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Guild of Book Workers – Standards of Excellence Seminar // Cleveland 2015

October 25, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

I woke up very, very early on a Thursday morning to catch a flight out of Boston to Cleveland in order to attend the evening festivities planned for the first day of the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar. I was delighted to be on the same flight with Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator at the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College. The weekend-long event filled with book-related discussions had officially begun.

We arrived in Cleveland to a brisk, yet sunny morning. My wonderful friends and colleagues, Henry Hebért and Jeanne Goodman, picked us up at the airport and we were off to the hotel located just a short walk from Lake Erie (and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).

The first day of Standards began with book-related tours across the city. At the last moment, I was able to snag a spot on the tour of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Our docent, a fellow GBW member, gave us a brief tour through the Western Art galleries, stopping from time to time to show off books from their spectacular collection. It was a real treat to see some fine examples of Western-style bindings and manuscripts.

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In 2002, the Museum underwent renovations that included this beautiful 39,000 square foot enclosed glass atrium that connects the original building with the newer wing and is where we met our tour guide. (click to enlarge images)

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We appropriately began our tour of early bindings with an Egyptian Book of the Dead of Hori scroll on papyrus dating roughly around 1969 – 945 BC. We swiftly made our way to the 11th century as our docent pointed out this beautiful Byzantine binding with the primary headbands still intact.

We then saw a small collection of illuminated manuscripts with pigments that had been wonderfully preserved and appeared as bright as if they were created yesterday.

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As a great lover of Flemish art, Queen Isabella treasured her library of devotional books; on display at the museum is a Book of Hours crafted for her by the most talented manuscript painters active in Ghent and Bruges during early 1500s. This circle of artists were renowned for their border decoration that often featured realistically painted flowers, scrolling acanthus leaves, birds and butterflies.

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The Gotha Missal dating from about 1370 – 72 is shown in the image above (left) opens to a lovely miniature painting with vines running along the margins. Since the interest for most displayed book is in the content, binders get to see very little of the actual binding. Fortunately, the CMA has digitized and photographed a large portion of their collection. The leather binding over wooden boards is quite a beautiful example of a decorative medieval binding. The tooling could have been completed with a decorative roll and covers the entire surface of the covers.

Next in the tour was a highly decorated leather case with cut-work and hand painted details in blue once used to cover a Qu’ran dated to sometime in the 15th century. We also saw a leaf from a Jain manuscript from India dating to sometime in the 15th – 16th century. But the final piece we saw was by far my favorite.

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An Illustrated Marriage of Apparitions (Bakemono konrei emaki) is a humorous hand scroll created in the mid-1800s. The story is mainly told through imagery with cartouches scattered amongst the illustrations as a way to describe the scene (much like a comic book). The scroll is displayed open to the part of the story with the birth of the first child between two apparitions or bakemono. A procession of 100 whimsical and supernatural monsters follow the couple through their matchmaking, engagement, marriage and finally to childbirth.

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The evening reception occurred at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Education Foundation. This was my first time at the Morgan and I was blown away by the size of the space. It was covered with a multitude of various creations. From what I could gather, the space was divided into different areas, a small shop right near the entrance, an area for printing, the center of the room was used as an exhibitions space, and the back half was for paper making and other workshops. I did miss out on the tour of the garden just outside the building in the back, but I heard it was absolutely gorgeous.

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Buoyancy was the exhibit on view at the Morgan, which explores themes of water and swimming and includes the work of Aimee Lee and Kristen Martincic. I really enjoyed Kristen’s realistic paper recreations of objects used in the water. Aimee created a large and impressive assortment of intricately woven sculptural ducks from hanji dyed with natural pigments.

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left: Aimee Lee | right: Kristen Martincic

Being that we were on the turf of the Midwest Chapter, members were invited to bring books for a pop-up exhibit. To our delight, this was also on display during the opening reception.

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The books on display in the image above from left to right are: Cris Clair Takacs: Remembering Jan Bohuslav Sobota, Karen Hanmer: Bookbinding with Numerous Engravings and Diagrams and Richard BakerLe Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours (Around the World in Eighty Days).

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Working down the exhibit table is Eric Alstrom’s The Long Goodbye (seen on the left) and Charles Wisseman‘s World Bones. 

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Next up Biblio Tech: Reverse engineering historical and modern binding structures from Karen Hanmer.

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On the left is Tunnel of Love from Mary Uthuppuru with miniatures from Gabrielle Fox on the right.
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Wrapping up my tour of the exhibit table is Joanna Kluba‘s Rainer Maria Rilke: Poems on the left and Emily Martin‘s Who Gets to Say on the right.

That concludes day one of the Standards Seminar. Stay tuned for part two of the post soon.


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  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher and I live in Boston working as a Bookbinder.  This blog is an extension of Herringbone Bindery where I can share my inspirations with you.
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