Friends and students of Laura Young gathered at the Grolier Club in New York City on Friday evening, April 18th to "honor her memory". That's how it was listed, but, in fact it turned out to be a most enthusiastic celebration of her life.
Terry Belanger, Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia, was the featured speaker. But before him came a few others. Erich Holzenberg, Director of the Grolier Club, introduced Jerilyn Davis. Jeri acknowledged the presence of Laura's grandson, Robert Young, and his wife, and then gave a brief resume of Laura's career. Jan St. Germain then introduced Mr. Belanger, saying of his teaching, "he enriches and inspires". Indeed, he did both of those things in the course of his speech. He first told of his meeting Laura Young when they lived in the same building on Claremont Avenue, their subsequent years at Columbia University, and why they both left there. Then came the Book Arts part of his talk, in which he discussed the book as both intellectual construct and physical object, or artifact. As a rare book librarian, he sees the enormous gulf between the original and the reproductions of the computer age. He notes that the physical object business is dying and predicts that in the next 50 years the artifact will no longer be of value. Reproductions will all be on computer which, Mr. Belanger says, is "no substitute for the original. Looking through plastic is like a kiss through glass". He urges us to preserve the original. "We must not deprive the future of the past," was his final plea.
The highlight of the evening, for me at least, was after Belanger's speech, when several of Laura's students came to the podium. Maggy Rosner, John Reed, Margaret Johnson, Hedi Kyle, Diane Burke and Judy Reed all spoke glowingly about her. Judy Reed asked for a show of hands in the audience of "students and students of students of Laura Young". An overwhelming majority of the audience raised their hands. "You see," she said, "Mrs. Young lives on with all of us.
Jeanne F. Lewisohn, Hickory Bindery, New York NY May 2, 1997