In 1998, Julia Miller began the monumental task of sifting through notes and observations made during her thirty-year career as an archivist and book conservator at the University of Michigan Library, then sat down to write. In 2008, she received a Samuel H. Kress Foundation/FAIC conservation publication fellowship that allowed her to finish Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings, published by The Legacy Press in 2010 with a second edition in 2012 (I.S.B.N. 9780979797439).
This is a 500-page handbook aimed at conservators, collectors, librarians, book artists, and bibliophiles, for the identification and description of book structures and styles. It has a list price of $80.
To honor Ms. Miller’s immense contribution to book arts and highlight the strong impact design has on our relationship with books, the Midwest Guild of Book Workers invited bookbinders from across the country to take the text pages from Miller’s book and rebind them, then submit them to a jury of three experts who would choose the finalists for a traveling exhibition.
The Midwest Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers first brought the Plainly Spoken traveling exhibit to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas from Monday, November 11, 2013 to Monday, January 6, 2014. The second venue for the exhibit was the University of Michigan’s Hatcher Graduate Library from Friday, January 31, 2014 to Thursday, April 10, 2014. Ms. Miller spoke there on Tuesday, February 11, 2014.
In April, The Newberry Library will showcase the seventeen chosen designs. According to The Newberry Library, they will “include models that replicate books from a historical period; cutaways that visually reveal their hidden structure; design bindings that interpret a concept from the text; and artists’ bindings that play with structures and materials to create something new.” Plainly Spoken will open Tuesday, April 22, 2014 and run through Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at roughly the same time and across the lobby from The Newberry’s Library annual calligraphy exhibition.
The exhibit organizers Mary Uthuppuru, Lesa Dowd, and Barbara Korbel. The binders whose works are in the exhibit are Whitney Baker, Anna Embree, Ethan Ensign, Karen Hanmer, Robert Hanmer, Deborah Howe, Scott Keller, Barbara Korbel, Jill Krase, Anne McLain, Jeff Nilan, Elaine Nishizu, Nancy Nitsberg, Tawn O’Connor, Todd Pattison, Jana Pullman, and Roberta Woodrick.
The Plainly Spoken exhibit will be open through Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Next, it will be at the University of Iowa in Iowa City from Thursday, August 14, 2014 to Sunday, November 30, 2014. Finally, it will appear at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis from Friday, February 6, 2015 to Sunday, April 26, 2015.
After coining the phrase “suave mechanicals” for an exhibit on historical book-bindings she guest curated at the University of Michigan, Special Collections Library – Suave Mechanicals: Early to Modern Binding Styles – Ms. Miller used the phrase for the title of a book series she is editing and a Web site. Ms. Miller and eight other contributors wrote the 534-page book Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, Volume I (I.S.B.N. 9780979797453), published by The Legacy Press in 2013. She launched the Web site to support Volume I, which has a list price of $85.
Volume II, which has five contributors, is under revision and should be published later this year. The authors of Volume III are under contract. It should be published next year.
The Chicago Calligraphy Collective will present the aforementioned juried art show, “Exploration 2014.” This year marks its twenty-eighth anniversary.
The show runs from Monday, April 7, 2014 though Friday, June 27, 2014. According to The Newberry Library, it “features submissions of a wide range of stunning and thought-provoking calligraphic art.” A special event featuring the award presentation, demonstrations, and discussions will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, 2014.
The Newberry Library’s John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing includes nearly 100,000 volumes of technical literature, periodicals, and historical accounts of printing and book arts; more than 600 cubic feet of printing- and publishing-related archives (in 56 different collections); 650 calligraphic manuscripts and 2,100 printed volumes on calligraphy; 68,000 volumes of classified printing samples of every period (including 2,200 from the fifteenth century); and more than 15,000 items of printed ephemera. The Guild of Book Workers promotes interest in and awareness of the tradition of the book and paper arts by maintaining high standards of workmanship, hosting educational opportunities, and sponsoring exhibits. The Midwest Chapter serves the region by hosting workshops, exhibitions, and other events in the areas of bookbinding, artists’ books, printing, papermaking, and all fields of the book arts.