Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Fantasy World of Story Book Villages

Hello again readers! Since the end of my blooks exhibition I haven't written much on the blog. I thank those of you who have noticed my absence and I am now beginning again by completing some of the blog posts I've had in draft form. I begin with a post on blooks associated with a group of American children's theme parks, or story book villages, some long gone and others still in operation. If you visit them, send pictures!

To me, some of the most interesting and affecting blooks are large and ephemeral. These include billboards, signs and stage props. But what could be more exciting than passing through a giant story book into a magical world? As a small child, I had that experience growing up in Baltimore, which was near the Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City, Maryland.

The Enchanted Forest. Ellicott City, Maryland

The Enchanted Forest was the first theme park on the East Coast and the second oldest in the USA (Disneyland is the oldest). It opened on August 15, 1955.  The Enchanted Forest was meant for the small children who were intimately familiar with Mother Goose and other fairy tales. It featured no mechanical rides or spectacular special effects, but was full of wonderful giant interactive sculptures that were illustrations of the familiar tales, such as the Old Woman Who Live in a Shoe. In its heyday, the Enchanted Forest hosted some 300,000 visitors annually. Admission was $1 for adults and 50¢ for children. The park began on 20 acres, expanded to 52 acres and later reduced to 32 acres. The park closed in 1988, when its owners sold the property to develop a Shopping Center.

After closing, Clark's Elioak Farm purchased and re-installed many of the original Enchanted Forest features. You can visit them still! See

Story Book Forest. Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Where dreams are real and so are your story book friends!

Story Book Forest in Ligonier, Pa. is still in business! It is described on its website as a place where children can meet their favorite characters from nursery rhymes and children's tales and where parents and grandparents can revisit their youth and reminisce about simpler times. Story Book Forest was developed by C.C. Macdonald and Arthur Jennings, a performance clown who spent his summers entertaining guests at Idlewild Park. Working together, they made their dream a reality, and created one of the most fun and memorable things to do near Pittsburgh. Story Book Forest is a place for dreams and kids activities in Pittsburgh. 

Fantasy Land. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Fantasyland was in operation from 1959 to 1980. It was owned and operated by Kenneth and Thelma Dick on 23 acres (later expanded to 35) near General Meade's Headquarters, the present National Park Service Visitors Center. Noted for its beauty, tranquility and cleanliness, the story book land provided over 100 attractions. These included an Enchanted Forest and Santa's Village, Fort Apache (which was attacked by live Indians), Rapunsel's Castle, and more.

Never Never Land, Tacoma, Washington

Never Never Land was a private attraction owned and operated by Alfred Peterson of Victoria, B. C. from 1964 to 1985. In the cool, green forest of cedar, fir and hemlock trees, where ferns and moss covered the ground, the stories of enchantment from Mother Goose to the Brothers Grimm were brought to life. 

Story Land, Glen, New Hampshire

Need a little fairy tale magic in your family’s life? Look no further than Story Land in Glen, NH. Celebrating its 58th year of providing families with young children a treasure chest of memories in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains, Story Land is not your average amusement park. Geared toward children ages 2-12, Story Land provides a gentler approach to your usual family attraction.

Story Land. New Orleans, Louisiana

You can still climb aboard Captain Hook’s pirate ship, follow Pinocchio into the mouth of a whale or scamper up Jack & Jill’s Hill at Story Land in New Orlean's City Park. Fairytales and fantasy come to life before your eyes in City Park’s Storyland. This charming theme playground is a child’s dream come true, filled with 20 larger-than-life storybook sculptures featuring classic fairytale characters. - See more at:

Enchanted Forest. Turner, Oregon

In the 60's, Roger Tofte, a young father realized that there wasn't a lot for a family to see and do together in Salem. He formulated the idea for a theme park where he could use his creative talents and though he had very little time or money to make his dream a reality, he persisted anyway. He purchased the original 20 acres of land and began construction in 1964. He repaired watches in his spare time to help finance his project and worked on building the park after work and on weekends. The Tofte's own backyard became filled with storybook figures and small buildings as Roger also used every spare second at home to work on his dream.

Roger originally thought it would take only two years to build the Storybook Trail, which was the first section that he needed to complete before the park could open. Finally, after seven years Roger and his wife Mavis hung up a piece of butcher paper saying "OPEN" on the fence and the first visitors entered the park. Over the years, Roger and his family have been adding to his dream with new additions to the park. Now, Roger Tofte, though still the ringleader of Enchanted Forest, has successfully incorporated three of his children into the business. For more on this theme park see:

Video of the Grolier Club Colloquium: Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't

On February 2, Columbia University and the Grolier Club sponsored an evening colloquium in conjunction with my exhibition Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't. The symposium was filmed and the film is available on the Grolier Club website.

Here is a link:

Here is the program of speakers:

Colloquium in conjunction with the exhibition

Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t

January 28-March 12, 2016
Sponsored by Columbia University and the Grolier Club

Tuesday, February 2
Hours: 6:00-8:00 PM

Moderator, Karla Nielsen, Ph. D., MSLIS. Curator of Literature. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University

The Larger View of Blooks
Mindell Dubansky
Museum Librarian - Preservation, The Sherman Fairchild Center for Book Conservation, Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 Collecting Antiquarian Book Objects
Private collecting team, Bruce and Lynn Heckman

The Book as Object
Lynn Festa
Associate Professor of English. Department of English, Rutgers University.

Panel Discussion and Questions. Reception.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

BLOOKS review by Claire Voon from the Hyperallergic website March 2

J. & Company, “Instructeur Magnétique Américain. Grammaire” (c. 1870–90), a French educational grammar game (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
Books exist as receptacles of information, but for many years people have adopted
their format and appearance to create other objects or containers for an array of items.
Such objects are referred to as “book-looks” — or “blooks,” a term coined by Mindell Dubansky,
a preservation librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Thomas J. Watson Library
who has over the years amassed hundreds of examples. A sample of her growing collection is
now on view at the Grolier Club in the exhibition Blooks: The Art of Books that Aren’t,
filling the shelves of its second floor gallery with over 100 objects that resemble books,
illustrating our fascination with their design and architecture rather than simply the contents
of their pages. Most of the ones that can open are arranged in ways that show both their
outsides and interiors, making for a thoughtful and extensive display.
The variety of blooks — both handmade and commercially manufactured, and constructed
of all types of material — is remarkable and overwhelming, with some items dating as far
back as the late 18th century. As you may expect, many of these creations take advantage
of the format of a book to hide items of personal value in hollowed-out areas, perfect for
camouflaging on a shelf. Children’s coin banks, for instance, hide behind misleading covers
 that market the vaults as encyclopedias. On view, too, are slender cases meant to hold
recipes in the shape of a seven-volume recipe book — in which one previous owner once
hid a personal letter regarding “her unsuitable conduct and questionable behavior.”
This potential to conceal also led to a number of blooks for impish entertainment: beyond
classic board games (and even educational ones), some blooks were mass-produced as gags.
One 19th-century trick book stashes a snake that emerges open-mouthed from its wooden
lair if you tug a string. The exhibition also features an entire case of “punchline” books
that deliver jokes — at times silly, at times shocking — to viewers upon the opening of
their “pages.” One absurd title, for instance, suggests it will advise on how to save the hair
of those in fear of balding; upon opening it, however, you instead see a compartment for
literally preserving locks.
Other containers adopted the design of a book simply for aesthetic reasons, serving as
practical objects while nodding to what was perhaps their owners’ passion for reading —
or at least a desire to present the illusion of intellect. Someone once organized his or her
office supplies in a large tome, and one woman kept her 14-piece vanity set in a blook
with an elaborate 1920s-style cloth binding. Then there’s the very meta “book repair kit,”
which came complete with an eraser, mending tape, sponge, glue, and its very own book:
an instruction manual to properly proceed with mendings. On the flip side, other blooks,
from ceramic ashtrays to lighters with decorated dust jackets, focused only on the
superficial look of a book and do not open at all.
Many of these objects are admittedly slightly kitschy, but the unexpected shedding of pages
 — what makes books symbols of knowledge — to simply having the image of a book
around you is what makes blooks particularly endearing. Still, some blooks offer more
than just their unique physical presence and do hold sentimental value for their owners.
One cabinet in the exhibition features a number of wooden love tokens and small,
palm-sized memorials carved with tender texts to loved ones, all created in the shape
of books. Although unassuming and easy to glance over compared to larger, impressive
volumes, they have the same power of the tomes they emulate, serving to transport the
mind and heart in deeply meaningful ways.

Trick snake book (mid-to-late-19th c.)

Trick snake book (mid-to-late-19th c.) (click to enlarge)

A stamp holder
A hand-carved wooden cigarette case (1914-1917)
A hand-carved wooden cigarette case (1914-1917)
A framed faux box with three-dimensional open books showing decoupage images of famosu European paintings (mid-20th c.)
A framed faux box with three-dimensional open books showing decoupage images of famous European paintings (mid-20th c.)
Crowell, Collier and McMillan, "Your Future" (1950s-60s), a child's book-coin bank
Crowell, Collier and McMillan, “Your Future” (1950s-60s), a child’s book-coin bank
Hand-carved slate memorial book, inscribed with "In Memory" on the spine and "In, God. We, Trust" on the cover
Hand-carved slate memorial book, inscribed with “In Memory” on the spine and “In, God. We, Trust” on the cover
Philip V. Spinner & Company, "Smoke and Ashes [by] Flame" (1927), a smoking set
Philip V. Spinner & Company, “Smoke and Ashes [by] Flame” (1927), a smoking set
Writing or tea box with a paper theater (late 18th to mid-19th c.)
Writing or tea box with a paper theater (late 18th to mid-19th c.)
"How to Save Your Hair" (1941 edition of mid-19th c. publication)
“How to Save Your Hair” (1941 edition of mid-19th c. publication)
Reversible Collar Company, "Album Collar", a collar box for a new and improved cotton and paper collar (1870s)
Reversible Collar Company, “Album Collar”, a collar box for a new and improved cotton and paper collar (1870s)
A carved maple sugar mold in the shape of a bible, likely meant for a communal holiday meal or funeral (c. 1820s)
A carved maple sugar mold in the shape of a bible, likely meant for a communal holiday meal or funeral (c. 1820s)
Marble memorial box (19th c.)
Marble memorial box (19th c.)
"The Care and Feeding of Books" (1947), a book repair kit
“The Care and Feeding of Books” (1947), a book repair kit
Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t continues at the Grolier Club (47 East 60th Street, Manhattan) 
through March 12.

The last public tour of the show will be next Thursday, 1-2. 
You can purchase a catalog via this blog, 
or contact me at

THANK you Hyperalleric and Claire Voon for this 
wonderful review. Here's a link to the original:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Blooks on CBS Sunday Morning, the good news program

The CBS Sunday Morning news segment about my exhibition Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't is linked below for you to share or watch. Thank you for all of your letters and photos. If I haven't answered you already, I will. The outstanding response to the exhibition and the support you have given me are so much appreciated. Some of you are writing about exhibit logistics that you missed along the line. Here are some FAQs about the exhibition and catalog:

Location of exhibition: The Grolier Club, 47 East 60th St., New York, between Park and Madison Aves. Open Monday-Saturday, here's a link to their site: There is no charge to visit this exhibition.

Dates of exhibition: The last day of the show is March 12. I will give free weekly tours every Thursday from 1-2 PM. I often come in spontaneously on Saturdays (2-3 PM) for extra free tours, email or ask at the Club, I'll let them know. For additional private tours (fee may apply) contact me at

Buy the catalog: Yes, I have written, done the photography for and self-published a full-color catalog of the show. It is and may always be the only book written on the subject of blooks. I encourage you to buy it. The cost is (for US) $51 which includes postage. International buyers should contact me. You can purchase it here,  on the NEW BOOK page and at the Grolier Club through March 12. If you want to pay with a check, send $51 to Mindell Dubansky, 4-D, New York, NY 10128. Include the mailing address of the recipient please. You will see that I've also written a book about an early book cover designer, Alice C. Morse.

Donations: Many people have donated funding towards this project and even contributed wonderful blooks to my collection. You will see them acknowledged in the Donor page of this blog, in the catalog and on the exhibition labels. If you would like to help to expand the collection and support related projects, please contact me at

  • Will the show travel? There are no plans as yet to travel the collection
  • Where do I keep them? Pretty much everywhere at home
Here is the CBS segment on my exhibition, aired yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning.

When I get a chance, I'll post some of the photos you've sent and pictures of the extraordinary objects that you have donated to the collection. 

you are invited to this free public lecture about blooks on March 2 at FIT. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Judith Leiber's Book Purses

Judith Leiber
Many fabulous and not-so-fabulous designers have been creating book purses for a long time, at least since the 1890s. Judith Leiber's crystal book purses stand out as the most luxurious, numerous and varied. (Olympia Le- Tan is another book purse designer of note.) As far as I have been able to determine, Leiber designed two types of book purses, a single and a three-volume, strapped variants. I'm creating this post as a way of collecting images and information on the purses. It's a work in progress and I'll add them as I find them. Check back now and then. Here is an article on Leiber from the Jewish Women's Archive. 

This is a description from an auction sale of one of the bags:

Judith Leiber Crystal Books Minaudiere Evening Bag

5.5" Width x 3" Height x 2.5" Depth

Minaudieres by Judith Leiber are a rare blend of art and utility. Testament to the flawless craftsmanship and creativity of these minaudieres, they included in the permanent collections of prestigious institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and The Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This minaudiere shaped like a stack of books is done in a plethora of colors and accented with gold hardware. The interior is done in gold metallic leather. This bag includes a coin purse, a comb, and a small dustbag.

Little Black Book is not so little.

From Saks Fifth Avenue. Sold for $4,695 (2014)

A very elegant version with faux marbled ediges

Also seen in green. This one is the most realistic of the designs seen so far.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Unplanned tour of Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't this Saturday (2/6)

Hello blook fans, just letting know that I'll be at the Grolier Club tomorrow for an unplanned public tour from 2-3 PM. So please join me if you are in the mood!

Golier Club
47 East 60th Street
between Park and Madison Aves.

Catalogs are available at the Club and through this blog.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't opens at the Grolier Club (January 27)

"Wow" is the word I heard most often this week, since my show at the Grolier Club opened this past Wednesday. It's pretty much the most amazing week I've ever had, although I'm too dazed to appreciate it fully. At this moment my prominent emotions are gratitude to others for their support throughout the project and relief that everything worked out (next week I'll probably be walking around wearing sunglasses, giving autographs). By Saturday, the show had an astoundingly large review both in the New York Times by Jenny Schuessler and an equally impressive but different one in the Guardian by Rebecca Barry, and a charmingly written listing in the New Yorker. Tomorrow I'm being interviewed for CBS Sunday Morning on TV! I'm going to report more to you about it but I wanted to put something now on the blog to acknowledge how things are going for blog readers because you might be wondering why you haven't seen a post yet.

For those of you who can't make it to my show, exhibitions manager Jennifer Sheehan took photos and posted them on Flickr.

Cara Schlesinger (editor of my book) took this picture of me looking tired and shellshocked when I opened the NY Times and seeing the article and my photographs on the front and back pages of the Weekend arts section. This was shot after we were screaming and jumping up and down for awhile:

Here is Jenny Schuessler, the author of the NY Times article. We are at the Grolier Club last Wednesday. Both she and her editor came to the opening, which was so nice.

Here are the blook chocolates I made as party favors for the opening. Spent Martin Luther King's birthday and the blizzard Saturday perfecting my technique, it was hard to stop the white chocolate at the end of the text block:

The installation for the hallway was challenging because of all of the little things that had to be carefully mounted. Mark Tomasko led the effort, here assisted by Mary Schlosser. Both of them also mounted my Alice C. Morse show years ago. Talk about loyal Grolier Club volunteers!

The day my book arrived from Korea. It's doing well so far. Lots of individuals have ordered it, libraries are starting and it's for sale in several bookstores, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art bookstore and the Morgan Museum and Library store. 

Since the show opened, I've gotten so many emails and letters with pictures of blooks, like this amazing sewing box sent by textile conservator Kathleen Kieffer: