Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome to the 2011 Bind-O-Rama

The Bonefolder's annual online exhibition.

Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet

We are pleased to present Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet, the 2011 Bonefolder Bind-O-Rama. This online exhibited was inspired by the tenets of the Tomorrow’s Past (TP) movement that seeks to provide antiquarian books with new, conservationally sound yet innovative bindings. The UK-based movement has its roots 1999 with Sün Evrard and was in part inspired by the late Edgar Mansfield who wrote that “surely it is better to create tomorrow’s past than to repeat today’s.” As British binder Jen Lindsay wrote in 2007, “Why go on making books based on Then – copying outdated methods and conventions, instead of making books based on Now – applying current knowledge and practice with a modern sensibility.”

TP member Kathy Abbott, a binder and conservator acknowledges that the work of TP has created quite a bit of controversy: some book conservators think we are imposing our will onto the books and think we should be more invisible; book restorers think that we should be making bindings which imitate the period of which the book was printed and book artists seem to like our structures but see us as a bit ‘staid’. This Bind-O-Rama created similar controversy in the US perhaps due to a misunderstanding of both the outcomes and on a deeper level of conservation ethics which as expressed consider every book to be rebound or treated as a cultural heritage artifact. This latter conflict was discussed at length in Barbara Appelbaum’s paper that was presented at the 2011 American Institute of Conservation meeting and entitled Conservation in the 21th Century; Will a 20th Century Code of Ethics Suffice?

While many books are most certainly cultural heritage artifacts either as objects themselves or as part of the collection that holds them, many, the majority perhaps are use objects that have seen a great deal of handling and exhibit their age and provenance through the wear that is exhibited by their deterioration of materials and structure. It is these objects that TP seeks to give new life and a renewed significance whether for collectors or antiquarians. Conservation principles of doing no harm, reversibility (or as expressed by James Reid-Cunningham, conservator at the Boston Athenaeum retreatability) expressed by the use of proven materials with long-term stability, sound structure, and a skillful and respectful expression of craft married to innovation in structure and design. It is the latter which seems to touch the most sensitive nerve with concerns about “appropriateness.” Conservator Chela Metzger writes, “most conservation treatment discusses “appropriateness” or even used the word sympathy when describing a treatment goal. The original old part must meet and mingle with a “non original” new part. The meeting and the mingling must work well at every level. But this appropriateness and sympathy are hard to sum up. Appropriate to the text subject matter? Appropriate for the text paper qualities? Appropriate to the text time period? Appropriate for the owner of the text at the time of the binding?”

As Abbott says, “why can’t we make really, sound, conservation bindings, with a bit of structural ingenuity and a sensitive aesthetic too?” This theme was also echoed in a side-discussion at the Guild of Book Workers 2011 Standards of Excellence Seminar. That discussion featured several conservators and binders working in the US, both with cultural heritage collections and as binders in general. <>.

While the response to this Bind-O-Rama was lower than we hoped, we were very pleased to see conservators and binders take up the challenge. In reviewing the entries we asked “what treatments would disqualify entries from this exhibit? Ones that immediately strike one as hurtful to the text. Ones that do not use stable materials? Ones that require damaging the text to remove it from the new binding. Fortunately we found no evidence that disqualified entries, however we do encourage those interested to see that it is not about traditional “design bindings” or “restoration” but sympathetically innovative conservationally sound bindings.

We hope that binders and conservators will adhere to the highest standards of conservation materials and structure while keeping an open mind and willingness to consider the aesthetic and structural options for rebinding. A large part of that will be an ongoing civil dialog in which conservators continue to stress and share their best practices, and that we all pragmatically consider the options for rebinding a given book in full consideration of its value and historic significance whatever that may (or may not) be. Writes Abbott, “I do hope that in the future, books bound in this way will be as accepted as every other binding style,” and “I think it could become the most exciting and challenging concept that has come out of the world of bookbinding for a long time.”

Comments by Kathy Abbott of Tomorrow's Past and The Bonefolder editorial staff.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bound for Glory, the Book Artistry of Richard Minsky

A review by Miriam Schaer

Richard Minsky, foreword by Betty Bright. The Book Art of Richard Minsky, George Braziller, Inc., NY 2011. ISBN 10: 0807616060; ISBN 13: 9780807616062 (hardcover), 136pp, $34.95

It’s no exaggeration to say that Richard Minsky’s bindery is also his soapbox. Across a nearly half-century career, and counting, Minsky has produced a steady flow of bound volumes infused with anger, wit and passion. Expertly crafted, they transform workmanship into artistry by the ideas they embody and the propulsive energy of their maker.

Along the way, Minsky also became Johnny Appleseed to a growing community of people and organizations devoted to book arts, a term Minsky, himself, is credited with coining. In 1974, he founded the non-profit Center for Book Arts in New York, an organization of which (full disclosure) I am a long-time member, and the model for many other centers for the arts of the book.

A natural evangelist, Minsky has taught book art classes, curated book art exhibits, exhibited his own book arts, contributed to book art scholarship, challenged art world orthodoxies, outraged traditionalists, and founded (online) a Book Art Museum. The Book Art of Richard Minsky arrives as a timely, handsome, well-deserved retrospective of his most interesting, most photogenic works.

The Bound and the Beautiful

Book Art in America author Betty Bright sets the stage with a crisp introduction and clarifies the distinction between “art books” and “book arts” which, after Minsky, should nevermore be confused. Following Bright, Minsky himself takes over as tour guide to the Minsky oeuvre. A long section engagingly recounts his early years before tapering off into short takes on individual projects, most notably The Bill of Rights. Notes on additional works follow, anticlimactically ending with a CV.

Completed in the shadow of 9/11 and the ensuing threats to civil liberties, Minsky’s The Bill of Rights consists of 10 volumes, one for each of the first 10 amendments to the constitution. The work’s overall tenor can be seen in its treatment of the Second Amendment, concerning the right to bear arms. The amendment is represented by a Minsky-bound edition of Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat by Morris Dees and James Corcoran, its cover enhanced by such interior quotes as “America is quickly moving into a long dark night of police state tyranny.” Other amendments are similarly treated. The series is angry and impassioned.

Members of the Center for Book Arts will be familiar with pieces of the Minsky saga, as it’s long been absorbed into the Center’s creation myth: his boyhood in Queens, his discovery of letterpress printing in junior high, the death of both parents at early ages, his close relationships with his grandmother and sister. All this had an enormous impact on Minsky, and imprinted on him the importance of living at full throttle.

Other parts of the story will be less familiar: how he studied fencing and sang in the Brooklyn College choir, loved music and dance, applied for a job at the CIA to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam (hey, it was the Sixties), graduated with an economics degree, withdrew his CIA application, and transferred to Brown University to begin graduate studies in economics. (Believe me, this is not how most people become book artists.)

At Brown, he discovered the university bookbinder and bindery, which he duplicated in his tiny dorm room. The romance was on. Economics became a girlfriend left behind. But not entirely, and Minsky acquired an MA in the subject before transferring, under scholarship, to the New School in Manhattan, where he credits Prof. Horace Kallen’s Philosophy of Art course with changing him “from a bookbinder to a book artist.”

Weary of Nixonian America, Minsky headed to Europe in 1971. He visited master bookbinders, binderies and book conservators, and performed with a traveling folk-rock band, before returning to Queens where, with a loan from the Small Business Administration, he opened a bindery and book repair shop. His formal career had begun.

Those who have known, studied or worked with Minsky will be unable to read of these events without hearing his voice. Those newly encountering Minsky will find his voice an easy companion, and wish only there were more of what in London is referred to as the naughtier bits.

Épater la Bourgeoisie

The Minsky works that receive the most attention share a progressive sensibility and a commitment to civil rights. Volumes like Chemistry in Warfare (1993), with its gas-mask cover; George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four (2003-2006), a prescient take on the surveillance society; and The Bill of Rights, bristle like leather-bound agitprop with the metaphors of outrage. Minsky’s desire for action traces back to his family. Both parents moved in political circles. His father created The Religious News Service to promote religious tolerance, and his mother worked for the Anti Defamation League and with the League of Women Voters. Minsky, himself, performed for a time with an anti-Vietnam performance troupe.

At the time they were first exhibited, many Minsky bindings were characterized as outrageous or scandalous, but chiefly within the conservative world of bookbinders. Always interested in pushing boundaries, Minsky doesn’t seem to have thought twice about binding Thomas Pettigrew’s A History of Egyptian Mummies (1973) in linen strips, as if mummifying the book itself, without the owner’s permission. Fortunately, he loved it.

Minsky adorned The Birds of North America (1975), submitted to a Guild of Book Workers exhibition at Yale, with pheasant skin, so the first thing the reader sees is a dead bird on the cover. This reportedly caused a conservator to scream on opening the package. Looking at the book now, it’s hard to see what the fuss was about, especially in light of Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde-fueled career. Among the interesting aspects of Minsky’s work is his attraction to unorthodox materials, such as the rat skins he tanned and applied to Patti Smith’s Babel (1979), and the mystery skin covering Barton Lidicé Beneš’ The Dog Bite (1970).

Personally, I find The Geography of Hunger (1988), creepier than the rest. The edge of the binding, embedded with teeth, creates a mouth on the fore edge that makes it look as if the book could bite off one’s finger. Bits of food labels on the outer edges, make one feel the book has already chewed up a meal and is about to spit it back out.

Many Minsky books are off-the-shelf editions re-bound from his perspective. Usually strategic about the books he binds, he often selected hot-button titles and subjects along with binding materials certain to engage readers in a dialog about their content. Minsky decorated George Plimpton’s Fireworks: A History and Celebration (1992) with live fireworks and a box of matches; The Biological Time Bomb (1988) with explosives, batteries, electrical tape and a timer; and Nineteen Eighty-four with a miniature hidden video camera and embedded LED monitor so the reader sees on the cover his or her own image staring back above the warning “Big Brother is Watching You.”

Many volumes were bound deliberately to provoke or make a statement about important issues. For Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America’s Freedoms in Politics, Religion and Our Private Lives (1988), Minsky foil-stamped on Nigerian goatskin a picture of himself as a TV preacher surrounded by the flames of Hell. Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals (1988) sports a hypodermic needle, crack caps and a phosphorescent death head.

When Minsky develops a book from scratch ­ writing, illustrating and binding both the covers and their content ­ the subject is often sex. In Minsky in London (1980), the artist’s sex life shares the stage with instructions on tanning rat skins. Minsky in Bed (1988) explores the former subject further, continuing a long tradition of artists and writers who have harvested their exploits as artistic fodder, from Casanova and Henry Miller to Tracy Emin’s tent installation, Everyone I Ever Slept With 1963-1995.

Minsky’s twist was to do it in the style of incunabula. Sculpted brass knobs, called bosses, shaped as a copulating couple, protect Minsky in Bed‘s leather covers from coming in contact with any reading surface, while handcuffs chain the whole apparatus to a brass bed rail. Other Minsky projects stretch the very idea of a book. He bound Erica Jong’s Sappho’s Leap: A Novel (2003) in the form of a scroll, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Philosophy of Umbrellas (2008) as a Tyvek umbrella to commemorate the late Judith Hoffberg, editor and publisher of Umbrella, long an important resource for information about artists’ books.

At heart, however, Minsky is a traditionalist. His works include numerous traditional bindings, like the ones for Cook’s Voyages (1968) and Tom Phillips’ translation of Dante’s Inferno (1980), as well as many blank books and guest books bound in exotic leathers with Art Deco and other historically inspired cover designs. And nearly all his books use traditional codices, even when attached to a bed, an electric chair, barbed wire, or linen wrappings. The form of the codex, even if not fully intact, is almost always recognizable.

Minsky has also called attention to earlier era’s bindings with compendia like American Decorated Publishers’ Bindings 1872-1929 (3 volumes, 2006-2010) and The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930 (2010), which revived interest in a number of important book cover designers. Many were women, who were encouraged to find employment creating designs for book covers and other objects of the new industrial age, and who have otherwise been written out of the history of the decorative arts of the period. Their stories are an important addition to the history of artists’ books, and publishing.

The Book Art of Richard Minsky deserves a place on every book arts shelf. It brings us up to date with, and up close to, the career, still active, of an essential book artist. The photographs are clear, bright, inclusive and abundant. Minsky’s vision is no less.

Miriam Schaer ( is a practicing book artist based in Brooklyn, New York, and a Lecturer in the Interdisciplinary MFA Program in Book and Paper at Columbia College Chicago. She can be contacted at

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Journal of Dora Damage

Belinda Starling. The Journal of Dora Damage. London: Bloomsbury, 2007. 464 pages. ISBN 1596913363. Out of print but available.

Reviewed by John Nove

[In light of recent conversations on Book_Arts-L about anthropodermic bibliopegy a sneak-peak at a review to be published in the upcoming issue of The Bonefolder – in production now. To read the thread, click on the link and the "view by topic..." ]

 A chance meeting with an English woman over dinner on a remote Scottish isle last summer led to the mention of her friend Belinda Starling, recently deceased, who was the author of a novel that, as a bookbinder, she was sure I’d find interesting. No other details were shared, but a week after she left the island a parcel arrived via the Royal Mail containing the paperback version of The Journal of Dora Damage. The several blurbs on the back cover included one from the French women’s magazine Marie Claire (“a riveting tale of bookbinding and Victorian pornography”) and another from The Guardian which proclaimed the book a “scrupulously researched racy tale”.

I immediately began reading it and was transported into the Lambeth district of London in the mid-19th century with all its bleakness, despair and poverty – a very Dickensian setting whose sights, smells and tastes Starling expertly captured. The story’s narrator is twenty-something Dora Damage, a binder’s daughter, then binder’s wife, who sets out to support her severely arthritic husband Peter and their epileptic young daughter Lucinda by taking over the family business at a time when women were seldom permitted to perform other than menial bindery tasks (=sewing). Her options are few – make an attempt at successfully running the bindery or debtors’ prison for the entire family. So with her husband’s verbal guidance and the forwarding assistance of his young apprentice she sets out to resurrect Damages Bindery under the disapproving gaze of her neighbors.

Salvation appears in the form of Sir Jocelyn Knightly, an Africa explorer, physician, bibliophile and exoticist. Attracted by her unusual tooling and choice of cover materials, Knightly and his group of friends, the Noble Savages, likely modeled after Sir Richard Burton and his Kama Shastra Society, begin to provide commissions – along with morphine for Peter, an experimental therapy for Lucinda, and for Dora, entry into an unimagined netherworld of Victorian smut. Courtesy of Lady Knightly, Dora is also sent Din, a freed slave from Virginia, to become her apprentice (and she his!) after Peter dies.

The novel plunges deeper and deeper into the realms of vice, racism and pornography while providing what seem to be accurate details of the day-to-day operation of her bindery and the local tanneries. Dora finally draws the line at the degree of depravity to which she is willing to close her eyes. (For me the line would have been drawn sooner –some of the material in this book, based on well-researched Victorian predilections, is strong stuff.) With all the information she has, however, and the police closing in on their ‘business’, the Savages declare her expendable, and as a fitting termination to their relationship kidnap her and tattoo their logo onto her buttocks, planning to eventually use her skin (vegetable-tanned, we assume) on yet another one of their nefarious volumes. (“The perfect quarto, you said? Mrs. Damage’s arse, I’m afraid, will cover little more than an octavo, and a crown octavo at that.”)

Good finally prevails, as it usually does in these Victorian novels – and their Masterpiece Theatre versions. Dora, Lucinda (now free of epilepsy), and Mrs. Knightly and her newborn half-black son move off to Gravesend as a family. Dora then uses some of newly-acquired wealth to create a support organization for women binders that by 1917 evolves into the Society of Women in the Bookbinding and Printing Trades.

In recent years I’ve seldom devoured a book as voraciously as I did this one. Its depiction of Victorian bindery life, together with its intrigue and malignant darkness – overshadowed by the fortitude of Dora herself – lead me not only to recommend it strongly but to also suggest that it might make an ideal (if somewhat unusual) ‘set book’ for a binding competition.

John Nove is a bookbinder working for private and institutional clients in western Massachusetts. He graduated from the North Bennet Street School and opened the Grey Seal Bindery, named to honor the selkies he hears singing from his summer cottage on the Scottish island of Papa Westray in Orkney. He can be reached at <>.

Of the Bookbinder, 1761

 (From The Parent’s and Guardian’s Directory, and The Youth’s Guide in the Choice of a Profession or Trade by Joseph Collyer, Esq.,  London, 1761)

Discovered and submitted to The Bonefolder by John Nove.

The Bookbinder’s Workshop from Diderot & D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, France, 1751 and 1766

Of this business there are several sorts, as the calves leather binder, the vellum, and the sheep’s leather binder.

The boy intended to be a calves leather binder, ought to be both strong and pretty ingenious in order to become perfect master of the several branches of the art of binding books in calf. But no extraordinary education is necessary; reading, writing, and a little arithmetic being sufficient. This trade requires strength to beat the sheets smooth with a heavy hammer, and ingenuity in gilding and neatly lettering the back, as well as in beautifully marbling the edges of the leaves; but this last is part of the art known to few of the trade, and those make an extraordinary advantage of it.

Was willst du Werden?: Bilder aus dem Handwerkerleben. Berlin: Winckelmann + Söhne,1880.
Complete book, 16 images online here.

The vellum binder is chiefly employed in binding shop books in vellum or parchment; he also rules paper for the account-books. His is the most profitable branch of binding both for the master and journeyman.

The binder in sheep is chiefly employed in binding of school books, and little books in gilt paper for children and requires no genius. 

The calves leather binder may set up a master with about 50 l. and his journeymen have seldom more than 12 s. a week, except they are very curious and uncommon hands, and are employed by a master distinguished by the neatness of his work. The vellum binder may become master with even less money; or get 15 or 18 s.a week working as a journeyman. The sheep binder may begin trade for himself with about 30 l. but the journeyman can can seldom earn more than 10 s. a week. All these branches take about 10 l. with an apprentice.

John Nove is a bookbinder working for private and institutional clients in western Massachusetts. He graduated from the North Bennet Street School and opened the Grey Seal Bindery, named to honor the selkies he hears singing from his summer cottage on the Scottish island of Papa Westray in Orkney. He can be reached at <>.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Discussion of Tomorrow's Past at the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar, 2011

Welcome to this discussion of the issues surrounding the Tomorrow's Past movement and the Bonefolder's Bind-O-Rama 2011 - Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet in which we invited binders and conservators to explore the movement's tenets of providing new, conservationally sound clothes to old books. For more context please see the article in The Bonefolder, Vol 7, by Charles Gledhill, the Tomorrow's Past web pages, and this post at the Riverlark blog entitled Old wine in new bottles.

This discussion on Friday, October 7 was organized by Karen Hanmer, bookbinder and book artist from Chicago, to take advantage of the presence of many interested parties at the Guild of Book Workers annual Standards of Excellence Seminar being held at Boston's Park Plaza Hotel. The discussion was started by Karen who (re)introduced Tomorrow's Past, and the concerns that were being voiced by some about its ethical implications. These concepts were also discussed by Barbara Appelbaum in her paper from the 2011 AIC annual meeting entitled Conservation in the 21th Century; Will a 20th Century Code of Ethics Suffice?

Also present were: Eric Alstrom, collections conservator at Michigan State University Library; Anna Embree of the Book Arts Program at the University of Alabama; Deborah Howe, collections conservator at Darmouth College Library; Chela Metzger, senior conservator of library collections at the Winterthur Museum; Suzy Morgan, conservator in private practice via Skype from Chicago; Nancy Nitzberg,  conservator in private practice in the Philadelphia area; James Reid_Cunningham, conservator at the Boston Athenaeum; Peter Verheyen, head of conservation and preservation at Syracuse University Library; Stephanie Wolff, conservation technician at Dartmouth College Library

These participants represent binders and conservators from variety of training and work backgrounds. We hope you will find this discussion thought provoking and welcome discussion of your comments and concerns.

Download the mp3 audio file of this discussion 

Edit 11/14/2011 Kevin Drieger on his Library Preservation 2 blog shares his thoughts continues to the discussion in a post entitled Finding the Conservator in Conservation>.
While I think the idea of the invisible conservator is impossible and wrong and should not be a goal, I also do not advocate for a conservator’s self-expression free-for-all. This issue of how much of our selves do we put in our work must always be held in thoughtful and professional tension.

The author, the binder, the seller, the conservator, and the reader are all part of the community that creates and interprets our written cultural heritage. Understanding who these various members are only helps deepen our understanding of this heritage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Entry Form for Bind-O-Rama 2011 - Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet

Welcome to the SUBMISSION / ENTRY form for the 2011 Bonefolder Bind-O-Rama that demonstrates the intersection of conservation and the art of the book. We challenged binders and conservators to think about their work in different ways and to create compelling new work that applies “non-destructive and completely reversible book structures.” Since 2003, the Tomorrow’s Past movement (See The Bonefolder, Vol. 7, 2011) has led the way with work that demonstrates a high regard for the integrity of the original object, the application of current conservation best practices, and an innovative interpretation of book structure and aesthetics resulting in work that is lasting and fresh.

The integrity of the original is a key value of this movement, and stresses that books are not rebound or interpreted simply for the sake of doing so. Books of significance as artifacts with key elements of the binding in treatable condition or requiring simpler treatments are not appropriate candidates for this kind of treatment. Suitable books would be those that may have boards or other elements missing, have been previously repaired/rebound and showing the negative effects of those treatments, or whose original structures may have caused the breakdown of the binding in the first place. All treatments completed for this Bind-O-Rama must conform to current best practices in conservation, be reversible, and ultimately “do no harm.” This is NOT an altered book event. In contrast to past Bind-O-Ramas this event will be juried by the members of The Bonefolder’s board who are themselves trained conservators and active in the field. Kathy Abbott, a member of the Tomorrow’s Past movement will also participate as juror.

Images must be sent to as separate attachments. Included must be at least two, no more than 5 images of treatment including before, in-process, and completed. Specifications: Minimum 640 x 480 pixels @ 72dpi, jpg file format of your book. Files must be named as binder's name-1.jpg... (e.g. verheyen-1.jpg, verheyen-2.jpg)

Full details with images illustrating the process can be found at

Additional examples can be found by Suzy Morgan, Gaylord Intern in the Conservation Lab at Syracuse University Library. In her posts she discusses the book she treated and some of the "ethical" questions. Take a look at these links: and

Another example is the work of James Reid-Cunningham, conservator at the Boston Athenaeum. His treatment is at

Karen Hanmer's example is at

IF you have conceptual questions about what this is about, please do not be afraid to ask by sending an email to

Friday, August 12, 2011

Index to The Bonefolder, Volumes 1 - 7, 2004 - 2011 now online

An index to Volumes 1 - 7, 2004 - 2011 is now online at the main Bonefolder website.The index is due to the efforts of Samantha Quell, longtime Bonefolder reader and currently a student in the MLS program at the State University of New York at Buffalo.Thank you Samanatha!

Click cover to read.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide

Kathy Abbott. Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide. Ramsbury: Crowood Press, 2010. 10.2 x 8.5 inches. 160pp. ISBN-13: 978-1847971531 (hardcover) $29.95.

Reviewed by Anna Embree

Kathy Abbott's book Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide is a well organized, clearly written manual on bookbinding that fills a much needed gap in the literature that is currently available to book binders about the tools and techniques of the craft. There are certainly flaws in this guide, as there are in every such guide, and it must be noted that this book may be particularly useful for more experienced binders and bookbinding instructors rather than beginners. However, the detailed instructions Abbott provides, coupled with clear photographs and diagrams make this a potentially useful bench manual and a valuable resource.

The book is divided into four chapters containing introductory information about materials, tools and supplies, and nine project descriptions. An appendix provides supplementary information, a glossary and a list of suppliers. In the chapter on materials and tools, the author clearly describes the equipment and supplies needed to outfit a functional bindery. She provides photographs of the items and an explanation of the ways each tool is used.

The chapters containing descriptions of projects are also laid out in a very logical format with step-by-step instructions and additional information about history and practice. The numbered instructions are coded in red to indicate an accompanying photograph, and this little key is very helpful for staying on track with the text. Also provided are boxes with supplemental text that give background information about the techniques that are described.

Despite the careful consideration put into the layout of this book and the wealth of information therein, the book suffers from the serious drawback of trying to appeal to too wide an audience. In the introduction the author asserts that the book is aimed at complete beginners, with the idea that they will be working at home. However, the beginner would be hard pressed to have a fully stocked and equipped bindery and - although she states that the tools and supplies she lists can be easily replaced with other, more available supplies - a beginner would have great difficulty doing this as they would not have the experience to know where to turn. In fact, it takes a strong understanding of procedure in order to see the best ways to make substitutions and yet attain good results. Further, the chapter on tools and materials, though very extensive, does not go far enough in explaining the importance of these items to the craft. For example, the section on grain direction clearly illustrates how grain can be determined in various materials but says very little about why grain direction is so important, both in the construction process and in a finished book.

Most of the projects in this book are also not really at the level of an absolute beginner. Many of the techniques covered in the projects would be difficult for someone absolutely new to the craft to accomplish from instructions alone. Rounding and backing, for example, is a very complex topic and, especially without an understanding of, or access to the proper equipment, would be hard to execute with any degree of success. The same is true for modifying equipment for leather paring and the leather paring techniques. Further, the description of the sewing structures for the book projects may be clear only to someone with some experience. These descriptions would benefit from accompanying diagrams to provide a clearer picture of the sewing patterns.

A section on basic techniques would also be extremely useful for the reader and would improve the overall coherence of the text. Processes such as gluing out, tipping on end sheets, and adhering turn-ins are described multiple times throughout the text, and the instructions would have been easier to follow had all of the information about each of these procedures been listed in one location. In fact, the book continually addresses simple concepts with repetition but glosses over some of the more complicated techniques. While the goal may be to provide something for everyone, I fear that this may make the book less than satisfactory for binders of all levels. As a teacher I believe that repetition can be very useful for reinforcing concepts, however the repetition within the step-by-step format creates a lot of duplicate information. A section on basic techniques would allow the beginner to refer back to these directions as often as necessary without forcing the more advanced binder to read through the fundamental instructions again and again.

Regardless of the limitations of this book, it does contain a great amount of information and is a truly practical bench guide. The repetition found in the first few chapters decreases somewhat as the book progresses, and the value of the content makes up for the inconvenience of replication in the instructions. Importantly, the projects are interesting and are all grounded in traditional craft. The straightforward descriptions of techniques are an excellent resource for any binder with a solid foundation in the craft but little overall experience, and for any advanced binder interested in reviewing procedures or seeing how another binder approaches the work.

While this book may have limited use as a manual for beginners working on their own, it is an ideal resource for the classroom. Much of the difficulty a beginner might face working through this book alone, could be easily overcome with some knowledgeable assistance. One of the greatest assets of the book is the huge number photographs that accompany the text and the strong organization of these images with the step-by-step descriptions. There are very few books on bookbinding that illustrate binding techniques so clearly; and students who have seen binding demonstrations, but are not yet confident in their skills, will find this book instructional and informative. It is a huge accomplishment to put together a manual of bookbinding that covers traditional practice in such detail and with such clarity. This is a book I can confidently recommend as a solid resource for bookbinding instruction.

Anna Embree has been teaching bookbinding for the MFA in Book Arts Program since August 2003. She came to the University of Alabama from Iowa City where she was associated with the University of Iowa Center for the Book. She has worked as studio coordinator for the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and in conservation at the University of Iowa Libraries. Ms. Embree received a Bachelors degree in Art from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She received a Masters degree in Textiles and Clothing from Iowa State University in Ames, and a Graduate Certificate in Book Arts and Technologies from the University of Iowa Center for the Book. In addition to these degree programs, Ms. Embree completed a four-year apprenticeship in Bookbinding and Rare Book Conservation at the University of Iowa Libraries. She taught bookbinding at the University of Iowa from 1998–2003. Ms. Embree is active in the Guild of Book Workers and a Co-director of Paper and Book Intensive.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How do Books Speak? A critical review of Julia Miller's Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings

Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Julia Miller, The Legacy Press: Ann Arbor, MI, 2010.  511pp. Illus, with DVD. ISBN-13: 978-0-9797974-3-9 (cloth) $80.00.

A critical review by Chela Metzger

“The book is dead” is a phrase that seems to have generated a cottage industry of keynote speakers and opinion pieces over the years. Let’s leave questions of the book’s relative death or life until the end of this review. Let’s agree that both dead and living things can be carefully and lovingly described, and an accurate description may be the best way to honor a book, dead or alive. Julia Miller, conservator, binder and book historian, has undertaken an enormous task in her Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. She has championed the miles of shelves holding historic bindings in America’s research collections. She has tapped into the unique perspectives of book conservators and librarians, as well as book historians.  She has placed today’s books artists alongside the anonymous binders of years past, and she has drawn all these different groups into a continuum. She builds from this synergy, and the synergy lends her book force and weight.

Book skeleton image
Image frrom Letterology blog Monday November 29. 2010, book structure models by British Artist Sarah Mitchell

The Structure

Look through the chapter headings, and you see that the book offers what a handbook needs to offer. Miller lays out well-organized information and images that you would want by your side as a reference. As an introduction, she has four chapters of western book history, starting with the earliest codex forms in the west, and ending with the electronic book reader. She then lays out two chapters on identifying and describing historic bindings, and a final chapter entitled “The Task Ahead and Conclusions”. This final chapter is followed by three appendices offering a set of binding terms in a hierarchy form, a sample historic binding survey with a case studies, and a set of guidelines for book stack maintenance and book condition assessment. She also includes a glossary, a bibliography, an index and a DVD packed with additional images of historic binding features. Illustrations are crucial to this book. Miller has groups of full color photographs, as well as black and white photographs dispersed throughout. Some historic structures are delightfully illustrated with original drawings done by book conservator and book artist Pamela Spitzmueller. Miller has done a thorough job packing an extraordinary amount of information into a single volume (and DVD).

van Gogh “Still Life with Bible” 1885 from Wiki Commons


Certainly Miller’s book is not entirely new in subject matter, but it offers a new and useful combination of information. Others have given us heavily illustrated books on western bookbinding history, like Szirmai’s The Archeology of Medieval Bookbinding, (1999) or Jane Greenfield’s ABC of Bookbinding  (2002).  And we already have a few handbooks, which focus on dating a national binding style, like David Pearson’s English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook (2005). Arguments for including binding information in bibliographic description have already been developed by a few bibliographers, as Miriam Foot has shown in her excellent chapter on bibliography in Bookbinders at Work: Their Roles and Methods (2006).  And in his short, highly illustrated Book as History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Text (2008), Pearson has already argued passionately, as does Julia Miller, for the unique artifactual qualities of historic books in libraries. What Miller’s book does which is especially innovative is offer a set of carefully crafted tools to carry out the bookbinding documentation she has argued so passionately for.

Miller is urgent in her arguments. She wants all who can do so to add to the bookbinding description work that has already been done, and she would like people to do this work SOON. As those of us who work in research collections well know, cataloging is an enormously time consuming and intellectually demanding process.  Given time and money constraints, special collection materials are sometimes very minimally cataloged. (For more on the Council on Library and Information Resources funding to catalog these “hidden collections” see This cataloging problem makes intellectual access difficult or impossible. If these sometimes unevenly cataloged collections are moved to remote storage, an additional burden of access will be imposed. To describe a book, it is best to have the book in hand. So, Miller seems to argue, now is the necessary time to begin careful binding description projects. Her fear is that already inaccessible closed stacks will soon become even harder to access after being taken away to remote storage.  Her urgency combined with a crystal clear love for historic books drive the book forward.

"Librarian" merit badge from the Boy Scouts of America

Thinking Like a Librarian

A unique feature of Millers work is her painstaking development of controlled vocabulary for describing historic bindings. This element of her work is one of its greatest strengths, and needs to be addressed in some detail. The task of carefully describing bindings has merit in its own right, and has been done by esteemed scholars for years, though rarely on a national scale, or with a comprehensive visual documentation component. If we consider a book as a technology, and think of how other technologies, from arrowheads to wheels, are documented in archeology then we can imagine books described the same way arrowheads are described, with a controlled vocabulary developed by those who know the most about arrowheads and their gradual changes over time.

Story in Stone by Val Waldorf

Such efforts at controlled vocabulary for describing books have been part of book history for years, and Miller is careful to acknowledge this. Glaister’s 1960 Glossary of the Book is an important effort, as is of course the excellent ABC For Book Collectors by John Carter, which also came out in 1960.  Etherington and Roberts Bookbinding and Book Conservation a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology (1985?) is a reference book many of us cannot live without. There are certainly other efforts past and present being made internationally in this area, for one example see <>.

But librarians, who rightfully claim dominion over the rigorous development of controlled vocabulary for accurate information retrieval, have generated their own somewhat lesser known list of binding terms. Miller is well aware of the American Library Association Rare Books and Manuscripts Division thesaurus of binding terms. She is actively working to have specific terms she considered crucial added to their approved list so more librarians can use them in cataloging of historic bindings. For example, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section is now considering officially approving her term “visible structure through damage”(see page 4). Imagine if you could go into any rare book library, type that term into the catalog, and could accurately generate a list of every book in the collection damaged in a way that reveals the book’s manufacture and use. This is the power of controlled vocabulary used for information retrieval, and Miller is intent on harnessing that power for research.

Screen shot of capture of RBMS Binding Terms List

Miller’s own descriptive hierarchy lists terms in a way that relates them to each other and ties each “descriptor” to her own survey form. The effort put into this thesaurus and glossary in her appendix is enormous. As she says “ The author …draws on long experience as well as the work of many scholars who have suggested and compiled terms and definitions for hand-bookbinding in the past.” (p. 306). Miller’s “Historical Bindings – Structure and Style Hierarchy” is meant to help in creating and filling out her Historical Binding Survey Form, and terms are all defined in her glossary. Her efforts pay off, not just in the sheer number of terms, but in her work’s intellectual care and sophistication.

It is instructive to briefly compare Miller’s thesaurus with the RBMS thesaurus and with the Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus. (The AAT is an increasingly international resource Miller does not mention, but which aspires to be useful for library and archival materials--accessible online at

Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus

With the Getty’s AAT you see bindings and binding components classified under objects in the information context, narrowed down to gathered matter components, narrowed down to bindings. When finally further narrowed down to “binding by style or decoration” the AAT lists 26 style terms (not all are shown in the illustration above). The RBMS binding thesaurus lists 31 style terms. Miller has 141 style terms listed, and that is just for the common styles with numerous examples. She has 50 uncommon styles listed, where there were few made or few survive. AND Miller defines her terms in a glossary as well as offering a wealth of explanatory photos. Unlike Etherington and Roberts or the AAT she does not footnote individual entries so you can follow them back to a specific citation. We could quibble over what to call a style and what to call a structure and other finer points of vocabulary--but the shear numbers here speak for themselves. Miller’s thesaurus has brought together many more bookbinding terms than two of the standard hierarchies for bindings terms used in the US today.


For many conservators, using other people’s documentation forms is an enjoyable professional challenge. In some ways description and condition forms are our special form of literary production in conservation, and a good form helps the person filling it out notice the book in front of them more deeply. It was very useful to sit down and describe a real book using Miller’s “Sample Historical Binding Survey Form—Categories and Sub-Categories” in chapter 6. Her survey form is designed to be used in concert with chapter five “Identifying Binding Materials and Applications”.  Careful use of her appendix “Sample Survey Suggestions and Description Case Studies” helps the reader understand her survey rational and offers a survey designer many workflow tips. Miller moves from the outside of the book to the inside in the survey structure. She warns the reader that one size does not fit all when developing a survey, and that it is to best to first try your survey on a sample section of the collection. These suggestions, along with the form itself, make sense.

Her survey form is emphatically not meant to lead the user into poking and prodding at the book in a damaging fashion. She repeatedly cautions the reader not to assign terms to bookbinding elements they are not sure of, particularly in the case of sewing patterns and endpaper attachments. The wisdom of this is clear. The pages of diagramed endpaper types and textblock sewing styles offered in articles by Nicholas Pickwoad like "The Interpretation of Binding Structure: an Examination of Sixteenth-Century Bindings in the Ramey Collection " (in The Library, 6th series, 17 (September 1995), pp 209-249) and by Bernard Middleton in his History of English Craft Bookbinding Techniques (1963) are extremely useful and important.  But positive identification of one style or another of these often well hidden bookbinding features like sewing and endpaper construction requires more specialized training in bookbinding history than Miller is looking for here.  In her quest for basic historic binding description implemented by interested but not necessarily expert people, she has made choices about the level of binding detail to include in her survey. Some details the conservation reader might be used to seeing in a description form, such as exact collation, layers of endband structure, spine lining types and structure, composition of sewing supports, and board lacing patterns are not emphasized in Miller’s book. This is an important distinction. The survey form Miller offers is not a conservation documentation form, and serves other purposes.

Image by Yukio Miayamoto using Adobe Illustrator. From Image from, posted May 27, 2007.

Worthy Pictures

This book is replete with illustrations, and with photographs in particular. She makes excellent use of photos to explain terms in her survey form, as well as to delight the reader with interesting and beautiful examples of bookbindings. Like many photographic images meant to show technical information, there are occasional limitations. For example, while using Miller’s survey form a reader might want help in identifying the type of board used to construct the binding. Her written descriptions of pasteboard, waterleaf board and pulpboard are very good.  The fully exposed inner board face of pulpboard she uses as a photographic example clearly shows the book edge trimmings and other recycled matter she describes as commonly found in pulpboard. But on simple inspection her pulpboard and waterleaf board photos are similar enough to cause confusion.  In fact the waterleaf board photograph also seems to show the bits of paper and refuse found in the pulpboard. Miller recommends a magnifying glass as basic equipment for describing bindings. To complement that basic identification tool, magnified photographic details of materials like pulpboard could be very useful in a handbook. But this is a small complaint. Miller offers far more photographic references to aid in identifying historic binding elements than any reference book I can think of, and that is not even including the supplemental DVD with its many fine color images. (If you are still hungry for more images of historic bindings, see the British Library’s, one of a growing number of online visual resources.) Miller has used many images from the University of Michigan collections in her book, and from a few other institutions. But her private study collection of historic bindings is perhaps essential to the development of this book. Sensitivity to binding features is finely tuned over time by daily living with these artifacts, and her photographs represent this sensitivity is well.

Image from U of Wisconsin Madison  History of Science and Technology Digital Collection.

Historical Context

This review has not yet touched on the four chapters of western bookbinding history Miller offers the reader of this handbook. Since in some ways Miller’s concerns about description seem to overshadow the context of bookbinding, it is easy to skim these and move on to the more action oriented chapters. One rarely reads a handbook in order from page one to the end in any case. But for those looking for a masterful summary of bookbinding history, these chapters are very useful.

The chapter on the birth of the codex from earlier scrolls and tablets is extremely scholarly and detailed. This is to be expected given Miller’s work with early codices in Egypt, and her access to University of Michigan’s department of papyrology. Miller is careful to note that information on the earliest codices is given in her handbook to show the reader how decorative and structural elements ebb and flow through the long history of bookbinding, not because she expects readers to survey these ancient materials.

Miller’s chapter on the medieval manuscript book gives an especially in-depth look at Gothic bindings.  As she notes on page 61:  “The Gothic board attachment set in motion a train of structural change that remained in force for a long time, apparent in the curves spines of books from the Gothic era right up to the end of the twentieth century”.  While more “typical” bindings dominate her condensed history, she is careful to also cover limp and stationer’s bindings. I think her statement that stationer’s binding were part of a class of binding “plainer, more pedestrian and intended primarily to protect.” (page 84) bears a bit of examining. Her own chosen example of an Italian stationer’s binding from the mid-fourteenth century has a lovely two part scarlet dyed cover, careful lacing patterns, and a buckle closure--all steps that went far beyond basic protection into the realm of decorative. Perhaps it is safer to say stationers and other “limp” bindings had their own traditions. (To be fair, she does specifically note the lack of documentation for this style of binding.) Overall, Miller carefully reminds the reader that manuscript books came in many styles and forms, and does an excellent job setting the stage for the transition to books printed on paper.

Image of  15th century wooden board binding from University of Iowa Library Bookbinding Models Collection

The two bookbinding history chapters covering 1450-1800 and 1800 to 1900 will probably be the ones most referred to by users of this handbook, since most US collections have material created in these eras. It is here that she really delves into the nitty-gritty of bookbinding steps like sewing, endbanding, lining, board shaping, edge trimming and coloring, leather paring, clasps and so on. Some binding steps, like endbanding, are just hard to understand without technical drawings, and adding a few more line drawings here could have helped a less experienced reader. AAs in her earlier chapters, Miller is careful to note different bookbinding formats like stab sewn or stationer's bindings. Her excellent section on Colonial American bookbinding traditions is particularly useful, and we can all look forward to the publishing of her current research into the use of wooden boards(scaleboard) in early American bookbinding. In her last chapter, which romps through the intense innovation and variety in bookbinding from 1800 to 1900, she pays special attention to case binding elements, the changes in paper production, the manufacture of bookcloth, and of course the shift to publisher controlled binding choices. Miller notes that the variation of bindings within 19th century editions, coupled with the wide use of stereotyping to produce the textblocks, can both lead to serious problems dating material from this era. These features can make typical bibliographic research for these under-appreciated materials even more difficult.

All four of these history chapters are well written and delightfully footnoted. Any teacher who wants a comprehensively illustrated introduction to western binding that covers everything from the Nag Hammadi codices to Smyth sewing to would be well advised to send her students to this handbook.

The Death of the Book

At the beginning of this review the dreaded “is the book dead” phrase was used as a red flag, then dropped, with the promise of bringing it back. So here it is again: Is the book dead? In chapter four “The Book From 1800 to 1900”, Miller has already introduced the book-death theme:
“The end of the nineteenth century and the end of making books by hand for the masses could be seen as the end of the road for the making of the handmade book. This occasional feeling of impending doom is magnified by the rush of institutional collections to digitize their books, including their rare collections, and the suspicion that, after digitization, inaccessible storage will be the fate of some of the collections…we have a few years to establish our claim to access artifact bindings, and we must hope our small voice will be heard” (p.190)

Miller’s final chapter in Books Will Speak Plain begins with Emily Dickenson’s voice saying:

“Forever is composed of now—”

This mysterious line of poetry makes the reader stop and contemplate. What does it mean? Taken negatively, the Emily Dickenson’s NOW could be the sad dwarfing of historic bookbindings in the face of massive institutional responsibilities to digitize information and preserve digital information. Taken negatively the FOREVER of Dickinson’s phrase could be the permanent lonely isolation of historic bindings warehoused in cold and remote storage as if in a morgue. Or taken positively the NOW of Emily’s poem could be the current efforts Miller and many others are making to describe historic bindings accurately and share that information. And taken positively the FOREVER in this line of poetry could be the permanent new life historic binding description will have when incorporated into a library catalog accessible to all--the dream of universal and permanent access to information that has been the dream of librarianship since ancient Alexandria.

Miller starts each of her chapters with an evocative line of Emily Dickenson poetry, and the temptation is add more poetry to the mix here is strong. T.S. Elliot writes:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”

(Four Quartets 1943)
Perhaps our special collections are not headed for remote storage immediately, since it seems general collection materials may be first to move that direction, and that could take a long time. Indeed it is often harder to access these historic bindings now than is ideal even though they may live right on campus. Remote storage may not be much of a change, given that reality. But it is easy to share Miller’s sense of urgency about describing our nation’s extraordinary historic bindings. This urgency can be based as much on opportunity as fear. Miller mentions the vital twenty-first century book arts communities, bookbinding communities and book conservation communities. These groups are all passionately engaged with books as physical objects. Couple this synergy with new digital tools and the ease of sharing information.  Then keep in mind the energized interdisciplinary and growing field of Book Studies within academe…these factors all add up to making this a prime time to do the historic binding study Miller is calling for.  Miller has filled her book with her excitement at these possibilities, and they bear repeating.  As we move toward a screen-based world, we may indeed know books “for the first time”.  The book seen deeply and lovingly described for the future is brought alive. The book described and made accessible in new ways is given new possibilities -- it is not dead.

A Footnote

Finally, the comprehensive, articulate, wonderfully footnoted and gently humorous vision Miller brings to her book is a tribute to what might perhaps be called the “heroic” generation of American bookbinders/conservators that she is part of. Many of these people are thanked in Miller’s preface, and it is a long list of names. Those of us who have relied on this group’s energy and teaching in our own work can never thank them enough.

A Footnote to the Footnote

Legacy Press has also recently published Cathleen Baker’s From Hand to Machine:  Nineteenth-Century American Paper and Mediums. (Reviewed in the Bonefolder Jeffrey S. Peachey). The press must be commended for nurturing this level of scholarly work, and presenting it beautifully. 

Chela Metzger started her official association with books by working as a library assistant at the age of 9. She graduated from Simmons College as a card-carrying librarian in 1990, and began her more intimate association with the craft of bookbinding at the North Bennet Street School in 1991, working 2 years with Mark Esser. She followed that with an internship in rare-book conservation at the Library of Congress in 1993, and began her paid conservation career as a project conservator at the Huntington Library in 1994. She began teaching book conservation to visiting Latin American interns in 1999, and moved into full-time lecturer work in 2001 at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2011 she began as Conservator of Library Collections at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Winterthur, DE. Having been the recipient of amazingly generous teaching in the past, she hopes to help carry on the tradition, integrity and discipline of bookwork in all its facets. On-going bookish research interests include: history of the book, binding in Spain and Latin America, future of books and libraries, the binding of archival materials historically, how books are depicted in art, social life of books. She is also a member of the Editorial Board of The Bonefolder.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bind-O-Rama 2011 - Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet

Welcome to the 2011 Bonefolder Bind-O-Rama that demonstrates the intersection of conservation and the art of the book. We challenge binders and conservators to think about their work in different ways and to create compelling new work that applies “non-destructive and completely reversible book structures.” Since 2003, the Tomorrow’s Past movement (See The Bonefolder, Vol. 7, 2011) has led the way with work that demonstrates a high regard for the integrity of the original object, the application of current conservation best practices, and an innovative interpretation of book structure and aesthetics resulting in work that is lasting and fresh.

The integrity of the original is a key value of this movement, and stresses that books are not rebound or interpreted simply for the sake of doing so. Books of significance as artifacts with key elements of the binding in treatable condition or requiring simpler treatments are not appropriate candidates for this kind of treatment. Suitable books would be those that may have boards or other elements missing, have been previously repaired/rebound and showing the negative effects of those treatments, or whose original structures may have caused the breakdown of the binding in the first place. All treatments completed for this Bind-O-Rama must conform to current best practices in conservation, be reversible, and ultimately “do no harm.” This is NOT an altered book event. In contrast to past Bind-O-Ramas this event will be juried by the members of The Bonefolder’s board who are themselves trained conservators and active in the field. Kathy Abbott, a member of the Tomorrow’s Past movement will also participate as juror.

For ideas and more context please see the article in The Bonefolder, Vol 7, by Charles Gledhill, the Tomorrow's Past web pages, and this post at the Riverlark blog entitled Old wine in new bottles.

Additional examples can be found by Suzy Morgan, Gaylord Intern in the Conservation Lab at Syracuse University Library. In her posts she discusses the book she treated and some of the "ethical" questions. Take a look at these links: and

Another example is the work of James Reid-Cunningham, conservator at the Boston Athenaeum. His treatment is at

Karen Hanmer's example is at

To participate, please select the book you will treat/rebind carefully, keeping at the forefront the needs of book and your skills as a binder and/or conservator. Each entry must include:
  • Images: At least two, no more than 5 images of treatment including before, in-process, and completed. 
    • Specifications: Minimum 640 x 480 pixels @ 72dpi, jpg file format of your book. Files must be named as binder's name-1.jpg... (e.g. verheyen-1.jpg, verheyen-2.jpg) 
      • Examples below provided by Kathy Abbott.
  • Condition Report: please follow structure/syntax of example provided.
    • E.g.: Samuel Butler, Hudibras (London 1817). Bound in full leather; front board and parts of spine missing; text block sound with marbled edges.

      Hudibras (before, front board missing)
      Hudibras (before, front board missing)
      In process
  • Treatment Report: Includes statement of why the illustrated treatment was selected, description of selected structure, and aesthetics (please follow structure/syntax of example provided)
    • E.g.: Adapted ‘simplified binding’. Original sewing retained; spine lined with linen and hand-made paper; new endpapers of plain hand-made paper (to match the original); decorated, hand-made paper spine and hand-coloured, hand-made paper over hand-made paper pasteboards. 133 x 77 x 24mm. Bound in 2010.

      Hudibras (completed)
  • Brief Bio Sketch: of that includes training in binding/conservation (no more than 250 words)
    • Kathy Abbott served a four-year apprenticeship in bookbinding and then gained an HND from the London College of Printing, followed by a BA (Hons) from Roehampton University . She is currently self-employed as a bookbinder and book conservator and is a partner of Benchmark bindery, set up in 2009 with Tracey Rowledge. Kathy teaches bookbinding at the City Literary Institute and West Dean College and conducts many workshops across the UK. She has been exhibiting with the group Tomorrow's Past. since its formation in 2003.
  • Brief Treatment Statement: How this treatment approach impacts you and your work. (no more than 100 words)
    •  I create new structures which are sensitive to the needs of antiquarian books. They use little or no adhesive and are fully reversible. The inspiration for the colours used in the covers comes from those found on or within the original text-block.
All Images must be sent to <> at the time the entry form is submitted.

Actual online entry form will be added here during the summer.

Deadline for entries Oct 31, 2011.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Floods in Queensland, Australia - From Adele Outteridge

We are all very relieved that the Artists' Books Collection at the State Library of Queensland is safe and look forward to the its reopening.

The Studio West End (Wim de Vos and Adele Outteridge) is dry and back to business. The water came to the front gate of the old ice cream factory site where we are housed. Not so lucky were so many other residents and businesses in West End, CBD and suburbs of Brisbane. The devastation and heartbreak are hard to comprehend.

I was marooned at home with our street flooded in both directions from Moggill Creek. We had no power for five days so were spared the harrowing images that saturated all television channels. The water came into one lower room but not the main part of our house. We have a few wet books and some old stored stuff. We were very lucky compared with neighbours whose houses went under.

Below some photos I sent to Peter for the Bonefolder Extras blog.

West End, the Art Shed

West End, the Art Shed

West End, mud

West End, Melbourne St.
South Brisbane, more mud
Kenmore, raining again
Kenmore, young Tawny Frogmouth
West End, before the storm
Cyclone Yasi.

Thanks to all who have sent messages of support.

Adele Outteridge

Adele Outteridge Wim de Vos
Studio West End

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Beauty of Books

BBC4 began airing a 4 part documentary on Monday 7 February 2011 titled "The Beauty of Books" Although not available yet in the US (fingers crossed it will air soon on BBC America), the BBC has posted a YouTube video clip on the Codex Sinaticus.

The British Library (the featured institution in this documentary) has also posted a description of the program on their Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts blog giving a description of the first episode on Ancient Bibles with a link to the trailer.

Watch for this program to air on BBC America or PBS this year! When The Bonefolder hears when it will air, we will be sure to share that news with all of you!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Floods in Queensland, Australia

The floods in Queensland, Australia, including its 3rd largest metropolitan area of Brisbane have caused incredible devastation throughout that region of the country. Queensland is home to some fine Bonefolder contributors including Doug Spowart, Christine Campbell, Adele Outerridge and Wim de Vos, and Linda Douglas. Fortunately they have been very lucky, but many, many others have fared very badly. Adele and Wim also just published [2/2/2011] a report entitled Flood photos and a personal account.

The Report below was received from Linda Douglas in Brisbane who lives on high ground:
Australia, the lucky country, has been inundated in several states, with torrential rain causing flooding never seen for more than a hundred years.  Homes have been inundated with water covering the roof of two story buildings!  At least 18 people have been drowned, ripped from their homes as an almost inland tsunami took their lives.  People scrambled into their ceilings when the water rose at sometimes incredible speed, preventing people from even being able to escape from their homes. And the rain just keeps coming.  More storms and rain are forecast indicating that those flooded will be flooded again.

The State Library of Qld, where the artist book collection is housed, did go under but the books were safe as they are not housed in the bottom floor.  There was time to move items in some houses where the Brisbane River floods were predicted, exacerbated by king tides. Noreen Graham of graham galleries + editions was not so lucky.  Her gallery  is situated beneath her house  and went under during the deluge.  Water up to the rafters meant that the gallery will require much renovation.  Fortunately, Noreen, with the help of others, was able to move the artists books in time, however, she did lose some of her own art works.
[Note see also Robert Heathers report further down in this article.

Doug Spowart and Vicky Cooper live in  Toowoomba  where their work with photography, the environment and  artists books culminate in works of art and beauty, held in collections nationally and internationally. They had some frightening moments during the last month as the water rose dangerously close to their working area. At the rear of their property, there is a creek that occasionally flows.  The first photo, East Creek, Toowoomba, testifies to the extreme conditions as the water rushes along, taking trees and ground cover, and in the city of Toowoomba, cars, with it.  Vehicles were but toys as they piled up on top of each other.  A veritable avalanche of water sped through the city giving little warning.  People had to run for the highest spot to get out its way.  Ipswich, Grantham in the Lockyer Valley  and the south side of Brisbane were just some of the areas that were seriously affected with the devastation left after the floods  reminiscent of tornadoes or cyclones having ripped through the area, ripping every building to shreds, buckling railway lines and crippling industry. The filthy mud and stench is all that is left behind now that the water has subsided.  The most frightening part being no warning...just a tidal wave of red, dirty water taking everything in its path. We never thought our country would see such a spectacle.  

The second image is of the flooded back yard at Doug and Vicki's place and the third image is the water as it crept to just 8inches from the doorstep!  At what moment do you leave your property?  This was the question on everyone's mind as the water rose at unprecedented speeds.  Life for many was more important and they left all their belongings. 

The city has been declared a crises zone with more than 26 000 homes in the Brisbane area alone affected.  7000 volunteers turned out to help those i need in the city of Brisbane.   The crises is not over yet  - there is more rain is to come.   The community has pulled together like never before.

Linda Douglas

Doug also has a video about salvaging photographs and other items from the Sandy Barrie Collection below.

Robert Heather has a report of Grahame Galleries (a noted regional book arts gallery) and the Brisbane floods on his blog at <>.  Below a picture of the State Library of Queensland from that blog. Fortunately most collections were able to be moved to safety, but the clean up and recovery will be immense.

Our thoughts are with them and their communities so that they may begin recovering soon. To donate to the flood relief appeal go to