and-answer format has long history in pedagogical texts, whether for religious catechisms or trades, as in Friedrich Friese’s Ceremoniel der Buchbinder (1712), which introduces the reader to all aspects of the bookbinding trade and its traditions. 

Throughout the work, Collin himself is very frank in addressing the conflicts between quality and cost, as well as the positive and negative impacts of “machines” throughout the work. In his introduction to the 1984 reprint of Der Pressbengel, Gustav Moessner, author of and contributor to several German bookbinding texts, states that he sees the Collin’s work in part as a reaction to the growing industrialization of the bookbinding trade and the loss of the skills and techniques connected with this industrialization. In many respects this trajectory continues today, accelerated by the decrease in formal bookbinding apprenticeship opportunities, the increasing simplification of structures, changing aesthetics, and ultimately changes in the perceived value of books and the general economic climate of Weimar Germany.

The text can be downloaded in PDF form, laid out in 7 signatures of 8 pages (sample pages below) each from the Pressbengel Project from the left menu on that page. Bindings can reflect the typical German trade and fine binding styles described in the text, those of other national traditions, or innovative interpretations of these traditional styles. Tutorials to structures in the German tradition can be found here.

More information and page samples can be found here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jan Sobota (1939 - 2012)

I first encountered Jan's work in Lewis' Fine Bookbinding in the Twentieth Century and was smitten. Then in 1989 I had the pleasure of taking a workshop on building 3-D/Relief designs when they were all living along the lake near Cleveland. Later I worked with him on 50x25, a wonderful exhibit featuring books by the Rarach Press.

He was a bear of a man with a heart of gold (and then some). His passing will leave a huge void.

Below included in Ladislav Hanka's moving celebration of Jan's life is a picture of Jan I took during that 1989 workshop.

Peter D. Verheyen

Obituary: in memory of Jan Sobota
Written by Ladislav R. Hanka, Kalamazoo MI

Jan Bohuslav Sobota passed away the 2nd of May, 2012. An active member of the Guild of Book Workers since the early-1980s, he was my friend of thirty-three years, binder of my books and co-exhibitor on two continents. I feel called to share some reflections on his life with the many of you who knew him, were his students or just admired his work:

Jan came to the USA in 1984, sponsored by the Rowfant Club of book collectors in Cleveland. He‘d been in Switzerland, exiled from his native Czechoslovakia and was employed at the conservation lab of Case Western Reserve University, eventually going to the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Conservation work paid the bills, but you, his friends and colleagues, all know that his first love was the making of fine unique design bindings. He arrived during the renaissance of American book arts in the 1980’s and hit the ground running as an active promoter and sponsor of shows and workshops. Jan Sobota was a tsunami of the book arts, affecting all around him. With his wife Jarmila, they immediately established the Saturday’s Book Arts Gallery in Euclid, Ohio and kept the name and concept of that gallery alive in various places and incarnations as they moved about the world. (Sobota means Saturday in Czech). Day jobs at universities gave Jan financial stability and institutional support, but also multiplied the effect of his book arts efforts, allowing him to better apply the benefits of his coming from an unbroken tradition of apprenticeships and bring a profound knowledge of the craft and tradition of bookbinding to the many American students eager to learn at a time when that knowledge was being lost at a staggering rate. He shared that knowledge generously with anybody who would listen.

Jan survived both Nazis and Communists, yet that adversity didn’t embitter him. He was kind and circumspect in how he spoke, but also no fool. He was an astute observer and his short experience of America contained contrasts that speak volumes. America gave him opportunity and he repaid the favor manifold. He believed in the USA as a nation of principle, based in a humane constitution (which he studied) and the rule of law, but he was not a mindless patriot or an unqualified believer in free and unregulated enterprise.

Early on in Cleveland, Jan contracted cancer, before he could afford health insurance. He survived and came to understand America as a society where neighbors help each other. People they hardly knew, appeared with casseroles, left meat loaves on the porch, lent them money and took up collections. They were a Godsend, but he also discovered that America’s pioneer spirit not-with-standing, kind neighbors couldn’t stop his family from slipping into a psychic debtor's prison over his health crisis. Now comes the Sobota story I most love telling: Jan had staggering debt, a colostomy and a family to support. He took on more conservation work, among which was an old book, with crumbling boards. Inside the leather covers Jan found an odd mass of stuck-together papers, which he soaked and carefully teased apart. These scraps turned out to be a deck of medieval playing cards - the second oldest such cards known. He restored them and sold them for enough to cover his medical expenses. Few people would have cast that glued-up mess a second glance before pitching it, nor would they recognize what they had in hand or known how to restore or sell it. God helps those who help themselves – no?

Even after the debt was retired, money was still an issue for a family of immigrants with three children, (two of them with special needs) and limited use of English. At one point the Sobotas responded to the seductions of Amway. They stayed with us in Kalamazoo, while taking the “introductory course” nearby. Day by day they became indoctrinated and groomed to invade their home in Czechia with cleaning products and a new pyramid scheme. They left in a get-rich-quick haze, but in a week their freshly laundered brains began to awaken. Jan, the survivor and master filter of propaganda and Jarmila the psychologist had been thoroughly buffaloed. They bashfully admitted their foolishness and went back to the real work of making beautiful books in Texas.

Soon afterwards, the massacre at Waco opened Jan’s eyes to yet another difficult side of his adopted home. That smallish incident within the parade of American fringe politics and its insanely violent suppression left a far larger mark on Jan than one might expect. He’d seen far worse, but he didn’t expect it of the US. American society was becoming a lot more complex in its high and low points. He was really getting to know us at our best and worst.

In 1996 the Sobotas re-emigrated back home to the Czech Republic – quite suddenly actually. Life in America had been good and they’d developed an extensive social and professional network, but it was still a foreign country. Then one day in Prague, when it came time to put an end to vacation and board the plane for Dallas, they just couldn’t do it. The need to be home was overwhelming – a physiological necessity. Jarmila stayed and Jan went to pack up their belongings and make a new start, once again. It was however a good choice and they became very engaged in the Czech Society of Book Workers. Jan became active in municipal and local politics in matters related to small-businesses and craftsmen – the local engines of every hometown economy that make real things which actual people need, paying taxes and creating a civil society, regardless of what the big corporations and big governments might claim to be up to. It isn’t just a matter of Jan’s politics, but a picture of who he was and why he made the books he did. He was an integrated whole person and it was all about having his feet on the ground, his hands calloused, dirty and in the material world and being face to face with actual people in honest exchanges. Whether just re-binding a family Bible, repairing some children’s books with folk tales or conserving a rare medieval incunabulum or even binding brand new books made by his friend in Kalamazoo – it was all honorable work and for the good.

There are many lives that Jan has touched, but I can speak best of my own experience. Many of you will remember the 1995 50 x 25 book show in Dallas, in which 25 invited Guild members participated and bound my books. Jan had a generous catalog published; the show was then circulated and eventually sold into a public collection. That resulted in my first brush with financial security. A decade later we did a similar show together, which was exhibited at the National Museum in Prague and then Pilsen. These events don’t happen accidentally. They are orchestrated over years. They are rare. They are major inflections in the life of an artist. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Jan, but I am hardly the only one.

Catalog to 50 x 25

Jan died in his sleep – just closed up shop one evening and went to bed for the last time, leaving behind piles of books in various stages of completion. The night he died, I got up at 3 AM to collate and package a new book to send him – presuming that Jan being Jan, he would jump at more work. Retirement is after all for sissies. His feet may hurt; his blood sugar levels may be sky high; major pieces of his plumbing may have gone AWOL; but he’s only 73! It’s Jan here - the indefatigable boundless font of energy – Jan Sobota! I was also composing a colophon in which I mentioned him and how important the living links to traditional handcrafts are, when I began noticing that; of the paper-makers, binders, lithographers, tanners, typesetters and printmakers I was acknowledging, most were dead - perhaps noticed it as Jan himself was passing from this earthly plane.

The old ways pass and we who maintain vestiges of that knowledge carry a large burden in the shadow of mass-produced consumer culture. We are the guardians of that which cannot be falsified or mass-produced. What we do carries the impress of human hands and communicates the loving care with which it was made. It has far more to do with your grandmother’s cookies than any industrial product. The products of this handwork are like the tools in Jan’s shop, worn and covered with the marks of honor that years of continual use inevitably bring. Tools are to be used. Cookies are to be eaten. Books are to be read.

Jan was among those guardians of the human patrimony who gave others the courage to stay the course. Our fellow citizens will eventually want that which we care-take and we must keep it alive until they realize they need it. Jan breathed a lot of life back into his calling – gave back at least what he was given by making that moral choice to be loyal to his aesthetic values. He’d save an old bindery from the scrap and antique dealers in order to redistribute the tools among those who’d honor the masters by using them – by cutting down the shaft of a burin to fit the unique needs of one’s own hand, perhaps re-temper the steel to better cut contemporary materials.

Jan and I began our binding collaborations with a series of Moravian folk tales collected by my grandfather – humorous tales about the activity of the Devil in the lives of simple villagers in the sticks – something like a Czech version of the Devil and Daniel Webster. It is deceptive material and contains a great deal of wisdom, informed by generations of inherited shared experience; the universal consciousness reflected in folkways. To illustrate it oneself and then to print it by hand in Czech and bind it in full leather with a nice slipcase is hardly a savvy business decision and yet I find it hard to imagine a more fitting thing to inherit and value beyond all money. Things made with that level of integrity are a joy to hold and to use.

It is the role of age to be reflective as friends and colleagues wink out one by one - to reflect on the meaning of death. What values from the past is it worth maintaining and which battle is no more than a pointless struggle against an unstoppable rising tide? I don't feel very adequate to the role of guardian of the values and skills of the past and yet I suppose I am becoming the living expert in some aspects of a few of these arcane skills. In this I’ll take my example from Jan Sobota by being a living breathing example and simply do what I do well, each piece warm and worn from the touch of my hand before I release it to the world and pass it on over to another.

Jan Sobota’s death is a meaningful punctuation point, because his life was lived meaningfully. He made modest art of human dimensions calling to be touched – exceptionally crafted and informed by a lifetime of profoundly humanistic experience. With each such death the baton is passed once more to the gimpy and crippled to run the rest of the race for those who no longer can.

Vladimír Škutin, Marie Jose Sacre, ill., Kde Bydlí Cas (Where Time Lives), 1985
From the Guild of Book Workers' 100th anniversary exhibit held in 2006.

Rest easy my friend.

Remembered I had this image of me in my youth with one of Jan's bindings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Concave Spine and Bill Anthony

This is being reposted from the Book_Arts-L listserv at <;5c8db0f0.1202> due to the strong interest in this structure and questions about its history. The concave spine discussion can be followed at <>.

Friends and Colleagues,

 In 1971, Bill Anthony and I produced an experimental binding with a reverse-round, now known as the "concave spine". Our example of this interesting binding structure had been lost for many years following Bill's untimely death in 1989. The book was recently found and is again part of the Univ. of Iowa's important collection of bookbinding models (see below). Gary Frost, conservator emeritus pointed out this special binding during my recent visit to the campus.

The reverse round / concave spine binding was made in 1971 shortly after Bill had seen the famous BOOK OF KELLS during his trip back home. Bill described how that important Irish manuscript had been rebound by Roger Powell and that when the book is being exhibited at Trinity College Dublin, the spine is supported with a wooden dowel. I recall that Bill and I discussed "why do we bind books with a convex spine, when the structure will undoubtedly reverse to a concave spine when opened". To help answer that question, we bound a book with a reverse-round.

 I was glad to see that binding again after all these years. One can easily understand that there is no movement of the spine, yet the pages open freely. In recent years other binders have experimented with this unique idea, the concave spine.

 Historical Models at the University of Iowa: While Bill was the book conservator at the University of Iowa in the 1980's, he and his students produced numerous examples of early bindings as well as a few experimental bindings. Over the years more bindings have been added to this important collection. Pictures of those bindings are available at the following website:

"Treatment Report" -- sheet from 1971 detailing the "Reverse (Concave) Spine" binding: note that contact cement was used to secure vellum to the sides of the covers.

Two pieces of wood were used to make the "normal" spine.

Opening with minimal strain, actually no strain, to the binding structure.

Bill Minter
Originally posted to Book_Arts-L at  ><;5c8db0f0.1202>.

Addendum [Posted 3/11/2012]

Bookbinding Colleagues,
A few weeks ago, I shared some information about an unusual, reverse-round binding that had been lost and was recently found. Upon looking in my files, I found some further details that may be of interest, especially regarding the swelling from the sewing:

Binding a Book with a Reverse-Round, aka Concave Spine

In the early 1970s, during my apprenticeship with Bill Anthony, he was telling me about the BOOK OF KELLS, an 8th century Irish manuscript that he had seen during a visit to his homeland. Roger Powell had restored that great Irish national treasure in the 1950s. When this book is exhibited to show the magnificent illuminations, a wooden dowel is inserted under the spine to support the sewing. Bill went on to describe the stress that a binding encounters as a book is opened and how the spine moves from a convex shape to the concave. Then there was the inevitable question:   "Why do we force a book to do that?" He further explained the swelling that is created by the sewing thread, and how we, obviously, manage that swelling by rounding a book with the convex shape. We wondered what would happen if the book were bound with the concave-shape "built-in". Obviously, the concave shape is readily seen on many well-used, flat-spine books, such as thick telephone books.

In order to learn more, we prepared an old discarded textblock by sewing it on linen tapes. After gluing up the spine, we reversed the round to accommodate the swelling, thus producing a concave spine. Since we were thinking that the book should look "normal", we prepared a piece of wood --- #1 pine (without knots) from the local carpenter, as I recall -- to fit the concave shape; the linen tapes were then wrapped around the wood. Then another piece of wood was shaped for a normal spine, but this wood was wider to allow a normal shoulder to accommodate the boards. The binding was quarter-leather with vellum sides --- note here we experimented further by attaching the vellum with contact cement which is certainly not a standard bookbinder's adhesive. The true beauty of the binding was obvious upon opening. The book functioned magnificently with no stress or strain while the pages opened fairly flat and the gutter margin was easily viewed. The binding verged on being absolutely perfect and a dream to behold.

Sadly, Bill died on February 8, 1989. This one and only "reverse-round" binding was then thought to be lost because it was not in Bill's binding collection. Only recently was the book found and it is again part of Bill's collection of historic binding structures now available at the University of Iowa. These and many more historic bindings can be viewed at the University of Iowa website:

As we know, James Brockman has furthered the development of this interesting and unique structure --- a brief description is available at The concave spine binding is a structure that deserves further investigation for that special book or perhaps for all books, if that were possible.

Bill Minter

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Bonefolder on Bookbinding Now, Susan Mills' bi-weekly podcast series

A Conversation about the Bonefolder hosted by Miriam Schaer

The Bonefolder, an open-access online journal founded in 2004, ceased publication in January 2012. Founder and publisher Peter Verheyen and long-time editor Karen Hanmer comment. Miriam Schaer guest-hosts. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Postscript to The Bonefolder

In the days since the last issue of The Bonefolder, Vol 8, 2012, many readers have shared their thoughts and regrets on Book_Arts-L, Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. Please know that this was a very difficult decision, one not made lightly.

Gary Frost wrote in the January 13th post of his Futureofthebook blog:
"We now have the last issue of Bonefolder and it is a wonderful example of the series. This journal has provided an Ellis island of all the cultures that would make-up a nation. The relations of the diversity of features would still be difficult to chart as it required the whole sequence even to appreciate their scope. It is larger than book arts. The scope is closer to the qualities of physical books as depicted on-line.
Qualities of physical books depicted on-line is some kind of editorial paradox but the staff and Peter grappled directly with the challenges. The clean design and attractive two-column layout provided the perfect, conflicted, visual experience. We can also be appreciative of the energy and production of the authors.
Bonefolder is in the league of Fine Print and BookWays but it also enlarged the legacy. Now the momentum is handed off to the forthcoming journal of the Collegiate Book Arts Association. That larger organization will probably take more possession of its journal. Perhaps it will wish to take possession of the discipline of artists’ use of book formats. PDF?"
A day later Betty Bright wrote on Book_Arts-L:
"Let me add my congratulations to Peter and his able collaborators who have brought us Bonefolder since 2004. When writing or speaking about the history of our field, I always note Peter's key role in launching this listserv in 1994, followed by our first online journal in 2004. It isn't just that Bonefolder added a well-edited voice to the field, it's that Peter demonstrated how to do it, and how to do it in an elegant design and with an even-handed editorial voice that will inspire others to step up. With its free residence on the Internet, we have grown used to the amazing fact that each edition appears simultaneously everywhere and open to everyone. That is powerful work for the greater good. Peter and his collaborators have set a high bar, but we wouldn't want it any other way.
Vision and action, much energy and a quality product, that's service to the field of a high order. We owe you much, Peter and colleagues, and I know that Bonefolder will continue to inform us as we move forward and refer back to articles, reviews and interviews that have filled its pages.
Kudos all around, Betty"
To both (and all others out there), thank you for your thoughts regarding The Bonefolder and kudos to Gary for recognizing the conflicted nature of the publication, that of describing the physical book in a very disembodied way online.

As to the future. I very much hope that something else comes along that will build upon The Bonefolder and (hopefully) take the idea in other as of yet undiscovered or unimagined directions. When we started 8 years ago, the very idea of open access was still relatively new and discussion mostly limited to the academy and scholarly publishing circles. Those journals in the book arts that existed were print only and either restricted to the membership of the organizations that sponsored them, or available for subscription at cost as in the case of the Journal of Artist's Books. Lest we be seen as skinflints out for a free ride, all those working on The Bonefolder were (and still are) members of many of these organizations and/or subscribers, and are not opposed to paying for these.

However we were also very attracted to the idea of a freely accessible online journal with universal access to all classes of readers. Since we started,  some centers and organizations have started online journals, but none open access - The Bonefolder remained the only one of its kind.

Another unique aspect of The Bonefolder was to actively engage with our readers through our Bind-O-Rama. These showcased techniques or other aspects of our publication and invited exploration, the results being shown in the following issue and online. While The Bonefolder may be no more, the Bind-O-Rama will continue on as a part of the Book Arts Web. I'll announce the theme later this spring, but expect something traditional and codex-like...

However, to Gary's point about College Book Arts Association (CBAA) or other fine organizations with membership oriented publications filling this void, I don't see that happening. What set the Bonefolder apart was that from the outset it was designed to be open access and freely available to any and all online. It was the online only nature that allowed us to reach the audience we did with over 250,000 downloads over our 8 years, and a presence in just about every library's catalog through our participation in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). I may be a librarian/geek in this respect, but the results speak for themselves and will ensure that The Bonefolder remains available beyond us thanks to participation in digital preservation initiatives such as LOCKSS.

Membership publications are highly unlikely to provide this level of access for obvious reasons that have to do with their being benefits of membership. While the support of an organization can have sustaining benefits for a publication (and I agree with Gary on this point), it can also restrict activities and responsiveness due to organizational structure and bureaucracy that ultimately make it difficult to respond to paradigm shifts, especially in fields as traditional as the book arts. Looking at the online presence of most membership organizations (not just in the book arts) does not encourage me with lackluster results in keeping things up-to-date much less actively promoting the organization and its activities. I see this on Book_Arts-L, after 18 years still the most active list by far (someone please create the next great thing to replace it so I can retire ;-) ) and elsewhere online. Doing this work I get how ongoing care and feeding can fall off the radar, it is hard work and and never ends, but it is essential for growing and maintaining ones audience.

I'd love to be wrong about all this and challenge any of the membership organizations, or a dedicated and diverse group of individuals to take up the challenge of a serious open access publication in this discipline. To those energetic enough to try to create their own open access I am happy to share of our experiences.

The past 8 years have been amazing and we are thankful for the terrific support we have had from our readers and authors with whom we would have achieved nothing.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bonefolder — Volume 8, 2012

Publisher’s Note

On January 13 we release Volume 8, 2012, the largest (and regrettably last) issue of The Bonefolder. What started as an experiment in open-access online-only publishing “way back” in 2004 grew into perhaps the most widely read publication in the book arts with over a quarter million downloads for all issues combined since we began with a global readership. Listing of the The Bonefolder in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) placed us in just about every research library’s online catalog, and participation in LOCKSS will ensure long-term access to all issues (as do  Syracuse University Library’s and the Internet Archive’s servers). This growth, however, also brought with it ever increasing workloads for the small and incredibly dedicated editorial staff who solicited articles, worked with authors, and much more. With the 2011 issue we switched to an annual format (something catalogers curse publishers for) in the hopes that it would allow us to streamline processes and spread the work out as it came in. Alas, that did not happen in the way we had hoped and the process became unsustainable… When we began we knew it would be a challenge, albeit a fun one inspired by other independent publications such as Fine Print and Bookways, but also membership publications such as The New Bookbinder and The Guild of Book Workers Journal.  Since we started other publications in the book arts other sprung up but ours remains the only freely accessible journal in the field. 

Looking back, I think we more than surpassed our initial goals, and while I have deep regrets about “closing the book” I feel it is far better to leave the field at the zenith when we all still have energy for other pursuits (that we all know will come) rather than forcing ourselves to continue. So, it is with an intense sense of pride that I thank all those who have worked to make this publication the success it became – Donia Conn who encouraged me to start things in 2004, Pamela Barrios, Chela Metzger and Don Rash who formed the original core, Karen Hanmer who soon joined the team, and finally Ann Carroll Kearney who was a very welcome addition with this issue.  To Samantha Quell, a long-time student of mine, our thanks for indexing our 14 issues thereby enhancing access. All of you contributed greatly to our success. Finally though, we would have not been able to exist at all if not for our authors, some established, some new, who filled our issues with articles that covered the full spectrum of the book arts.

To all thank you!

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Table of contents:

  • Publisher’s Note
  • Evolution of an Artist’s Book – Sarah Bryant
  • John DePol Digital Archive at The University of Alabama – Amanda Haldy, Sara Parkel, & Dan Albertson
  • Reinventing the Flag Book – Jeff Tong
  • Bookbinding in Estonia – Illu Erma, translated by Silja Oja
  • Modern Portuguese Bookbindings – Sam Ellenport
  • A Tale of Two Boards: A Study of A Bookbinding – Sidney F. Huttner
  • Book Conservation at West Dean College – Abigail Uhteg
  • “How Do I Make It Stick?” Adhesives For Use In Conservation and Book Arts – Tish Brewer
  • A Bookbinder’s Gamble – Gavin Dovey
  • Reliquary for a Book – Florian Wolper
  • Towards practice: The Art of Bookbinding Used to Instill Craft in Graphic Design – Law Alsobrook
  • Durante and Wallace-Crabbe: LIMES – Perle Besserman
  • Of the Bookbinder (London, 1761)
  • Bind-O-Rama 2011– Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet
  • Book Reviews
    • Abbott, Kathy. Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide. Review by Anna Embree
    • Banik, Gerhard and Brückle, Irene. Paper and Water: A Guide for Conservators.
      Review by Abigail Uhteg
    • Marks, PJM. Beautiful Bookbindings, A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art. Review by Beth Doyle.
    • Miller, Julia. Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Review by Chela Metzger
    • Minsky, Richard. The Book Art of Richard Minsky. Review by Miriam Schaer
    • Starling, Belinda. The Journal of Dora Damage. Review by John Nove
    • Wallace, Eileen. Masters: Book Arts. Review by Jules Siegel
The Bonefolder (online) ISSN 1555-6565

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beautiful Bookbindings, A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art

PJM Marks. Beautiful Bookbindings, A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art. New Castle & London : Oak Knoll Press & The British Library 2011. ISBN 9781584562931. 190 pp. $49.95.

Reviewed by Beth Doyle

Beautiful Bookbindings is a collection of bindings selected by the staff of the British Library primarily to “please the eye.”[1] The introduction includes a brief history of the book, illustrations of book anatomy and explanations of the economic and design influences that changed the way books were made over the centuries. The bindings are presented chronologically in six chapters starting with pre-16th Century and continue through the 20th Century. Additionally there are several “special themes” that highlight furniture, embroidered bindings, painted edges, and other notable binding details.

The history of bookbinding is a vast and complicated one that spans the globe through many centuries. Beautiful Bookbindings focuses primarily on the Western tradition although the author does acknowledge, and the book briefly highlights, bindings from non-European geographies. There are prime examples of Persian lacquer bindings [2] , Indian pothi [3] , Chinese red lacquer bindings [4] , and traditional North African bindings [5] that give the reader at least a minimal understanding of what books from non-European countries might look like.

Each binding is accompanied by a short text describing what makes it special, how a specific binding was produced, or who may have commissioned or used such a book. It highlights well-known designers and artisans including William Morris [6] , Francis Sangorski [7] , Philip Smith [8] and Alice Morse [9] but also shows work from lesser-known binders. Many of the early bindings represented here are Christian texts and the author accurately describes the religious symbols found on the covers, something that is remarkably missed in many publications. But you would expect this level of breadth and accuracy from a British Library publication.

The bibliographic notes on each page are sparse, listing only the place of publication, size and a brief citation with more descriptive titles and footnotes listed by page number at the back of the book. Be sure to place a bookmark at the “Notes and Further Reading” section so you can flip back and forth to figure out exactly what you are looking at. It may also be helpful to have the British Library’s online catalog open if you are interested in finding additional bibliographic information.

When presenting artwork or fine craft it is important that the design and production aids the close study of the subject. Each binding in this book is expertly and beautifully photographed and presented in a way that you can clearly see very fine details. The explanatory text, however, is fairly small so grab your reading glasses if you want to do more than simply look at the pictures. The binding itself is made with a high quality paper and sewn, not adhesive bound, so it should hold up to many readings.

By the author’s own admission, beauty is an individual assessment, “but who can deny the visual and tactile appeal of a beautifully bound book?” [10] If you are interested in the history of the book, or if you simply love exquisitely made objects that are beautifully presented, you won’t be disappointed with this purchase.

Beth Doyle is the Head of Conservation Services Department at Duke University Libraries. She holds a B.A. in Photography from the University of Dayton, and an MLIS and Certificate of Advanced Study in Library and Archives Conservation from the University of Texas at Austin Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

[1] introduction (pg. 17)
[2] pg. 65
[3] pg. 23
[4] pg. 96
[5] pg. 24
[6] pg. 141
[7] pg. 154
[8] pg. 178
[9] pg. 144
[10] introduction (pg. 8)