With this very special Anniversary Exhibition, the Guild of Book Workers happily and proudly announces the arrival of its 100th anniversary as an organization devoted to promoting the book arts in America. A centennial celebration is an impressive accomplishment for a volunteer organization in the arts. To reach it, the Guild has survived a remarkable metamorphosis over the years.
The Guild was started in New York City in 1906 by an enthusiastic and dedicated group of book artisans, to “establish and maintain a feeling of kinship and mutual interest.” With an early membership of 126, they met informally for support and encouragement, sharing information and planning exhibitions. Forty-two years later when the membership had waned to forty-eight in the wake of World War II, the Guild became affiliated with the American Institute of Graphic Arts. AIGA, a much larger organization, was able to provide the Guild with administrative support, plus a place to meet and a small exhibition space. After thirty years with AIGA, when the membership had revived to over 300, the Guild courageously launched out on its own again, becoming an independent not-for-profit organization incorporated in the State of New York in 1978. Since then it has grown to become a national organization with almost a thousand members, and with ten regional Chapters that actively promote the Guild’s aims and purposes on a local level.
Although the Guild’s major focus has been on bookbinding, it appreciates and promotes all of the related book arts as well: hand papermaking and decorating, printing, calligraphy and illumination, and the conservation, preservation, and restoration of older book materials. Initially, the emphasis was on the traditional techniques and skills associated with fine binding. Design binding remains a strong interest in the membership and excellent examples appear in this current exhibition. More recently a strong interest has developed in artist’s books. This broader interpretation and definition of the book has attracted a whole new group of devotees. It too is well represented in this exhibition. A third strong interest remains in conservation, preservation, and restoration, which has a large following of members working in that area. However, the important work of this third group does not generally lend itself to exhibitions, and is rarely seen in exhibits such as this one.
In order to incorporate the many varied interests of its membership, the Guild has remained flexible and adaptable to their needs. Who knows what the second century will bring! But the Guild owes its heartfelt thanks to all of those whose hard work and dedication have brought it through thick and thin to this momentous point in time. If they could be here now, they would be the first to congratulate it, to wish it well in the years ahead, and to join in the cheering: Long may the Guild live!
The Board of Directors welcomes you to the Guild of Book Workers 100th Anniversary Exhibition: a showcase of the extraordinary talents of its members, past and present. From the beginning, exhibitions have been a prime goal of the Guild. The Board thanks Peter Verheyen, GBW Exhibitions Chair, and those who assisted him, for producing this splendid event to celebrate the Guild’s Centennial.
Betsy Palmer Eldridge
President, Guild of Book Workers