Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 96
October 1994

New Horizons Conference

From Susan Martin
New York Academy of Medicine

The first major conference sponsored by Designer Bookbinders since the Brighton gathering in 1984 took place at Oxford University from August 30th through September 3rd. 300 binders from all over the world converged on Christ Church College to spend five exhilarating days attending a wide variety of talks by leading designer binders, conservators, historians of the book, librarians, publishers and more.

The conference days were packed full of events: each began with a plenary session presented by an authority in the field exploring the state of the art of bookbinding as we approach the millennium. Speakers were Faith Shannon, Jeff Clements, Colin Franklin, Judith Hoffberg, J.A. Szirmai, and Andrew Hoyem. Following these, delegates chose from an array of 5 or 6 concurrent seminars, most of which were repeated at least once Guild members who conducted seminars included Betsy Palmer Eldridge, Tim Ely, Don Etherington, Sün Evrard, Gary Frost, Louise Genest, Hedi Kyle, Frank Mowery, Jan Sobota, and Priscilla Spitler. In addition, Fred Bearman gave a lunchtime talk on chemise bindings.

These sessions were all held in the University's Examination Schools where there were also rooms set aside for the many vendors to display their products: binding equipment, tools, books, papers, leathers, vellums, etc. There was a handsome exhibit set up of bindings created by Fellows and Licentiates of Designer Bookbinders as well as the invited speakers.

Many delegates took advantage of pre-conference tours. One was a visit to the private library of John Paul Getty III at Wormsley House with its breathtaking collection of bindings from medieval manuscripts on up to modern designer bindings. The balance of the day was spent at the Rothschild Library at Waddesdon Manor whose curator, Giles Barber, presented highlights of that beautiful 18th-century collection. There were also optional post-conference tours. Other special events included an after-dinner talk by Marianne Tidcombe, "The Tregaskis International Bookbinding Exhibition 1894" and a pleasant riverboat cruise on the Thames on another evening.

Designer Bookbinders was ably assisted in running the conference by Millstream Europe Ltd. Delegates were housed in the historic (if not luxurious) dormitories of Christ Church College and all meals were served in the college refectory under the watchful eyes of King Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, founders of Christ Church College. All in all, "New Horizons" was a rich and rewarding experience for both delegates and speakers.