Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books

The Center for Book Arts is hosting a roundtable on the work of women book artists on May 22nd. Here’s what to expect:

Though artists’ books can arguably trace their origins back to medieval volumes like the Trѐs Riches Heures, contemporary artists’ books tend to reference William Blake as the forerunner to the genre. And since then, the field has produced masters like Dieter Roth, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and others who transform books into art objects.

The 1970s and 80s are considered by many experts as the golden age of offset printed artists’ books, and though it was a field mostly dominated by men, women were making their mark, too. A roundtable discussion being held at New York’s Center for Book Artson Tuesday May 22 will explore the work of those women creators of offset printed artists’ books, the challenges they faced, and what they hope the future holds for the next generation of printmakers. Participants include Cynthia Marsh, founder of Tennessee’s Goldsmith Press; Rebecca Michaels, a photography professor at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia; and Philadelphia-based book artist, printmaker, and professor Patty Smith.

The panel will be moderated by the Met’s associate chief librarian of the Watson Library, Tony White, whose exhibition, Production, not Reproduction: a Chronological History of Offset Printed Artists’ Books, appeared at Yale in 2006 and at the Center for Book Arts in 2007.

Diane Dias De Fazio, a public services librarian at the NYPL and one of our featured librarians in the “Bright Young Librarians” series, has been instrumental in organizing the event. “The work of Smith, Marsh, and Michaels was featured in both iterations of that exhibition. White also served as guest editor for Volume 25 of the Journal of Artists’ Books,” Dias De Fazio said in an email recently.                                                                                          

 

“I interviewed all three women ten years ago when I was creating a genealogy of offset printers for Volume #25 of the Journal of Artists Books,” explained White. “I learned about where they discovered printing, who they studied with, and who they taught. There are a number of male offset printers who have received more recognition, but who came a generation or so later. With so many women book artists’ and printers, I want to make sure their stories are heard, especially in the contemporary book production environment.”

Though Tuesday’s panel of participants is far from complete, White believes that the women sharing their stories are representative of the experiences others have had.

“In a way, I am returning to a project I started in 2007 to gather and publish the interviews of offset printers,” explained White. “The focus of the program is on women who played important, foundational roles in the field of high speed rotary offset printing. “It is a highly technical and demanding printing process–much less forgiving that letterpress.”

“Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books” happens on Tuesday, May 22 at the Center for Book Arts (28 West 27th St, 3rd floor) from 6:30-7:45. RSVP to this event at rsvp@centerforbookarts.org.

Welcome Bookworks, a New Artist’s Book Fair

Readers, welcome Bookworks to the book artist’s fair scene. The San Francisco Center for the Book is hosting its inaugural event on Friday, May 18, from 5:30-8:00 p.m. at their location on Rhode Island Avenue. Eighteen book artists will be displaying their creations, all at price points between $50 to $500.

 

“We want this fair to support up-and-coming artists much in the way our founders, Mary Austin and Kathleen Burch intended when they created SFCB back in 1996,” said executive director Jeff Thomas. “Additionally, San Francisco hosts the CODEX book arts fair each spring, but young and struggling book artists often can’t exhibit there due to the relatively high cost to participate,” he said. “Our show is dedicated to supporting artists just starting out, as well as giving new collectors a reasonably-priced venue to start their own collections.” In addition to giving new artists a platform to reach prospective buyers, the show also welcomes established local book artists like Mary Laird and Lisa Rappoport. “At its core, this show is really about the vibrant book artist’s community here in San Francisco and that it can be accessible to all,” explained Thomas.
The event is free and will be accompanied by light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, so RSVP ASAP!

 

This story first appeared on the Fine Books Blog on May 11th. 

Behind the Bookshelves: The Podcast

The Salon International du Livre Rare in Paris this Weekend

**This story first ran on the Fine Books & Collections Blog on April 13th.

Paris, tu es ma gaieté, Paris…
Spring in Paris–is there anything better? Doubtful. The icing on the cake? Today through April 15, the Grand Palais hosts the Salon International du Livre Rare et de l’Objet d’Art. This year the Salon is backed by France’s UNESCO commission and presented by president Emmanuel Macron. (To be determined whether he is greeted by hecklers as he was at February’s Agricultural Fair.) **Update: It appears Macron skipped the show.** The Salon has grown in scope and attendance over the past few years, and 20,000 visitors are expected to stroll the temple to Beaux-Arts architecture at the corners of General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill Avenues.

 

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This year’s special guests include the Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives(IMEC) and the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CNAM). IMEC specalizies in preserving archival collections at various publishing houses, while CNAM is a doctoral-degree granting program founded in the throes of the French Revolution. Both will be exhibiting materials culled from their respective archives.

 
Among the fifty participants at this year’s salon is Solstices (16 rue Pestalozzi, Paris), a rare books dealer specializing in architecture, political posters, Russian art, and surrealism. And Laurent Coulet will be showing a major Proust find.

 
Museum exhibitions, paper-making demonstrations, and book signings round out this delightful cabinet of curiosities, and with a ten-euro entry fee, the Salon is well worth the price of admission. (Bouquinistes, students, Friends of the Louvre, and LILA booksellers are admitted free.) Bonne foire to all!


Image: Salon catalogue via le Syndicat national de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM)

Darn it! 83,500 Vintage Sewing Pattern Illustrations Available Online

Have you ever flipped through a fashion magazine from days of yore and wished you could rock a psychedelic two-dimensional paper dress circa 1967 or slip into a Mod mini by Mary Quant? Well, now you can–but first, better dust off that sewing machine.

 
Until now, vintage sewing patterns have been available at various web sites across the internet, but Vintage Patterns Wiki is probably one of the largest collections out there, with over 83,000 downloadable, free, out-of-print sewing pattern illustrations. However, the actual patterns themselves aren’t always free: though a few are available on the wiki, Vintage Patterns mostly links to affiliate sellers.

 
Organized by decade, designer, and garment, patterns date from the 1920s through 1992. There’s even a collection of patterns inspired by Hollywood stars–Olivia de Haviland’s jumpsuits  look particularly on trend for spring 2018. With a little elbow grease and attention to detail, you’ll have a bespoke piece that stands the test of time. Besides, sewing is great for the psyche: as Margaret Atwood wrote in Alias Grace, “I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.”

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Beautiful Birds at Bonhams this Spring

Spring announces itself in many ways. In the book world, vernal book fairs and auctions tempts the frozen bibliophile our from hibernation with new treasures waiting to be explored. Bonhams welcomes the new season with a May 30 auction entitled, Wassenaar Zoo: a Dutch Private Library.
Comprised of 2,400 mostly ornithological volumes, the collection was assembled in the 1950s to accompany exhibitions at Holland’s now-defunct Wassenaar Zoo. The auction will include a near-complete run of folios by naturalist John Gould, works by French ornithologist François Levaillant and by Daniel Elliot, co-founder of the American Museum of Natural History. Their beautiful illustrations of pheasants, finches, and falcons fuse a delicate balance between art and scientific inquiry and remain highly coveted by collectors.

Representing the biggest names in 19th century natural history documentation, highlights from this collection went on display in New York earlier this month and are currently on view in Hong Kong. Another viewing will be held in London from May 23 through the 29th.
Interested parties may flock to the Bonhams book department at books@bonhams.com.

Image: Superb Fairywren The Birds of Australia. London, Printed by R. and J. E. Taylor; pub. by the author,[1840]-48. Plate 18 by John Gould. Courtesy of Biodiversity Library and Smithsonian.

Rethinking the Enlightenment

Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too.

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Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too. Elite, educated women often held salons–forums hosted in private homes where spirited debate on topics from education to politics accompanied sumptuous meals. (This is France, after all.) Women held court in these salons, selecting topics, curating the guest list, and using the venue to seal their social status. One of the more famous Parisian salonnières was Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, who ran a salon at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, the first of its kind and which likely inspired Molière’s scathing one-act satire les Précieuses ridicules.
Other women went a step beyond hosting salons and picked up the plume for themselves. Madame de La Fayette, a regular at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, wrote the first French historical novel called La Princesse de Clèves (1678), while the correspondence of the marquise de Sevigné is widely celebrated for its verve and historical significance.
Today, Houghton Library at Harvard University is hosting a symposium on these and other ladies of the Enlightenment called, appropriately, “Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth-Century France.” Members of Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature as well as guest professors from the Universite de Lille and Wellesley College will discuss the works of women who participated in the Enlightenment “but were excluded from its history until recently.” The discussion accompanies an exhibition on view through April 28th, “Rethinking Enlightenment,” curated by Harvard senior and forum participant Caleb Shelbourne, who assisted professor Christie McDonald with research for her forthcoming two-volume work Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle (Paris: Gallimard, 2019). The symposium comes two days after International Francophonie Day, an annual event celebrated by 220 million French-speakers on five continents.