Wednesday, May 27, 2015

“Catching Your Attention: Decorative Book Covers and Unique Bindings”

Bryce, David, and Son Publishers, Glasgow
The Smallest English Dictionary in the World
 Special Collections Library -- Z1033.M6S59 18XX

“Catching Your Attention:  Decorative Book Covers and Unique Bindings” is an exhibition of digital photographs of books drawn primarily from the Special Collections Library. The display highlights unique bindings, ranging from the 16th to the 21st century. The examples include artists’ books, 19th-century publishers’ bindings, a fore-edge painting, a miniature book, and covers ornamented with gold, silver, jewels, or (in the case of a French book on the history of lingerie) black lace. Some books are bound in metal or wood; one is bound in a real accordion, another in a tin can.

Steinbeck, John
Cannery Row
 Special Collections Library
An artist’s book in a tin can by Peter and Donna Thomas, 2003

While all of the books and bindings have their own story, a favorite example of exhibition curator Bill Minter is a book that has a special story, all the more intriguing because the book itself no longer exists. The exquisite jeweled binding of The Great Omar, with more than 1000 precious and semi-precious stones, was being shipped from England on April 15, 1912. We all know the story of the Titanic and what happened on one fateful night. Fortunately, this unique binding was captured on a black-and-white glass plate negative, and the poster image in the exhibition has been digitally reproduced and colored using modern technology. 

Private collection

The exhibition was curated by Bill Minter, Senior Book Conservator, with suggestions from Sandra Stelts, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts. The books were photographed by Minter with assistance from Ann Passmore of the Libraries Digitization and Preservation Department. The scans were printed, framed, and installed by Jenna Gill, University Libraries Exhibits Coordinator.