Two major events in the Bay Area this month for book lovers and book artists.
Codex 2017 is part of the 6th Bienniel International Book Fair and Symposium at the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way South, in Richmond. The Book Fair is open to the public, and runs Sunday, February 5 through Wednesday, February 8. Multi-day tickets are $30; Single-day tickets are $10; Student tickets (with ID) are $5. The Codex Book Fair brings the “Best of the Best book artists and fine press printers from around the world to share their work, explore new and old concepts, and to start an on-going conversation about the fate and future of the book as an essential art form.”
The 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be at the Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, from Friday, February 10 through Sunday, February 12. The Fair allows attendees an incredible opportunity to browse and buy books from nearly 200 booksellers from around the world.
In addition to booksellers, the Antiquarian Book Fair features special exhibits, seminars, and presentations, all of which are free to the public with a paid admission. Look for a special group of “book arts” related exhibitors–including The American Bookbinders Museum, displaying binding, letterpress printing, calligraphy, and ephemera. Tickets are $23 for a three-day pass and $13 for a Saturday-Sunday pass; with Student ID a three-day pass is $20, and Saturday-Sunday is $10.
If you thought you missed the Books and Mud exhibit at the Bookbinders Museum, there’s still time. The exhibit has been extended through February 18.
“Books and Mud: the drowned libraries of Florence,” examines and commemorates the 1966 Florence Flood, the international corps of volunteer “Mud Angels” who came to help, and the tools and techniques that were created to reclaim and restore hundreds of thousands of books and documents devastated by the flood. The flood marks the birth of the modern conservation and restoration movement.
Now, more than ever, the lessons of Florence can not be ignored.
In over a year of giving tours at the American Bookbinders Museum, I have spoken about the women in mid-19th-century binderies who sewed books, day in and day out. Speed was of the essence: By the mid-1800s many of the time-consuming processes of binding had been mechanized, increasing production capacity hugely. The bottleneck? Sewing. So compromises were made in the way books were sewn in order to move that process along faster. A skilled worker on the sewing floor was expected to sew 200 books a day.
Think about that. In a ten hour day, that’s twenty books an hour.
In order to do that, the sturdy practice of sewing around cords was replaced with sewing past them: notches were cut in the spines of books and the book-sewer ran the thread into a signature, out the notch, in back of the cord, back into the notch, and so on. When pulled tight, the thread pulled the cords into the notches. The rub, in terms of quality, was that there was nothing to hold the cord there; if a thread broke, the cord could pop out and the book fall apart. Still, it was fast. Twenty-books-an-hour fast.
Which is where I come in. For five days this fall (spread out over five weekends), as a way of piquing interest in the history of binding and in the ABM, I appeared at San Francisco’s Dickens Christmas Fair in the role of one of those workers. My first conclusion: If paid by the piece–which one often was–I might have starved to death before I reached any decent speed. Even with five days of working at my new skill, I was unable to do more than eight books an hour. As with many hand skills, the process is much more complex than it looks, and attempting to do it properly takes focus.
Focus comes hard when you’re sitting on a busy by-way, talking about binding to everyone who comes by. Parents with children–especially very small children–would stop to watch. A startling number of people who took bookbinding in middle-school (who knew?) came by to reminisce. Older kids sometimes seemed jaded about the process until I pointed out that, because of the “new-fangled machinery,” books were becoming inexpensive enough that even a poor Factory Girl like me could own one. Some people just wanted to sit on a nearby bench and watch for a while. Many people took photos or video, some asked me about the paper and thread I was using, or thought I might be tatting. In character as Annie, an Irish bindery worker, I answered all the questions I could, and steered people to the ABM brochures you can see in the basket on the left.
Staying in character and yet trying to give some of the background on where sunken-cord sewing fit into the history of 19th century binding, I sometimes had to resort to my character’s Celtic second-sight: Dickens Fair is set sometime around the 1850s, and the first successful book sewing machine would not be patented until 1871. “This is the only way it’s done now, but in a decade or two, you wait. They’ll find a way to build a machine to do the sewing too.”
In order to conserve materials, I would wait until I had used up all my signatures, then pull them off the cords, cut the threads, and start all over again. Even for that I had a story: “We’ve a new girl at the bindery, just learning the work, and sometimes I have to take her books apart and sew ’em again.”
It’s not often you get to be the problem and the solution.
Planning on visiting the Bookbinders Museum over the holidays? Please note the ABM will be closed:
Saturday, December 24 through Monday, December 26
Saturday, December 31 through Monday, January 2
All other days we’ll be open for business and giving tours at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm.
Looking forward to meeting you!
Looking for the perfect gift for the book-lovers on your list? Look no further! The ABM Bookstore has books (of course), apparel, and other gift items ready for purchase. Buy a hoodie, an ABM mug, books on letterpress, binding, book history of various kinds, or one of our limited edition letterpress posters for “Books and Mud,” the Bookbinders Museum’s exhibit on the Florence Flood.
As an extra incentive, Saturdays in December everything in the bookstore is 10% off!
photos courtesy Daniel Juenemann
On Friday, October 28, conservators, librarians, historians, and friends of the American Bookbinders Museum joined us for a reception to mark the opening of Books and Mud: the drowned libraries of Florence.
The exhibit runs through January 20, 2017 and is open to the public. We hope you’ll join us too.
View from the Museum entry, as the cases are assembled.
After months of planning, the staff of the Bookbinders Museum–and the curators of Books and Mud: the drowned libraries of Florence–arrived at this week barely believing that the time had come to put everything–the text, the photos, the special materials–together.
Working with exhibit curators Tom Conroy and Elizabeth Ryan, ABM librarian Elspeth Olson (with the able assistance of library volunteers George Carlson and Mara Crovello, and all-hands help from museum staffers Stephanie Stokes and Madeleine Robins) assembled the many parts–over 100 photos; books, magazines and maps–in an attempt to evoke the essence of the 1966 Florence flood, its aftermath, and its lasting effect on book conservation and restoration.
Practically speaking, this involved the use of ladders, duct tape, the Museum’s Hickok board shear, 133.3 square feet of mat board (white and cocoa brown), burnishers, vinyl lettering, and an extendable pole (for hanging fishing line strung with folios). As the photos seen here attest, it was a slow, deliberate process.
Quotation over the entrance to the exhibit room.
We hope that visitors to the exhibition will be struck, not only by the world response to flood and its threat to world treasures in 1966, but by the relevance of the subject fifty years later. In a world where countless floods have threatened libraries, museums, and collections world wide, the lessons of Florence are more important than ever.
Tape climbs the wall to show the depth of Florence floods of various years; the 1966 flood reached a depth of 22 feet–taller than the ABM ceiling.
Cases in position for the exhibit opening.
Books and Mud: the drowned libraries of Florence, runs October 20, 2016 through January 20, 2016 at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina Street, in San Francisco. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am – 4pm. Admission to the exhibit is free.
Wa = Japanese + Shi = Paper :: Washi = Japanese Paper
Washi is the Japanese word for the traditional papers made from the long inner fibers of three plants — gampi, mitsumata, and kozo. As Japan changes with the rest of the world, machines produce similar-looking papers which have qualities very different from authentic handmade washi. Washi is loved by bookbinders, conservators, printmakers, architects and interior designers, book artists, printers, graphic designers and calligraphers.
On October 14 from 2pm – 7pm, come meet Linda Marshall of Washi Arts at the Bookbinders Museum. During this informal drop-in event, learn about how washi is made, what makes washi different from other papers, how to use washi in your work, technical issues with using Japanese papers for conservation and repair, what qualities different papers have and how to identify them, natural and synthetic dyes used to tone and color the paper, and famous artists using washi in their work.
You’ll have an opportunity to see, touch, and feel natural papers made of kozo, gampi, and mitsumata fibers; dyed papers in a range of weights; decorative papers: katazome-shi, chiyogami, Robert Wu and Karen Perinne marbled kozo washi, Madeleine Durham paste paper on kozo washi. Find out about konnyaku powder used to give washi added strength and a cloth-like consistency; kakishibu to dye and waterproof washi; bamboo tools for folding, creasing, and scoring; and Japanese iron awls for stab binding.
This opportunity to see, buy, and/or order washi, and to seek recommendation and advice from a recognized washi expert, is not to be missed!
Washi Arts is a retail partner of the Japanese Paper Palce, which houses the world’s largest selection of Japanese papers under one roof. Linda Marshall established Washi Arts to provide exceptional washi to book artists and bookbinders; the goal of Washi Arts is to inspire artists and artisans to use this precious material to enhance their work and spark creativity.
It’s Dreamforce time in the SOMA area, and the Bookbinders Museum will be closed for the week for a special rental event. We’ll be open again on Saturday, October 8 from 10 – 4pm, and for the first evening event of Litquake at 6:30. Hope to see you there!
If you’re thinking of visiting the Bookbinders Museum this week (and we hope you are), please know that the annual Oracle meeting has taken over Moscone Center (all three buildings), as well as Howard Street between 3rd and 4th Streets. The usual flow of traffic–particularly on public transit–may be disrupted.
As always, the best access to the ABM is from 5th Street, turning on to Clementina.
We look forward to seeing you!
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