Wednesday, September 10, 2014

InsideOUT, an exhibition of contemporary bindings of private press books

InsideOUT, contemporary bindings of private press books. Jeanette Koch (ed) with photographs by Paul David Ellis. Designer Bookbinders, 2014. 80 pp with full color throughout. GBP15.00 + sh.

An exhibition catalog review by Amy Borezo 

The recent exhibit InsideOUT, organized by Designer Bookbinders, showcases the work of 59 binders from the UK and the US each of whom completed a design binding of a text published by one of nine fine presses. The culminating works are an instance of eating one's cake and having it, too. These are one-of-a-kind pieces of art that illustrate the collaborative nature of the field of book art, with years of mastering one's craft on display on both the inside and outside of the book. Designer Bookbinders does a great service to the field as a whole in creating exhibitions like this one.

The 80pp full color catalog for the exhibition is expertly designed and organized, with images of the fine press texts acting as a subtle backdrop to the images of each binding. The bindings are artfully arranged on the white of the page, without a visual bounding box, only a slight shadow at the very bottom of the cover to indicate its three dimensionality. Detail shots of the books highlight a particular structural or design element. Bindings are grouped according to press, which allows for bindings of the same title to be shown alongside one another, giving the viewer insight into the quality of the writing and illustrations contained within, as well as the creative process of the binders.

A successful design binding should interpret the text to be bound in an original and visually compelling way while showing the style and technical skill of the individual binder. There are too many examples of successful design bindings in this catalog and exhibit to call out each one individually. However, there are a few here that directly illustrate the project of the exhibition and which display other characteristics that are of interest to me personally.

The three bindings for the Arion Press Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre, are compelling in their similarity of interpretation, which speaks to the strength of the writing in conveying its message and to the publisher in communicating this message in its choice of layout, typeface, color, and accompanying imagery. The text, originally written in 1790, is an autobiographical account of a young officer imprisoned in a single room and who takes to describing in specific detail the voyages he takes in this confined space, both in body and mind. In the Arion edition, the text is accompanied by hazy photographs of objects in a room by architect Ross Anderson.

Journey Round My Room, binding by Annette Friedrich

All three binders of this text—Annette Friedrich, Jo Bird, and Haein Song—chose to represent the work with abstract imagery. The colors on all three design bindings are very similar, in the rose and tan color range, communicating to the viewer that these hues must be referenced in the writing itself. Annette Friedrich's book is bound in a light tan goatskin with tooling of precise and subtle markings in a variety of pigmented and metallic foils. The scale, color, and placement of the delicate dots, dashes, crosses, and arcs seem both improvisational and studied, representing the physical and mental wanderings of the main character. The outer bounds of the book cover smartly act as the visual boundaries of the room. Haein Song's binding is comparable in design using tan goatskin and similar markings, yet instead of tooling, these markings are thinly pared, irregularly shaped, feathered pieces of off-white leather onlay. They read as ghosts of footsteps in a room, yet are described as being reflections of light. The subtle shift in scale from foreground to background of these pieces creates a sense of depth, which is pleasing to the eye. Jo Bird's binding is covered with a series of small, carbon-tooled, irregular spirals arranged in a grid to illustrate the confined yet varying path of the main character about the room. In all three of these bindings, the bookbinder truly responded to the text and created a work that adds to the perception of a reader/viewer.

Steel Horizon, binding by Stephen Conway

Stephen Conway created two bindings for the texts of different presses. These bindings both used simple yet bold design elements and the inherent beauty of the covering materials to great effect. The design for Steel Horizon, a collection of poems by Jonathan Wonham about his time on a North Sea oil rig, published by Incline Press, is a checkerboard grid of panels alternating in dark grey goatskin and figured vellum. While a viewer may expect to see a binding with a long horizontal line as a design element for any text that contains the word “horizon”, Conway goes one step further, evoking an ominous feeling appropriate to the poems contained within. The dark grey goatskin panels are arranged to create a sense of enclosure as both horizontal and vertical lines visually lock into one another creating a cross, cross-hair, compass, bars, a window. He reinforces this effect by tooling horizontal and vertical lines in silver onto the goatskin panels. The mottled off-white vellum panels read like a leaden sky as they alternate with the dark grey. The corners of the panels are riveted into place, an industrial element that creates another subtle visual cue giving the reader/viewer a very real sense of place.

His other binding for Britten's Aldeburgh, published by Whittington Press, uses the same design elements of goat skin panels and figured vellum. The figured vellum is the off-white backdrop to a series of horizontal rectangular black goatskin onlays, stretching across the spine from back to front cover. The horizontal panels are tooled with gold horizontal lines. Conway uses visual repetition to great effect as the black and gold lines repeat down the cover from head to tail, calling to mind waves or a somewhat bleak landscape that is seen again and again. These lines also reference musical notation and the work of the composer Benjamin Britten, on whose walks around the Suffolk coastline this book is based. The natural isolated areas of darker pigmentation on the figured vellum are used expertly on the front and back covers at the very edges of the boards, again evoking the sky and gathering clouds. Conway has a very strong individual style and his technical skill is impeccable, but he does not allow his visual sensibility to overshadow the text—he honors it with his interpretation.

Bicycle Diaries, binding by Hannah Brown

Two exuberant bindings by Hannah Brown and Nicky Oliver show a less formal approach to design binding, yet are both successful. Embroidery on bindings dates back many centuries and lends a warmth and intimacy to books that is evident in Brown's work. In her design binding for the Bicycle Diaries, published by Midnight Paper Sales, the viewer is invited to look down on a city sidewalk scene of pigeons and a bicycle. This pictorial rendering has a three dimensional, hyperreal quality that completely transforms the materials she is working with. The three dimensionality is enhanced by a wash of acrylic paint used underneath the embroidery. The text is about the author Richard Goodman's journey through New York City on the day of September 11th.

Lost and Found, binding by Nicky Oliver

Hannah Brown's interpretation of the text places us there with the author, unable to look at the most common city scene in quite the same way ever again. Nicky Oliver uses a painterly, unconventional approach to design binding. Her binding for Lost and Found published by Whittington Press is an expressive burst of color, line, and motion. She has a distinct style that shows layers and layers of work with leather dyes and decorative tooling. Her dynamic use of the entire cover as her canvas creates a visually compelling composition that draws the viewer in.

Circus, binding by Donald Glaister

Another binding of note is Donald Glaister's interpretation of Circus by Shanty Bay Press. His masterful technique combines a number of traditional and non-traditional materials to illustrate the larger-than-life experience of the circus. The tent on the cover appears to bust open and overtake the binding, partially covering the exquisitely tooled title on the spine of the book. His work shows humor, skill, and an artful engagement with the conventions of design binding.

All of the other bindings not mentioned here are worthy of their own examination and I only wish time and space allowed for me to write about them. I am honored to take this tour through the exhibition, courtesy of the fantastic accompanying catalog. I highly recommend this catalog to anyone interested in design binding.

The Exhibition was on display in the Layton Room Gallery at St Bride Foundation, London, 15 May to 22 August 2014.

Venues in the United States are:
Houghton Library, Harvard, MA: 11 September - 13 December 2014
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis: 10 January - 28 March 2015
Bonhams, New York: 10-19 April 2015
San Francisco Center for the Book, California: 6 June - 5 July 2015

The exhibition was organized by Lester Capon, Stephen Conway, Simon Eccles, Sayaka Fukuda, Peter Jones, and Jeanette Koch. 

For more information and to order a catalog visit Designer Bookbinders' website.

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Methods of Presenting e-Publications

The Bonefolder ceased publication as an e-journal over a year-and-a-half ago, but is still seeing heavy regular access via a wide variety of websites or online databases. It's great to see the level of use steady. Since 2004, 554,133 page views, 385,738 unique page views for all issues combined.

The past issues are made available as downloadable PDFs from Syracuse University Libraries' digital collections server. Other journals hosted from there are also on that server as well as in our institutional repository (IR), SURFACE. While fully accessible as downloadable PDFs, that format is not interactive, i.e. does not facilitate discussion around topics in the issue via social media, embedding in other websites, nor does it have lots of "pretty" bells and whistles like page-turning...

The use of digital collections, multimedia, interactivity is a big topic in academic library circles and some of us realize that there is a lot more we can do to facilitate use (and reuse) materials of our collections. Here some really interesting articles on the issues and challenges:

There are a lot more of  those kinds of articles in the library/academic literature.

In order to experiment and gather feedback from users, a group of us at Syracuse University are going to be trying out different platforms to see how they work and how we might integrate them into other tools and workflows we are using.

Here our first, ISSUU, all bundled together in a "stack" that hopefully looks better than most of our desks...

And here, embedded, our last and perhaps best issue...

So, what do you think of this mode of publication? What are advantages, disadvantages, ...? How you you like being able to share directly to social media? Use the comment form below and let us know what you think.

As we try other platforms, we'll share and gather your feedback - thank you.

Then again, there's this...

Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media
By  Nancy M. Foasberg
From College & Research Libraries, September 2014

“Despite the ever-increasing popularity of new ways of reading, the study participants read in a fairly traditional way. Most of them preferred to use print for long-form and academic reading, at least partly because they felt more comfortable annotating docu¬ments in a print environment. They read electronically a great deal, but this reading consisted primarily of brief, nonacademic materials.

Their dislike of electronic textbooks was especially striking… The University of Minnesota provides an Open Textbook Catalog, which identifies open textbooks and allows reviews; notably, the designers of the catalog offer inexpensive print on demand options for each work, acknowledging that many students dislike online textbooks.  In the midst of this attention to the digital, it is worth noting that students in the pres¬ent study were less comfortable using textbooks in an electronic format, and some of them said they usually print out the sections they use, thus negating any savings.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Playing with Pop-ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs

Helen Hiebert. Playing with Pop-ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs.  Beverly, MA: Quarry Books, 2014. ISBN 1592539084. 144 pages. $24.99.

Reviewed by Suzy Morgan

I love pop-up books. I collect pop-up books:  my family still gives them to me as birthday and holiday presents, even though I am a grown adult. I work in a library with a substantial collection of pop-up books, and I am quick to tell anyone who will listen that I have gotten to hold and play with an original Meggendorfer pop-up book. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to review Helen Hiebert’s new book, Playing With Pop-Ups. A passing observer would probably remark that I was “elated” at the prospect of doing such a review.

Teaching the art of the pop-up is difficult, just like any how-to book about bookbinding, because it challenges the author to describe 3-D concepts in a 2-D format. Many pop-up structures function with a front-end and a back-end structure, just like a website: the viewer almost always only sees the front-end result, and the back-end support is not very apparent except to the experienced reader. I’ve looked at many a damaged pop-up book and wondered, “How on EARTH did they make this?” while trying to fit two parts of a broken whole back together unsuccessfully.  Helen Hiebert’s approach to this essential problem with teaching these complicated structures is a combination of providing templates to practice on, and a wealth of concisely illustrated instructions.

The book begins with a very brief history of pop-ups, a commentary on the state of pop-up arts today, an interesting glimpse into the production of a commercially published pop-up book, and overview of the basic pop-up terminology, tools, and tricks of the trade. I particularly enjoyed the description of the production line process of a commercially published pop-up, myself. Each different kind of fold and cut used in the following project instructions was clearly illustrated with a nice photograph and a well-written description. Hiebert also provides a list of recommended tools, as well as alternatives for some tools – like using a paperclip or the back of a knife instead of a bone folder to fold or score paper. This is a nice touch that makes the craft more accessible and promotes the kind of “creative reuse” so endemic to bookbinding.

However, in my opinion, the real genius of Hiebert’s book is the templates she provides for each project. These are pages in the book that are meant to be photocopied onto the paper of your choice, and then you just follow the dotted, dashed, and solid lines with bonefolder, knife, and glue, to create the pop-up. The first three projects are termed “Pop-up Warm-ups,” and are meant to familiarize the budding paper-engineer with the basic tenants of pop-up structure. The projects that follow increase in difficulty, but provide a nicely diverse range of different types of structures and themes.  These include a pop-up city skyline, a Valentine’s card, paper earrings, a tunnel book, and a volvelle with six slots. Our conservation lab intern and I spent a happy afternoon completing one of the projects using the templates. It’s really a no-brainer way of teaching the structure, as it removes the risk of beginner mistakes such as mis-measuring; each part of the template is clearly labeled with different lines for cuts, mountain folds, or valley folds. The other wonderful thing about the templates is that many of them are blank or simple enough that you could easily customize them or slightly modify them to create an original work. In my opinion, the templates get the point across very effectively and leave very little confusion about how they should work.

The final section of the book is devoted to a beautifully photographed gallery of current-day pop-up book artists and their work. Seeing these artist’s amazing work serves as inspiration to think creatively about your own future projects, as well as a visual bibliography of pop-up books to seek out in your local library or bookstore. As a collector of pop-up books, it was reaffirming to see books from my own library represented and to feel that kindred spark of passion for the art. In other words, “We like the same pop-up books!” Hiebert’s book is a solid addition to the library of any beginner or intermediate paper engineer, and is a welcome complement to other pop-up book manuals, such as Carol Barton’s The Pocket Paper Engineer series or David Carter and James Diaz’s The Elements of Pop-Up.

Suzy Morgan is a 2009 graduate of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, where she received a certificate in advanced studies in conservation from the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Historic Record. She has had internships at Northwestern University, Syracuse University, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Ringling Museum of Art. After working as the web developer at the Newberry Library and working in private practice as a book conservator and preservation consultant, she is now Preservation Specialist for the Arizona State Library.She is also the creator of The Multi-lingual Bookbinding/Conservation Dictionary Project: The goal of this project is to combine, in one place, all the known bookbinding and book conservation terminology, in as many languages as possible.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

20th Book_Arts-L Anniversary Bind-O-Rama Now Online

The 20th Book_Arts-L Anniversary Bind-O-Rama is now online at <>.

With this Bind-O-Rama we celebrate the 20th anniversary of this list (we went online June 23rd 1994) and thank everyone for being a part of the Book_Arts-L community, whether active poster or lurker. Never thought it would go on this long (the crazy part).

What started as an antidote to my professional isolation in the wilderness that was Central New York quickly grew into the most active book arts community, a placed where seasoned professionals, students, and anyone in-between talked shop and shared generously via their questions and answers. Back in 1998 I was invited to speak about the growth of the "Internet" as a tool for book artists at the 25th anniversary of the Silver Buckle Press in Madison, Wisconsin by Tracy Honn... That was 4 years into this adventure, and the talk is online at <>. While the growth in numbers of those online has exploded, much else remains the same. Some of my "fondest" memories include teaching folks how to use email... Looking at the list interface (subscription, posting, ...) it seems very dated, Web 0.5ish... Still, it works and is as active as ever, with many who joined in the first days and weeks still active today.

Listserv archives continue to be accessible and capture those 20 years while serving as a resource for all. Some discussions, like "what is a book" remain popular. Google searches and statistics point to uses in school papers of all levels including theses and dissertations...

The works shown below were submitted by subscribers and represent their best effort from the past 3 or so years. Given the demographics of the list I expected more artist's books than traditional bindings, but a very nice range of work non-the-less.



Monday, May 12, 2014

The 2014 Bind-O-Rama is Here

Entry Deadline is June 15, with publication date of June 25.

Entry period now closed, exhibit online June 25 or sooner.

Thank you for your interest and participation.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Open Access: A Model for Sharing Published Conservation Research (AIC News)

It's not just for conservation research...

While The Bonefolder is no more, Open Access is as important as ever. For those unfamiliar the article below explains the key concepts. Remember as authors we need to informed about AND CAN exert our rights so that our research and creative output reaches the widest audience possible...


Exerpt below from “Open Access: A Model for Sharing Published Conservation Research.” AIC News, vol. 39, no. 3. May 1, 2014. pp. 1-6.
Article written by Priscilla Anderson, Whitney Baker, Beth Doyle, and Peter Verheyen.

The conservation field has articulated the importance of publishing our research to disseminate information and further the aims of conservation. Article X of AIC’s Code of Ethics states that conservators should “contribute to the evolution and growth of the profession, a field of study that encompasses the liberal arts and the natural sciences” in part by “sharing of information and experience with colleagues, adding to the profession’s written body of knowledge.” Our Guidelines for Practice state “the conservation professional should recognize the importance of published information that has undergone formal peer review,” because, as Commentary 2.1 indicates, “publication in peer-reviewed literature lends credence to the disclosed information.” Furthermore, our Guidelines for Practice state that the “open exchange of ideas and information is a fundamental characteristic of a profession.” In publishing our research, we can increase awareness of conservation and confidence in our research methods among allied professionals as well as the general public.

However, current publication models limit the free flow of information by making access expensive and re-use complicated. An alternative to traditional subscription publishing is the Open Access movement, which strives to remove barriers to access and re-use of published information by reducing the costs of publishing and rethinking permissions issues.

To synthesize growing interest in professional publishing and spark discussion, this article proposes to:
  • Define Open Access and how it differs from traditional publishing in its approach to access and re-use of peer-reviewed publications
  • Discuss the implications of Open Access for the conservation field including interdisciplinary research, outreach opportunities, preferred medium for consuming professional publications, perspective of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC), and author impact.
  • Outline issues related to funding models, copyright, and licenses
  • Raise questions about current and future publication practices
Click here to  read the article from AIC News.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library

Langwe, Monica. Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library. Sollerön, Sweden: Monica Langwe, 2013. ISBN 9789163723797. 74 pages. 48,30€, ca$63.00 + s/h.

Reviewed by Henry Hébert

Monica Langwe’s most recent book is a more extensive follow-up to her previous work on limp bindings from the City Archives in Tallinn, Estonia (see Langwe, 2008). In Limp Bindings from the Vatican Library, the author cleaves to the same format, providing descriptions and diagrams for 11 historical bindings and includes a gallery of 11 contemporary works from international book artists. The Vatican Library is not the easiest institution to access, and from the author’s long list of acknowledgements, it is clear that a great deal of planning and coordination was required to make this project happen. With equal parts history, manual, and exhibit catalog, this volume is a delight to read and would be a welcome addition to any binder or bibliophile’s collection.

The book itself is beautifully designed, with clearly printed graphics and a typeface inspired by early Italian printing. The textblock is composed of 5 folded sections, sewn through the fold, with adhesive applied to the spine. The cover is a simple paper wrapper folded over the outermost leaves like a dust jacket. The construction is sturdy enough for extensive use and easily taken apart – a fact that binders wishing to respond to the text by rebinding the book itself will appreciate. The wrapper is printed on both sides and features labeled maps of Vatican City and the library. I found the maps most helpful, as Langwe includes a great deal of description of how the physical spaces that the library inhabits have changed over the years.

The text begins with a brief history of the collection. As one of the oldest libraries in the world, the Vatican’s collection has been through a great many changes; however, Langwe does not overwhelm the reader with dry facts. Organized by century, the history charts the evolution of the institution from the dispersal of the collection with the Avignon Papacy in the fourteenth century, all the way to the adoption of an electronic card catalog and building renovations in the twenty-first. Over the years, the library has grown by leaps and bounds through the acquisition of collections of note. Langwe provides a lists of the high spots, such as the Palatine Library of Heidelberg and the collection of the Barberini Family. Other institutions within the Holy See have been spun off of the library’s collection over time, including the Vatican Secret Archive, the Numismatic Cabinet, and the Museo Sacro.

Langwe follows with a discussion of the maturation of the conservation department within the institution. I was surprised to learn that a bookbinder has been employed by the library since 1475 and documentation of book repairs performed goes back to the late sixteenth century. The author describes several large rebinding projects that were undertaken in the past. One must assume that a number of original parchment bindings were lost in these efforts, however, we are lucky that the objects depicted in this volume survive. Today the conservation department is staffed by professionally trained conservators, who recognize the challenges of preserving the artefactual value of an object while maintaining its functionality.

Turning to the historical bindings, Langwe notes that they were meant to be functional and sometimes temporary; a means of organizing information, often with the ability to add or remove parts easily. With the popularity of limp parchment structures in modern book art and conservation practice (see for example Clarkson, 2005; Espinoza, 1993; Lindsay, 1991), it is easy for the contemporary binder to fall into the habit of thinking of limp parchment bindings in only one or two forms: text-to-cover attachment through primary sewing, such as a “long-stitch” structure, or sewn on primary sewing supports that are laced through the cover. Langwe reminds us, however, that these bindings have “infinite possible variations of materials, methods, and structure” (p. 27) and indicates that the goal of her book is to inspire the modern binder with the simplicity of these techniques from antiquity.

Nine bindings in parchment and two in paper are depicted in photographs and described with diagrams and text. Each volume includes different methods of textblock construction and cover-to-text attachment. A three-quarter view photograph of the object is followed by the title and a brief description of the item’s composition and dimensions. Clear diagrams of the textblock and cover construction appear for each structure. For volumes with more complex sewing or ticketing, step-by-step instructions appear alongside diagrams with arrows to indicate sewing or lacing patterns. Although the language assumes that one has experience with the most basic elements of bookbinding, even the novice could use this book to construct accurate models of each structure.

Each of the historical objects is mirrored by a contemporary binding from a list of 11 well-known and talented artists. A photograph of the binding appears alongside the name of the binder, the title of the work, and the title of the historical object that it represents. A brief statement from the artist and a list of materials also appear. I very much enjoyed flipping back and forth between historical and contemporary objects to see which aspects of each binding the artist chose to capture.

Szirmai (2000) in his seminal work, The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding, acknowledges that “studies of binding structures in archives are very scarce” (p. 287). Langwe’s work is a welcome answer to that call. In recent years, libraries and archives have begun to devote significant resources to digitization of content, but all too often binding structure and composition are ignored. Langwe acknowledges the difficulty in identifying bindings with common structures; however, documentation of bindings through photographs and diagrams, as presented in this book, can be an invaluable resource for contemporary binders, artists, and scholars. I applaud her work and look forward to future publications of this quality.

  • Clarkson, C. (2005). Limp Vellum Binding. Oxford: Christopher Clarkson.
  • Espinosa, R. (1993). "The limp vellum binding: A modification." The New Bookbinder, 13, 27-38.
  • Langwe, M. (2008). Limp bindings from Tallinn. The Bonefolder, 5(1), 3-5.
  • Lindsay, J. (1991). "A limp vellum binding sewn on alumn-tawed thongs". The New Bookbinder, 11, 3-19.
  • Szirmai, J. (2000). The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. 
[Publisher's note: Limp Bindings of the Vatican is also the catalog for a traveling exhibition that visited the Dalarnas Museum, Falun, Sweden, the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies, Rome, Italy, and Sankta Eugenia Katolska Församling Stockholm, Sweden between September 18 - December 15, 2013. Exhibitors of modern interpretations of the historic bindings were Jody Alexander, Carmencho Arregui, Guy Begbie, Manne Dahlstedt, Sün Evard, Hedi Kyle, Monica Langwe, Lennart Mänd, Chela Metzger, Suzanne Schmollgruber, and Peter D. Verheyen.]

Henry Hébert is the Rare Book Conservator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds a MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a certificate in hand bookbinding from the North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA. Henry is currently serving as the Communications Chair for the Guild of Book Workers. More information and images of his work can be found at