Monday, January 12, 2015

Save the Date for a Grolier Club Exhibition "The Art of Books That Aren't"

Book padlock, German or French. Late 19th or early 20th century.
This is the only book lock I have seen in all the years of collecting, have you seen others? Fortunately it does still have its key.  
Save the date for the first exhibition of my book object collection, titled The Art of Books That Aren't: January 28 through March 12, 2016. Note that this is next year, but work has begun. I've been busy rounding out the collection, writing labels, conserving the objects and photographing them. My goal is to have a catalog and I will be writing to you later about it when it has taken shape. There will also be a special event (panel or symposium), in addition to a curator chat(s). If you are interested in planning events or workshops relating to this exhibition or in publishing an announcement of it, please let me know.

Someone made this tiny Bible box for Geneva LaToer in 1853, when she was 10 years old. The box pivots out from one corner and I'd say it was backwards, as the cross only appears on the back of the box. It's rare to find these humble folk art boxes with inscrptions. There are many book objects made for children and many specifically employed in educating them in the Bible. There will be others in the exhibition. See this earlier post.
Support has been coming in many ways even before asking, so that's reassuring. I've received several wonderful donations of objects, a little donation of funds from a friend and an offer from Roni Gross to design the catalog. My photographer friends at the Met are training me to take better photographs, Stan Pinkwas contributed the title of the exhibition, my neighbor Pamela Morin drove all of my blooks to NYC from upstate, Aaron Salik at Talas has offered to provide refreshments at a special event and young magician Francis Karagodins will work on learning how to perform the book magic props! It will definitely take a village to get the blooks exhibit and events to fruition, so THANK YOU to all of you who have supported me now, in the past and into the future. It's not a simple thing to present and legitimize this wonderful subject, but we will have fun doing it.

Note: Many others have generously contributed in so many ways. Everyone will be thanked on the Blook Club page of this blog in upcoming weeks.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!: The Gift Book Annual and the Blooks They Inspired

Between 1823 and 1861, lavish gift books were produced as gifts for the New Year in England and later in America. Their popularity and success as gifts for children and adults, caused a spin-off of a group of book objects made in their emulation. These objects include photograph cases, sewing kits and trinket boxes. The faux gift books were made in as many decorative binding styles and techniques as the real books. Examples are lacquer bindings, gold-tooled leather bindings, painted paper bindings and stamped cloth bindings. In general, the names of their makers are not known, but there are some exceptions.

New Year gift books had their roots in the elegant French and German almanacs and friendship books that were characterized by their beautiful bindings, a variety of contemporary literary material and high-quality steel engravings. These relatively expensive books were marketed to middle-class families and their publishers took great care to ensure that their appearance complemented the library, parlor, and boudoir. The gift books were given sentimental titles such as Friendship’s Offering, The Gem, The Token, Forget Me not, Keepsake, and Literary Souvenir. Many innovations in bookbinding technology were developed for and tested on the literary annuals. Early volumes were bound in colored, glazed paper covers, printed with decorative motifs. Later volumes were bound in silk fabric and decorative leather bindings.
Sewing Kit
The Gem
English, c. 1840
Leather, silk moiré, book board portfolio with flaps
11.6 x 6.6 x 2.0 cm (4.6 x 2.6 x 0.8 in)
Dubansky Collection


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas Blook-Style

I almost let Christmas pass, but the spirit (as far as blooks go) entered and I'd thought I'd take a moment to show you some of the classic Christmas blooks. First Noma lights. This is one of a number of brightly colored Noma Christmas lights in book-style boxes. Noma was an American company best known for making Christmas lights. It was once the largest manufacturer of holiday lighting in the world, but since 1967 has existed only as a licensed trademark. 

Who doesn't remember or still know the wonder of Life Savers Sweet Story Books? This ad represents the very first Sweet Story box, marketed over a number of years, before the design changed and was modernized. This box from around 1947, is designed in the style of a silver fine binding with strap-work. Later boxes were more graphic and less historically-inspired. What is so amazing is that the Story Books are still being made today by a number of candy manufactures. They are much less bookish than the original faux fine binding.  

There are many, many Christmas cards in book form, mostly made in the 1940s and 1950s. I have at least thirty of them and they are very imaginative, and often use book puns in their messages.
And of course, there are ornaments. Often, they are made as teacher's gifts or just for booklovers in general. There are book string lights too and animated Christmas props. This is just the tip of the Christmas blook iceberg. I can't say that I've seen any Chanukah blooks, but I do have a plush stuffed Torah. 

Warm regards to everyone and a very happy New Year! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bible Book Blocks

The Sixty-six Books of the Bible. 51 volumes. Handmade for Joey Morris. American. C. 1920s. Wood, ink, paper. About the size of a cigar box.
I wonder if any of you have seen book Bible block sets before. After collecting book objects for many years, I'm just starting to see Bible blocks emerge as a genre of book object. To date, I've seen approximately five variations. The sets I have seen are both handmade and manufactured (and patented). All are wood, some with printed paper covers and are stored in wood boxes that double for bookshelves. They are part of the tradition of teaching children to memorize the sixty-six books of the Bible. I don't know why it is important to memorize the books, especially if the book themselves are at hand, but I can see that it is a traditional tool  for Christian education. Faux books of the Bible are still ingrained in our culture. For example, I saw a website that shows Bible book covers that can  be attached to cereal boxes and used in Bible book memorization games. 

The Block Book Library seen below is a commercial set from the collection of the Museum of Play (Strong Museum) in Rochester, New York.

Evidence of an ongoing tradition of Bible blocks, repurposing cereal boxes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When Books Birth Blooks: Forever Amber

In the post on how patents are useful in understanding book objects we saw how patent research can deepen our understanding of book objects. This post illustrates how magazine advertisements can do the same. Forever Amber is a 972-page romance novel set in 17th century England; written by Kathleen Winsor and published in 1944.  The book was made into an extremely popular film in 1947 by 20th Century Fox, starring the beautiful Linda Darnell (pictured on the dust jacket) and the dashing Cornell Wilde.

Above: Forever Amber in the second version of it dust jacket, in which Linda Darnell's portrait replaced another (see below).
This is stye original dust jacket design from which Forever Amber perfume was  copied. 

Forever Amber is the story of orphaned Amber St. Clare, who works her way upwards through the ranks of English society by sleeping and marrying successively richer and more important men, all the while harboring a love for a man she could never have. While there was much praise for the book at the time of publication, it was also banned in fourteen states for its blatant sexual references. Despite the banning, Forever Amber was the best-selling novel of the 1940s, selling over 100,000 copies in the first week of release and 3 million overall. The popularity of Forever Amber spun off this Forever Amber perfume in two binding variants.

Above: Forever Amber perfume, 'gift edition in fabulous gold plate.' 
Kay Daumit, 1947.

Both the gold gift edition and the Lucite gift book box can be see in the Woodward & Lothrop advertisement below. If it weren't for this ad, I may never have known that these perfume book boxes were made or who made them, nor would I know any other of the manufacturer's specifications such as their size, names, or outer packaging.
Above: Advertisement for Forever Amber perfume in two 'binding' variants. From Woodward & Lothrop, 1947.

There is more research to be done on Forever Amber, but I thought you might enjoy reading about it in process. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween!

We had our monthly book conservation open house today and decided to make it a Halloween party and drag some of my Halloween book props. Here are only a few.
This is a tableau we made with another book prop to correspond to a Museum painting. It and the painting will be on the In Circulation Facebook site tomorrow:
Happy Blookoween!

Monday, October 20, 2014

An Alarming Hybrid. An Exploding Publishers' Binding

Exploding book. Kelco Loud Book: A Great Warning to You on Preparedness. Wake Up. An Alarming Report. Designed and sold by John J. Reinhold, Marietta, Pa. American. c. 1912.
Stamped cloth publisher's binding, binders waste, metal trap
14.7 x 9.2 x 1.5 cm

Unlike later gag exploding or shooting books which were made from altered books, those seen from the first decade of the 20th century are custom-made, probably by commercial bookbinders. This book has a wonderful publisher’s binding of cream plain-weave cloth, stamped in red and blue. The book lists two US patents (1041095; 1166053) which are for the shooting mechanism.
If you are a blog follower, you might remember this example of an 1930s exploding book in this post I showed awhile back.

In that post I alluded to an earlier group of exploding books from the beginnng of the 20th century. I've found two recently, both by Kelco. I'm very excited about this one for several reasons: First it is a link between the bindery trade and the gag books trade. It is a publisher's binding, custom designed for this object. It is a glorious binding in great condition. It is not an altered book; but has a text block made up of pages from binder's waste. The last great thing about it is that the patented exploding mechanism (aka mousetrap) is different from any I have previously seen. For the record, it's also the second exploding book I have seen that makes a pun of the word 'report', the other being one I saw an ad for, titled Teddy's Report. While rare today, these books were once published by the thousands in numerous design variations and titles.