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.

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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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.

Pottering About: Catching Up With the Beatrix Potter Society

The Beatrix Potter Society has been keeping tabs on all sorts of various Potter-related events as well as preparing for a springtime gathering in California. Here’s some of the highlights from its winter newsletter:

squirrel nutkin.JPGThe Bookseller reported in December that a first-edition of Potter’s long-forgotten and recently published The Tale of Kitty in Boots, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, was auctioned at the “First Editions Re-covered” sale, fetching nearly $14,000. The event raised funds for Blake’s House of Illustration, a public art gallery in London. The two-hour event raised approximately $180,000.

 
In 2016, the Royal Mint struck a series of coins commemorating the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, and plans to add new coins to the series in 2018. This year Mrs. Tittlemouse, the Tailor of Gloucester, Flopsy Bunny, and a new version of Peter Rabbit will appear on the 50-pence coins. The proclamation announcing the series appeared in the December 15 edition of the Edinburgh Gazette.

 
The United Kingdom’s National Trust celebrated 50 years of its Working Holiday program–an initiative aimed at encouraging participants to help care for and restore Britain’s beautiful coastlines, homes, and gardens–by planting 4,000 saplings near Moss Eccles Tarn in Cumbria’s Lake District. Stocked with water lilies and various fish, Potter once owned this charming fishing spot and donated it to the National Trust upon her death. Volunteers helped clear non-native plants to make room for the new trees–native oak, birch, and hazel.

 
Finally, the next meeting of the Potter Society will take place March 23-25 in San Diego, California. Among other activities–British afternoon tea on Saturday, for example–author Marta McDowell and librarian Connie Rye Neumann will share new research on the surprisingly parallel lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Potter.

Spring can’t get here soon enough.

                                                                                                                                                                  Image via Wikimedia Commons

Controversial California Autograph Law Amended

Change is in the air in California.
Readers of this blog may recall California’s passage of AB-1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia, which went into effect in January 2017. That law required all dealers of any autographed material worth more than five dollars to fill out a certificate of authenticity (COA) specifying date of sale, the dealer’s name and street address, and the name and address of the person from whom the autographed item was acquired if the item was not signed in the presence of a dealer. AB-1570’s goals were to prevent the distribution of forged autographs, but many booksellers felt they were swept up by a vague law with onerous requirements. Still others felt that portions of the law constituted an invasion of privacy, citing possible violations of California’s Reader Privacy Act of 2011.
Co-sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, 2017, AB 228 amends the previous legislation to better address the needs of booksellers in California.
The new law excludes all books, manuscripts, correspondence, and any ephemera unrelated to sports or entertainment media from the “autographed collectibles” regulation set forth in AB-1570. Rather than provide a Certificate of Authenticity–a lengthy document requiring sellers to disclose where autographed items were purchased that many booksellers found onerous–dealers of autographed collectibles may provide an “Express Warranty” incorporated in an invoice instead. Additionally, civil penalties for failing to comply with the law have been lowered as well.
“We are thrilled,” said Susan Benne, ABAA’s executive director. “The amended law removes the unintended consequences of the previous law, while providing the protections to the consumers it was intended to. We thank the lawmakers, booksellers, organizations, and professionals who supported the effort and made this happen.” Joining the ABAA lobbying group were many ABAA members liks Brad and Jen Johnson and Laurelle Swann, as well as organizations like the Grolier Club, the Manuscript Society, and the Professional Autograph Dealers Association.
The 200 dealers descending on Pasadena for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair next month will no doubt be pleased with the changes.

Bibliography Week 2018

Bibliography Week is coming back to New York later this month. Here are the day-to-day highlights:

Festivities kick off on Tuesday, January 23, when the American Antiquarian Society opens a special viewing of the exhibition, Radiant with Color and Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858-1920, on Tuesday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Grolier Club. Later, Georgia State University professor John McMillian speaks at 6 p.m. at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library about the underground press and the rise of alternative media in America in the 1960s.

 

Wednesday is another busy day, also at the Grolier Club, with a conference dedicated to the disposition of collections. Collectors, librarians, legal experts, and other members of the book trade will discuss all aspects of collections dispersal from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

 

Thursday’s events are led by the ABAA at the French Institute Alliance Françoise (FIAF), directly across the street from the Grolier Club. Over 30 ABAA members–including Rabelais, Bromer Booksellers, Les Enluminures, William Reese, Abby Schoolman, and others–and will be showcasing their specialties to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Next, check out an assortment of fine press books from around the world at Brooklyn’s Fine Press Salon at 37 Greenpoint Avenue. (Contact Felice Teebe at felix@booklyn.org for further details.)

 

The Cosmopolitan Club hosts the annual meeting of the Bibliographical Society of America on Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the New York Academy of Medicine (1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street) hosts its annual bibliographical lecture on Saturday, January 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year’s speaker is Amherst College’s head curator Michael Kelly, who will be discussing medicine and scientific racism.

Finally, the week concludes at the New York Public Library (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Trustees’ Room), with the annual meeting of the American Printing History Association from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

 

The whole bookish enterprise will be, as in years past, a fitting warm-up (pun intended) for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Pasadena Convention Center, February 9-11.