Wells College Bookbinding and Book Arts Symposium
Reported by Elaine Schlefer
Seventy of us arrived at Wells College on Thursday evening. After a greeting by Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the college, we were treated to a wine tasting by Treleaven Winery and a buffet dinner. There was an exhibition of Jane Pearces collection of designer bindings, and we had a chance to make our first foray into the parlors where the following eleven vendors had set up tables: Ashley Miller: Hand Marbled Paper; The Japanese Paper Place, Book Barn of the Finger Lakes (used books); Temper Productions (wooden presses); The Veatchs (rare books); Cranberry Mills Handmade Paper; Miniscula Miniature Books; Gehenna Press; Gérard Charrière (artists books); Book Makers (bookbinding supplies); Bookbinders Warehouse (bookbinding supplies). You may contact Barbara Kretzmann (315) 364-3420 for addresses of vendors.
Those of us staying in Ithaca arrived at our hotel after 10PM, and had to be on the bus Friday morning at 8AM. Following a welcoming speech by Bruce Bennett, the Director of the WellsCollege Book Arts Center, the program began with a talk by Barbara Kretzmann, the Binder-in-Residence. Barbara dedicated the conference to Jane Webster Pearce, whose donation of her bindery to Wells College helped to establish the Book Arts Program there. Entitled The Ties that Bind, her talk outlined her training in binding and that of her teachers. Barbara appealed to us to record our own genealogical trails in binding. Next we saw the film, The Art of Bookbinding, a film by Nina Ryan featuring the career of Gérard Charrière. The film showed him working on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was the featured binding in the exhibition.
Michelle Cloonan traced the history of six women binders who worked in Chicago or Los Angeles. W. Thomas Taylor described what works and what doesnt and why in book design. His talk echoed some of the sentiments expressed in Gérards film: you MUST let the text speak to you; dont scrimp and dont rush; have confidence in your own vision and follow it through. He showed us a number of his books and went into great detail about the successes and the failures.
Betsy Palmer Eldridge described German bookbinding techniques. She outlined the binding training in Germany: 3 years of apprenticeship, 4-5 years journeyman experience before seeking a masters certificate, which takes another 2-4 years. Besides slides of 30 bindings done by 11 German-trained binders, Betsy had actual textbooks used by apprentices, and some apprentices notebooks with detailed diagrams and descriptions.
Monique Lallier Etherington spoke about French binding. She explained that the French have a love affair with books and bindings. What matters most to the French are delicacy and elegance. She described how this is achieved by the use of various techniques. Monique went on to show a number of bindings by French-trained binders, including Louise Genest, Joanne Sonnichson, Eleanore Ramsey, Don Glaister, Gérard Charrière, and of course, herself.
Sidney Berger discussed the necessary contents of a book arts program. There must be an intellectual aspect and a practical one. He outlined a number of early book arts programs.
During the banquet on Friday night, Deborah Evetts showed slides of American binders and bindings. Some of the binders were present, and they were able to add information.
Saturday, Don Etherington spoke on the bindings of Otto Zahn. Zahn was trained in Germany, but settled in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1884. Nobody seems to know very much about his career. Don stumbled upon a number of Zahns bindings in a private library in Virginia, and was dazzled by them. All the bindings had raised bands incorporated into the design bindings in a masterful way.
Joe Newman spoke on Mary Crease Sears. Answering an ad for a press, Joe stumbled upon tools and other materials belonging to Ms. Sears. Included were two boxes of "junk", which turned out to contain dozens of drawings and plaquettes of hers.
The last speaker was Terry Belanger. His talk was entitled: The Future of the Book - If Any. What is a book? - an intellectual construct or a unique physical object? Naturally, most of us chose the second. Terry pointed out that this is not the definition that is going to prevail in the future. Economic difficulties are causing changes. All libraries already rely on reformatted copies and will increasingly have to. A great many old books will not be able to be kept in their original format - books that have significance as physical objects will be the only ones to survive. The library of the future will certainly be mostly electronic, but there will always be an interest in (and a market for) fine printed books, illustrated books, and one-of-a-kind art books. Aside from those, many books, even those considered rare, will not survive. Some institutions will have a "museum of the book" in one corner. To groans and complaints, Terry replied, "Change is neither merciful nor just. Nobody is asking your opinion. What will happen will happen." The only question is: When is the future?
Two field trips were offered on Saturday afternoon, one to Cornell Universitys Kroch Special Collections Library; the other to the Bixler Press & Letterfoundry and Westlake Conservators in Skaneateles, New York.
Planning is underway for the 1996 "Forum Internationale de la Reliure dArt", scheduled to be held in Montreal, Canada, September 27-29, 1996. Organized by Odette Drapeau-Milot, the Canadian delegate to LA.R.A., together with the lAssociation de Relieurs du Quebec, the biennial international conference will include exhibitions and discussions concerning the art of the handcrafted, handbound book. Attendance is open to all interested parties. A full-color catalogue normally is produced to commemorate the exhibition. For information about the conference, please contact Odette Drapeau-Milot, LA.R.A. Canada, c/o La Tranchefile, 5331 Boul. St. Laurent, Quebec, Canada H2T 1S5. Tel: (514) 270-9313.
Membership in the international organization, Les Amis de la Reliure dArt (LA.R.A.) is open to anyone interested in supporting the art of the book and its allied crafts. All members of the Guild of Book Workers have been automatically designated simultaneous members of LA.R.A.-U.S.A. by virtue of their membership in the Guild, and at no additional cost to members.
News of the Montreal conference and its activities will be made available via the GBW Newsletter. If interested in further information, please contact Paula Marie Gourley, Les Amis de la Reliure dArt-U.S.A., SLIS, Box 870252, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0252.
On June 4th the Zamorano Club, the Southern California booklovers group, held a 90th Birthday Luncheon Tribute for Ward Ritchie, well-known Southern California fine printer. Ward Ritchie is known as a major contributor to the "small renaissance" that changed the cultural climate and image of southern California in the 1930s and beyond. The Zamorano Club is establishing the Ward Ritchie Publication Fund to honor him with occasional publications of monographs detailing the history of printing and the book arts in the Southland (southern California, of course). Contributions to the fund may be made to the Zamorano Club, 14236 Margate St., Sherman Oaks, CA 91401-5722. Gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law.
Oleander Press, in Cambridge England, has sent letters to many binders asking them to contribute to a new illustrated directory, Contemporary Designer Bookbinders, for publication in 1995. In the directory, two facing pages will be dedicated to each of a selected number of significant contemporary designer bookbinders and book artists. We understand entries from the U.S. have been very meager.
If you would care to participate, or know of someone else who would (without any obligation to buy the book) please contact the editor to receive the requirements and deadline information:
Philip Ward Editor, Contemporary Designer Bookbinders The Oleander Press 17 Stansgate Avenue Cambridge, CB2 2QZ England tel: (01223) 244688
The New York Times, Sunday, May 21, reports on an auction on June 2 at Sothebys in London and in December in New York, of the collection of Frederick R. Koch. Mr. Koch, the reclusive scion of a Kansas oil family, acquired the bindings in the early and mid-1980s by purchasing three collections totaling 300 or so bindings. The 59 bindings of 20th century French books that contain illustrations by artists of that period are expected to bring a total of $1 million at the auction in June. Bindings by Henri Creuzevault, Georges Leroux, Rose Adler, Paul Legrain, Paul Bonet and others. The books, which have never been exhibited, will be on view at Sothebys in London beginning in late May. The 1930 Paul Bonet binding of Dostoyevskys three-volume "Brothers Karamazov" may sell for as much as $90,000. A late update is that the auction did not go as well as hoped and that prices fetched for most bindings were in the lower third of their range. The "Brothers Karamozov" did not sell.