The Guild of Book Workers Library is housed in the Special Collections Department of the University of Iowa’s Main Library and holds over 700 volumes which focus on the arts of the book, particularly hand bookbinding techniques, but also contains volumes on the history of bookbinding and bookbinders, papermaking, paper decoration techniques, calligraphy, printing, and book conservation. By trading newsletters and journals produced by the Guild, the Library also receives current periodicals on binding from similar organizations in England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Australia. Videotapes and DVDs which document the annual Guild Standards Seminars are another important component of the collection, now the most frequently borrowed items because they demonstrate techniques that cannot be adequately described in print sources.
The holdings for each of these major parts of the Library are listed on their own page:
Both the GBW library and archive are housed by the University of Iowa Department of Special Collections & University Archives.
For further information about the Guild Library please contact:
- Ann Frellsen, Collections Conservator & Guild Librarian
- Emory University Libraries
- 540 Asbury Circle
- Atlanta, GA 30322
- library [at] guildofbookworkers [dot] org
The Guild of Book Workers was founded in 1906. Its Library came into existence 52 years later with a gift in 1958 from out-going President Kathryn Gerlach, who suggested a library would be useful to its members. That first book was the Baltimore Museum of Art’s landmark catalog, The History of Bookbinding 525-1950 A.D.(1957). The membership was solicited for donations, and the notes of a subsequent meeting record the contribution of a further 15 books plus $20.00 in cash.
As the Library grew, it posed a problem as it moved among the shifting volunteers who ran the Guild through fat times and lean. The first of many “permanent homes” was the then newly created library of the American Craftmen’s Council (now the American Crafts Council) in New York City. Guild members had access to the ACC Library which in 1960 had received Edith Diehl’s collection of approximately 300 items related to bookbinding. Diehl, a New York binder and member of the Guild, was the author of Bookbinding, Its Background and Technique (1946), still in print today as a Dover reprint.
Since the Guild Library had only a quarter the number of books as the Diehl collection, the ACC Library was a good arrangement for the Guild. Access and lending policies limited the use of the ACCL, however, and so after a few years the GBW board found a new home for it in that of Library Chairman, Jane Greenfield, in New Haven. Mail order circulation was instituted as it continues today. The ACC closed its own library in 1972, and the resourceful then Guild President, Laura Young, succeeded in assuring the ACC holdings on bookbinding, including Diehl’s collection, were transferred to the Guild.
The Conservation Department of the Boston Athenaeum then housed the collection until 1986, when yet another move was necessary. William Anthony, newly settled in Iowa City as the first University of Iowa Libraries’ book conservator, was also the Guild Standards Chairman. He smoothed the way for the Library to come to Iowa’s Main Library Department of Special Collections & University Archives. The agreement between the Guild and the University stipulates that Guild members may continue to borrow items via the mail, but also allows anyone, Guild member or not, access in the Special Collections’ Reading Room.
Pamela Spitzmueller took over the Librarian duties when she became Book Conservator at Iowa in 1989, after Anthony’s death, and Jane Meggars undertook the duties in 1999. Special Collections librarian Dick Kolbet converted earlier card and paper records, incorporated records for over 100 items donated by retiring binder Stella Patri, and mounted an HTML catalogue online in the late 1990s. This descriptive author-title list has since been kept to date by Meggers and Sid Huttner. Effective October 2011, Ann Frellsen took over the librarian duties.
The Library currently occupies about 120 linear feet with over 700 monographs focused on bookbinding (including manuals), the history of binding, and bookbinders. There are many exhibition catalogs and volumes pertaining to calligraphy, printing, papermaking and decorated papers, and conservation. By exchange of the Guild’s Newsletter and Journal, the Library receives issues of periodicals from similar organizations in England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Australia. The Library also houses videotapes and DVDs produced by the Guild to raise the standards of bookbinding craftsmanship in the United States. These document the annual Guild Standards Seminars (begun in 1982 and videotaped from 1984) and demonstrate techniques that no print text can describe so thoroughly. They are now the most frequently borrowed items.
The Guild Library is rarely able to buy books, but it welcomes books in scope of the collection that are donated by authors and others — as well as books received for or reviewed in the Newsletter.
For additional history of the Library see “The Guild of Book Workers Collection at Iowa” by Pam Spitzmueller (~13 MB PDF) which appeared in the February 1996 issue of the Friends Newsletter, published by the Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries.