Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 109
December 1996


1996 Standards Seminar: Pre-conference Tours

Guild members were treated to a wonderful, jam-packed day of pre-conference tours before the recent Standards Seminar in Pasadena.

We first went to Kater-Crafts Bookbinders in Pico Rivera, a family-owned business founded in 1949 by Mel Kavin. Our host and all of his 75 employees cheerfully answered all our questions as we toured and admired the impressive organization of this large bindery. The factory consists of over 20 separate areas, from receiving through sewing, rounding and backing, lining up, board cutting, cloth cutting, stamping, casing in, and so on right up to the final inspection and shipping dept. Besides library bindings, this business handles many small editions (under 1000), restoration jobs, and special projects, such as books bound in exotic skins appropriate to the content or title. We saw books bound in kangaroo, monkey, cobra (with head), whale (Moby Dick), zebra, emu, rattlesnake, turkey, camel, bull, toad (Wind in the Willows), not to mention Fahrenheit 451 bound in asbestos cloth or The Tournament of Roses bound in football leather. We also saw the book-in-progress that David Barry has bound in elephant skin, with tusks.

We were glad to be shown Mel Kavin's wonderful library containing his own miniature book collection, where we signed the stunning guest book he had made for this occasion. And we were especially eager to see the 33 international fine designer bindings he had commissioned for Bernard Middleton's miniature book, You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover. These bindings were as interesting and varied as anyone could wish for, and while it's unfair to single out just one among so many outstanding bindings, it's impossible not to mention Jan Sobota's perfect miniature representation of Middleton himself with arms extended to hold his own book. Mel Kavin was a most gracious host, providing us all with refreshments and souvenir copper trade tokens.

The Huntington Library in San Marino was next on our agenda. It was a beautiful day, just right for enjoying lunch on the terrace overlooking part of the outstanding Huntington grounds. Only after I got home did I realize that there were 15 specialized Botanical Gardens covering 130 acres of the 207-acre grounds, only a small portion of which I had had time to see. I missed the Japanese, Desert, and many other Gardens, as well as the Huntington Art Galleries. Half the group wandered through the grounds and bookstore and then switched with the other half, who had tours of the conservation labs and a special showing of "Club" bindings bought by Huntington in 1911 (at the Robert Hoe auction) and never before shown to the public.

In the paper and conservation labs, as well as discussing ongoing research into the right combination of chemicals to remove impurities in paper, we saw a recent binding of a high-resolution digital facsimile of the earliest complete text of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (the Ellsmere edition), the original of which can be seen on display in the Huntington exhibition hall. We also examined the results of a 2-year project devoted to repairing, rebinding, and boxing over 300 pamphlet-size books. In the Library, Thomas Lange, Curator of Rare Books, gave us a short talk on the history of the Club bindings in America. Around the turn of the century, Robert Hoe had hired the Parisian finisher, Leon Maillard, to run the Club Bindery (for the Grolier Club) in New York City, where he was soon assisted by ten workers. We were able to examine, (much too briefly for most of us), but not to handle, about two dozen bindings that had been selected from hundreds of Club bindings in the Huntington's collection. They were in absolutely pristine condition, with flawless tooling and amazingly different styles of design. We were grateful to Thomas Lange for giving us this rare opportunity.

Our only regret at leaving the Huntington was that the time had been all too short.

After briefly returning to our hotel, we were transported by bus to Scripps College in Claremont for a reception and viewing of the Guild's most recent exhibition. After feasting at the colorful CalMex buffet provided for us, we had leisure to feast our eyes on the Guild's latest exhibition. Peter and Donna Thomas in 1993 had designed and letterpress printed the book, A Collection of Paper Samples from Hand Papermills in the United States of America, containing paper samples and statements from 28 different papermakers, a limited edition of 195 copies. Copies were reserved for the papermakers and binders among us. Copies numbered 1 through 25 were bound in full leather with extra paper samples; the rest of the edition was bound in quarter leather with paper sides. Unbound copies of this text , which combines the talents of hand bookbinders, papermakers, and fine printers, were bound uniquely by 21 different Guild members whose work made up this exhibition, "Paper Bound."

The exhibition catalog, a special wire binding of full color postcards of each book, are available for $20 plus $2 s&h from The Bookbinder's Warehouse. This exhibition will travel to four other sites.(See Calendar for dates.) It may also be seen on-line at: < gbw.html>.

Finally, we had a tour of the Scripps College Press, where we had an opportunity to examine an exhibition of some of the Scripps Press books. Kitty Maryatt, Director of the Press since 1986, told us about her class "Typography: The Art of the Book" where students learn the highest standards of typography and printing by publishing their own books. The Press produces small editions of about 50 copies, some of which are now out of print. Kitty and her students are responsible for the clever keepsake all conference members received in their packets. The students chose an appropriate line from the Peter and Donna Thomas book, printed it in 3 colors, cut it up into twelve pieces to form a puzzle, and made attractive boxes to hold it. We're grateful for the time, effort, and ingenuity that made our visit to Scripps College so enjoyable.

All of this took place the first day, and the conference proper had yet to begin!

- Barbara Kretzmann

(Ed. Note: An Overview of the "Conference Proper" will appear in the next issue.)

Oak Knoll Fest, 1996

Picture a warm, sunny early October weekend spent in the quaint colonial town of New Castle, Delaware, on the banks of the Delaware River. That was the site of the recent 1996 Third Annual Private Press Book Fair sponsored by Robert Fleck of Oak Knoll Books who specializes in "Books About Books".

Saturday morning this event commenced in the Immanuel Parish Hall with a slide-illustrated presentation by David Esselmont, Managing Director of Gwas Gregynog, a renowned private press located near Powys in Wales. David described the fascinating history of this press which was founded in 1922, and the influences of the various managers, from that time to the present, on the policies and production of the press. Gwas Gregynog was originally sponsored by the heiress Davies sisters and on the passing of the last survivor, Margaret, the press was bequeathed to the University of Wales.

This talk was followed by a description by the talented American wood engraver, Gaylord Schanilec, of eight illustrations he has done, in collaboration with David Esslemont, for "Wrenching Times: Poems from Drum-Taps" by Walt Whitman, edited by M. Wynn Thomas.

On Saturday afternoon and on Sunday we were treated to twenty displays, in the hall of St. Peter's School, ranging from the current works of some seventeen American, British and Canadian private presses to Theo Rehak's Dale Guild Type Foundry.

Of note among the private presses, in addition to Gwas Gregynog, were: Claire Bolton's Alembic Press and Frances Wakeman's Plough Press (Oxfordshire), Michael Peich's Aralia Press (Pennsylvania), Mark McMurray's Caliban Press (New York), Stephen Heaver, Jr.'s The Hill Press (Maryland), Simon Lawrence's The Fleece Press (West Yorkshire), Margaret Lock's Press (Ontario), Peter & Donna Thomas' Press (California), and Neil Shaver's Yellow Barn Press (Iowa).

In addition, book signings were offered by four authors: Nicholas Basbanes, A Gentle Madness; Carl Schlesinger, The Biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler; Stephen O. Saxe, American Iron Hand Presses; and Susan Otis Thompson, American Book Design.

Among the several hundred book fair attendees were many other well known private press people, book conservators and collectors. In addition to the very enjoyable experience of Oak Knoll Fest '96, the press people to whom I spoke gave me important insights concerning their paper quality requirements which will prove useful in the future manufacture of archival handmade text papers at Cranberry Mills. This made the three-day, 1300 kilometer excursion well worthwhile for me!

- Edward "Ted" H. Snider, Prop., Cranberry Mills, Handmade Papers, Seeleys Bay Ont.