GET THEE TO A BINDERY The Committee on Public Exhibitions at the Grolier Club hosted a reception to mark the opening of "Bound To Be the Best: The Club Bindery, 1895-1908," which is on display to the public through November 20.The club is a fitting home for the show, since its members founded the bindery.
The exhibit highlights outstanding work from what was arguably the finest hand bindery ever to operate in America.
"This is the first exhibit on the Club Bindery since 1906 so I suggest that you all take a good look," said curator Thomas Boss to audience laughter.
Books from the collections of Mr. Boss (who has been buying the volumes for 30 years) and another Grolier Club member, Shirley McNerney Rendell, are featured among the more than 60 examples of bindings on display. Tools lent by Ms. Rendell's husband and fellow Grolier member, Kenneth Rendell, round out the exhibit.
Mr. Rendell said what makes this exhibit so exciting is "relating" the craftsmen's tools to their end-product. He was once asked to describe his attraction to certain bookbinding tools. He replied that he planned to use them at a pizzeria. Some of the instruments do resemble pizza-pie cutters, with round metal wheels at the end of handles.
During the 1800s American bibliophiles sent their manuscripts to fine binders in England or France - prompting an enterprising group of Grolier Club members, including Robert Hoe, Samuel Putnam Avery, William Loring Andrews, Junius Morgan and Edwin Holden, to start a bindery to rival the Europeans. They hired Henri Hardy, who had apprenticed with famed 19th-century bookbinder Charles Meunier, and Leon Maillard, considered the top finisher of gold-tooled book bindings of his era.
The firm moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where it was later renamed the Rowfant Bindery (1909-1913), the Booklover's Shop (1914-1917); and the French Binders (1918-1920s) in Garden City, N.Y. Maillard's career ultimately declined and he supported himself by selling electric carpet sweepers door-to-door.
"Lustrous" and "precise" are adjectives that Mr. Boss invokes when describing the bindery's work.
Mr. Boss, who deals in illustrated and fine printed books, previously curated an exhibition on foreign book bindings at the Club of Odd Volumes in Boston.
The current exhibition could be considered a homecoming for the Boston resident. Mr. Boss attended Brooklyn Friends School and his interest in collecting books started early, when he worked at the now-defunct Boro Books on Montague Street. The latter experience also shaped his future as an antiquarian bookseller. Is it easy to be a collector and a dealer simultaneously? "It's not advisable," he told the Knickerbocker.
He said of collecting Club Bindery books, "Finding each one has been an achievement." He said he only was able to purchase two or three from any single source.
"You can never be quite sure when you're going to find them or they will turn up," he added. The one that got away? "Among My Books," which he lost out on at auction.
During Mr. Boss's talk, he thanked many people, including Eric Holzenberg, director and librarian of the Grolier Club, as "one of the greatest proofreaders and editors that there is."
Mr. Boss also expressed his appreciation to man others including a former president of the William Morris Society in the United States, Mark Samuels Lasner. Mr. Lasner traveled to New York for the opening and is helping to organize the upcoming American Printing History Association 28th annual conference at the University of Delaware Library.
Also at the opening exhibit were Bill Buice as well as Philip Bishop of Mosher Books in Millersville, Pa., who
contributed four bindings to the
show. Nearby was Martin Hutner,
who has just begun to research Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar Luca Pacioli, the author of a book in which the first printed description of bookkeeping appears.
The handsome Club Bindery catalog includes a history by Martin Antonetti, who is a former librarian of the Grolier Club and an authority on the bindery.
FROM HAMILTON TO HALE Seen at a packed opening reception at the New-York Historical Society for "Alexander Hamilton - The Man Who Made Modern America" exhibit were Sons of the American Revolution 1st New York Continental Chapter President Wesley M. Oler IV and several of the chapter's board of managers, including Richard Backlund, Thomas Bird, Stephen Foley, John Mauk Hilliard, and Richard W. Sage. Also present were SAR national society President-General Henry McCarl with his wife, Mary; Lisa Cosman, Recording Secretary of the newly-formed Knickerbocker Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, and Mary Barnes, Regent of the New York City Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
Mr. Oler has a busy September. The 1st New York Continental Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution is celebrating Nathan Hale Day with a party on September 22, the 228th anniversary of his hanging in Manhattan as a spy for General Washington.