BOOK ARTS IN THE USA (page
This is the most established field in the book arts. Its
traditions go back to Gutenberg, and its goal is the beautiful
printed page. The choice of typeface and the spacing of each
letter is important in this work, as are the design of the page,
and the size of the margins. Much of this work is printed
letterpress and is concerned with the quality of the impression
of the type in the paper. The choice of text is of great
importance. Published in small editions, the text may be the
first printing of a book of poems, a classic novel, or an
experimental form combining typographic eccentricity with text and
illustrations. Harry Duncan's Cummington Press, and
are among these independent publishers. Many
colleges and universities now teach these arts and we find Kim
Merker operating the Windhover Press at the University of Iowa,
Bob Tauber with the Logan Elm Press at Ohio State University, and
Walter Hamady, who runs his own Perishable Press and also teaches
at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
What these people have in common is the importance of the feel
of the book. The reader is always aware of the physical presence
and aesthetic of the page. This aspect brings the work of
literature into the world of visual art. Often the cooperation
of many people makes the book possible. There may be a publisher,
editor, writer, illustrator, papermaker, printmaker, typesetter,
printer, paper marbler and bookbinder. Some individuals go so far
as to do every one of these operations themselves. The control
of every aspect of production creates a unique personal vision.
Until about 15 years ago bookbinding in America was based
entirely on various European models. The traditions of the craft
were preserved and disseminated by members of the Guild of
Book Workers, which has been an active society for over 75 years.
Recently, however, a new interest in the development of materials
and structures has grown, from several distinct perspectives.
Hedi Kyle develops structures based on her research in book
conservation, and is a leader in folding paper structures and
non-adhesive binding. Gary Frost and
those who develop structures based on historical models, such as
ancient Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic bindings or those of the
Medieval Celts. In Fusion, Timothy Ely makes the entire book,
using paints, inks, gold leaf and other substances both on the
pages and the covers. Jan Sobota makes the book into a sculpture,
as we see in Ruce.
Bookbinding has transcended its origins as a craft involved
exclusively in the preservation of text and the decoration of
covers. The sculptural and architectural qualities can be the
content of the book. For Susan Share this is not enough. She
creates performances using the structural aspects of compound
hinging book forms.
Are these in fact books?
Stella Waitzkin uses cast acrylic
resin to make solid booklike objects, like Mozambique. Karen
Wirth, who is a bookbinder, also makes solid books, including the
These sculptures use the book as a totemic or iconographic
artifact. We include these in Book Arts because, although they may
not have pages or work like books we usually see, they are about
the very essence of what a book means to us, and communicate their
message visually. Waitzkin has said, I love books, but words
often get in the way of communication.
There are books which don't fit any of these categories, and
that is part of the excitement of this developing field. Raymond
Holbert's Daily Reminder is a diary filled with each day's
thoughts and images.
Edna Lazaron's Terrorism
deals with a
contemporary issue in a form which goes back thousands of years
the scroll in a ceramic jar.
Please note that the catalog entries cover a wide variety of
objects and formats. There may be several artists who worked on
different aspects of a book, particularly in the area of fine
printing. There I have chosen as the artist the proprietor or
director of the press which produced the work, and the press name
then appears in parentheses after the name of the individual. It
is this person's statement which is reproduced. The other artists
who contributed to the project are identified in the listing.
It was hard selecting only 51 artists to represent Book Arts
in the USA, as there are hundreds more doing innovative work. The
excellent exhibit Artist's Bookworks in Print, curated by
Anne-Catherine Fallen and Kevin Osborn, circulated in Africa five
years ago, showing an entirely different group of artists. In the
present collection of work I have tried to present a broad view
of the varieties of work that are currently being pursued, and to
include representation of the geographic distribution of this
Copyright © 1990 Center for Book Arts