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PREPUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENT - Fritz & Trudi Eberhardt: An Oral History
The Guild of Book Workers is pleased to offer this oral history of Fritz
and Trudi Eberhardt.
On Christmas Eve, 1997, Fritz Eberhardt's death ended his career of over
siz decades as bookbinder, calligrapher, type designer and artist.
Fortunately, four years prior and under the auspices of the Guild of Book
Workers, Valarie Metzler, visited Fritz and his wife Trudi , and during the
course of several days recorded hours of conversation with the Eberhardts.
Often opinionated, occasionally controversial - and always overflowing with
his enthusiasm and dedication to his craft - we are pleased to announce
that it is finally being published.
Family history, the realities of growing up under the Third Reich, and
their migration from Germany to Sweden to Philadelphia... Fritz and Trudi
touched on it all during the interview. But always the discussions returned
to bookbinding, to craft, to art, to the place of the craftsperson in society.
This oral history will be available in late spring. Wish a forward by GBW
member Don Rash, long-student and friend, the dialog is estimated to be
about 80pp in length. The text of this forward is included below.
In order to anticipate the correct number of copies to print, we are now
accepting pre-publication reservations/orders. Please fill out and return
this form by March 10, 2000 to reserve you copy. Orders postmarked by March
10 receive free shipping. The cost for the volume will be $20 until March
10, $22.50 including shipping after that date. This oral history is also
being offered in Adobe PDF format at the reduced price of $7.50. Upon
publication it will be sent to you via email. Institutions may request
billing. An order form to be mailed will be available in Adobe PDF format
at the Guild's website <http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/gbw>. For
convenience the form may also be faxed. Please mark it "Attention Peter
Verheyen, Department of Special Collections." The number is 315-443-2671.
FRITZ and TRUDI EBERHARDT
Interviewed on 6 and 7 July, 1993
at their home outside Schwenksville, Pennsyvlania
VALERIE A. METZLER,
FORWARD: By Don Rash
On Christmas Eve, 1997, Fritz Eberhardt's death ended his career of over
six decades as bookbinder, calligrapher, type designer and artist. Trudi,
his wife of more than forty years and also a bookbinder, was partner,
collaborator, paper conservator, teacher. Together they produced a major
legacy of work, as well as perhaps the most important legacy of raising
their three children. Fortunately, in 1993 under the auspices of the Guild
of Book Workers, Valerie Metzler spent two days interviewing the
Eberhardts. We should be grateful to have this resulting document of their
eventful lives and careers.
To those acquainted with Fritz and Trudi, this interview will be like
another visit to their house: Fritz elucidates his views with vigor; Trudi
is less emphatic but no less firm in her opinions. The discussion covers a
great deal of family history, but always returns to bookbinding, to craft,
to art, to the place of the craftsperson in society. Those who may know the
Eberhardts by reputation only now have the opportunity to get to know them
through their own words, and perhaps come to a better understanding of
these two important figures in the history of American bookbinding.
One of the things that struck me on reading this memoir is the wealth of
information about Fritz and Trudi's early years in Germany. Not only the
family information and details of craft education and apprenticeship (For
example, the apprentice's parents paid the master for the privilege of
their child being taken on as an apprentice. Is it any wonder the
Eberhardts gave short shrift to people who asked to be paid apprentices?),
but the realities of growing up under the Third Reich. This is a part of
history of which most of us, I suspect, are not well aware.
After the war, as is related in the interview, they both left the Eastern
Zone and, after marrying in Sweden, ultimately arrived in Philadelphia.
While working for the Library Company of Pennsylvania, Fritz was able to
read many of the writings of the Founding Fathers. In this regard it occurs
to me that he and Trudi came to embody the Jeffersonian ideal of the
philosopher mechanic: the self-sufficient citizen who works with both hands
and head, and is solidly vested in the process of democracy.
After this period they established their own bindery outside of
Harleysville, PA, and began their long and productive career as Fritz and
Trudi Eberhardt, fine bookbinding and design. It was from this location
that their reputations spread. In time they began teaching; I was fortunate
enough to study with them for six years.
Some who read this memoir may wonder whether, in a time of
t-says-it-is/artists' books, the Eberhardts' views of bookbinding and of
the education of bookbinders are still valid. There are those, including
myself, who believe that the elegance, both visual and conceptual, of a
well-made traditional hand binding, no matter what the constituent
materials, is difficult to improve upon. One of the most important ideas
that Trudi and Fritz taught was that a simple binding, in appropriate
materials and well crafted, can be more esthetically valid than an
ill-conceived and/or ill-executed work in some precious material.
Unfortunately, this view has been slow to disseminate in the wider
population of bibliophiles, provoking Fritz's ire on numerous occasions.
The difficulty is that to bind a book well by hand, even a simple cloth
case binding, is a rigorous affair. As with other crafts, an understanding
of material and structure must be accompanied by hand skills which only can
come with practice, preferably under the supervision of a knowledgeable
instructor. This is why the continuum of craft is important, the passing on
of requisite skills and attitudes. In a lecture once Fritz said that hand
bookbinding is the trunk of the tree of all bookbinding, that once these
skills are mastered they can be applied to other ways and means of making
The Eberhardts' professional approach to bookbinding was the cause of their
uneasy relationship with the Guild of Book Workers, which, while preventing
American bookbinding from becoming completely moribund, was run for the
most of its existence primarily by lady amateurs of some means. Fritz was
never hesitant about making his feelings about that state of affairs known.
With an influx of younger persons beginning in the 1970's, however, the
makeup of the Guild began to change, and the Eberhardts, along with other
professional binders, began to see a more serious approach to the field
promulgated by the Guild. The evolution of the Guild is still ongoing, due
in no small measure to the efforts of the Eberhardts and their colleagues.
There is so much more I could say, but I'll end with this anecdote. In
about 1980 I was working at Haverford College as the binder, doing repairs
on the circulating materials, and my wife and I were taking classes from
Trudi. Both sets of parents were unsympathetic to our goal of becoming
professional binders, pressing us to get "real jobs". We wanted to set up a
bindery in our apartment, but couldn't see how to do it. We talked to Trudi
about our problems, and this woman who was my retired parents' age said, in
essence: "Well, what do you really need? Put a mattress on the floor for
sleeping, and with a hotplate you can cook. If this is important enough to
you, you'll find a way to do it." It was an epiphany of no small magnitude,
and one for which I'll always be grateful.
Peter D. Verheyen
Publicity / Public Relations Chair
The Guild of Book Workers
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