Jul 242017
 

I have had the great pleasure of working with Gabby Cooksey since she burst forth from North Bennet School and began inflicting her genius upon the world. I had the great pleasure of placing her first binding in Univ. of Virginia’s Special Collections and the greater pleasure of watching her explore, evolve, and expand with each new work. I have said since I saw her first work that she makes design decisions as a new, now young, binder that I would expect from one with decades under her belt… Part of this is to NBS’s credit, but much has to do with Gabby’s profoundly subtle and sophisticated way of looking at her projects and finding elegant solutions at nearly every turn…

It was not long before she branched out and began writing text, creating art, and printing all elements of some projects. Thus we have today’s gem: The Book of Penumbra, of which Gabby writes,

“Death has always fascinated me because it happens to all of us yet no one talks about it. I wanted to see what other cultures personified death as through myths and legends. The gods in this book are very hushed and for some, even if you speak the name, you’ll be cursed. I wanted this book to be shadows, to be played in the light. I chose a delicate paper so one could see through to the page behind it. The text is in all sorts of shapes because I wanted each story to represent the god being told about. For instance, Sedna is in the shape of drowning, Anubis is his eye, Mac is a pit with someone at the bottom. The borders are all plants, roots, and things found on the earth. Some represent death like the poppy, and the yew tree.”

Completed in an edition of 23, bound in wraps, and housed in a box with an inlaid coffin, it is a beautiful bit of work. As she is seldom content with ‘exquisite’, I received a package out of the blue and found a one-off art binding of the book with seven skulls suspended by gold in the cut-through front board (insert above). Always pushing, always expanding…ever brilliant. I am always excited about what she will produce next. Explore the book below…

 Posted by at 6:04 pm
Jul 182017
 

In November of 1897 the Library began a program of daily readings for the blind in a special “pavilion for the blind” complete with its own library. In 1913 Congress directed the American Printing House for the Blind to begin depositing embossed books in the Library, and in 1931 a separate appropriation was authorized for providing “books for the use of adult blind residents of the United States.” [LC]

This Act was amended in 1934 to include sound recordings (talking books), and expanded again later to include children, music, and ultimately to include anyone with physical limitations that prevent reading regular print. This program is important to me personally, because of what a remarkable effect it had on my grandmother’s life when she, a lifelong avid reader, lost the ability to read to macular degeneration. The program is still thriving…now sending out books to the vision impaired on flash drives.

There were few record players in homes in the early twentieth century, and thus between 1935 and approximately 1942 the Talking Book project produced about 23,000 record players (at a cost of approximately $1.2 million). While funding from the WPA dried up in 1942, the program continued until 1951, when the Foundation stopped producing its own record players because they were now readily available to the general public. It is this period that is particularly interesting for me, as it is the period where critical components of the record players used were produced by the company my in-laws’ owned and operated until their retirement (though this program far predates their ownership).

Between the mid-1940s to the mid 1950s, Bowen and Company produced the guts for several models of the record players that were provided to clients of the Talking Book project. On a recent visit, my FiL said he had something interesting for me and proceeded to hand over a Model 9C record player and a packing case filled not only with albums, but with a remarkable trove of the technical specs and schematics for the machines design and evolution…as well as some supporting material and, interestingly, a copy of a late advert, when the company had been given permission to sell the players to the general public. It is unusual to find one of the early players in any condition…to find one like this (with many extra needles) and records and (amazingly) a pile of the design/evolution documentation pretty much makes my month. Enjoy the huge pile of images to follow [photo credit to Mary Pennington]

Jul 142017
 

So after a few weeks of decompressing, we are back from RBMS 17 Iowa City! With epic stop overs in Indiana, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and more! By visiting the dead during the trip, we certainly appreciate our education and places of memories. Much like books, graveyards emulate a sense of memory.  While strolling through the local cemetery in Iowa City, we devised a plan to take the crypt a to it logical bibliophilic conclusion. What if you could shelve yourself much like a book, after walking on this complicated earth, in a familiar setting, housed in a familiar form? Thus, the idea of ‘bibliocrypt’ was born! Picture a crypt that embodies a library shelves…stone bindings on the outside, shelves with book-urns lining the inside. #bibliocrypt

Too morbid? Well, we did engage with the living, many living and breathing archives and libraries, librarians, and archivists doing amazing and engaging things to enrich our conscious world.  RBMS is typically a time of exchange and growth for many in the field. We were there to listen and talk to people in a wildly critical time of scholarship and information exchange.  Unlike most book fairs, this is best time to actually discuss components of library collection development, new modes of material description, and aspects of outreach and engagement.  We did a pretty good job of bringing materials that reflected the over theme of the conference: “The Stories We Tell” from artist’s books, narratives, to strange and odd visual storytelling.  A pared down booth!

In the future weeks, we will be thinking about yes, death, our biblioarcanum and new catalogs and lists coming out.

Our next big show is Boston ABAA, November 10-12, 2017. #biblioarcanum

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