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 three-volume, strapped crystal book purses stand out as the most luxurious, numerous and varied. (Olympia Le- Tan is another book purse designer of note.) 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:

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Book Motif Illusion

When it came to selecting a design for the cover of my new book Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't, I immediately thought of the graphic device in which a two-dimensional image of an iconic or substantial book is used to give a piece of ephemera psychological and aesthetic clout. This motif has been frequently used since the nineteenth century for the design of menus, needle books, advertisements, invitations, greeting cards and pamphlets. You will see some of them in my exhibition at the Grolier Club this winter. 

The 2-D (usually closed) book motif has been used to represent many genres of texts and bookbinding formats. There are those that represent account books, reference books, literary works and memory books. In all cases, the iconic image of a book contributes a sense of importance, permanence and beauty. For the objects made in this form, the book motif is essential to their message and commercial success. The image of the book alone instills confidence in the buyer and inspires people to collect and save the objects. The examples below illustrate the use of this charming motif.   

This die-cut Calument Baking Powder  advertisement shown represents a half-leather binding, the binding style most of us think of when we describe a "real book." This sturdy binding style was used internationally throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by trade, edition and hand binders.

Sometimes, as seen on this Uncle Sam's Macaroni trade card, the book is represented as a portal. I've seen the book-as-portal device work both ways. Sometimes something is popping out of the book and other times, there is a portal into the book, that suggests you are entering into a special, transformative world of one kind or another.

There are many book-shaped trade cards, here are a few examples.

Trade card for Hood's Sarsparilla
Peter, Paul and Brothers Book and Stationary Store, Buffalo, NY.

From the 1920s through 1950s, the book motif was often used for the design of greeting cards on many subjects, including get well messages, birthdays, anniversaries, religious rites of passage, and more. Many include bookish messages and puns on book-talk. They often focus on the anthropomorphic nature of books, comparing our lives to books, with the pages being the days, years the chapters and so on. These can be very amusing. A Book of Conundrums card, is a faux riddle book. If you visit my exhibition, you will see an entire case of book cards.  

Occasionally, I come across the book motif used as a sales tag. This cardboard retail garment tag has an insert photograph of Shirley Temple wearing a "Shirley Temple Brand Cinderella Frock."  On the back of the tag is stamped "3628," 1930s.

I don't own all of the objects illustrated in this post, but I did just purchase the Edy's Character Study of Sweets ice cream parlor (California, and yes, the Edy's we now know for their ice cream) menu shown below. I'm sure that the College Ice soda, listed on the first page would make us smarter.

I hope to see many of you at my exhibition. I'd love to meet you. Please consider attending one of the free lunchtime tours, every Thursday from January 28 through March 10 or the panel on February 2. Please consider supporting my work on blooks by purchasing this book trhough this website. Warm regards for a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Heckman Collection of Book-shaped Spruce Gum Boxes - Update

I wanted to let readers know that in October Bruce and Lynn Heckman published an extensive, illustrated article about their collection of North American spruce gum boxes. The article, "Spruce Gum Boxes: Folk Art for Sweethearts"  appears in the Maine Antique Digest (October 27, 2016) and includes numerous color photographs of the best examples from their collection of over one-hundred nineteenth and early twentieth century book-shaped boxes.

There are two other posts about Bruce and Lynn's extensive collection of blooks on this blog:

Bruce and Lynn will be panelists during the Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't colloquium, sponsored by the Grolier Club and Columbia University on the evening of February 2. The colloquium is open to the public but requires an RSVP to Maev Brennan at

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The 2016 Blooks Wall Calendar

I just finished this limited edition wall calendar which is the reward for a $50 donation to the Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't exhibition and catalog. Details on ordering are found on the Grolier Club exhibition page.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Sample of "Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't"

Hello Readers, 

Since the New Year (2015) I've been doing all of the things necessary to raise the funds for, promote and prepare the exhibition and catalog Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't (Grolier Club [NYC], January 28-March 12, 2016).  It's taken all of my skills and pointed out the ones I don't have. Now that the illustrated catalog is at the printer, I can come up for a breath of air. I look forward to getting back to posting about interesting blook trends, but have patience. 

Both the exhibition and its catalog follow a thematic arrangement that illustrates fourteen genres of book objects. In the exhibition, there will also be a miniature exhibit with a chronological arrangement of tiny blooks, to give visitors an impression of the developmental evolution of blooks in a nutshell. The exhibition illustrates about 250 years of blook history, from the eighteenth century to the present. There are 130 objects in the show that are also illustrated and described in the catalog. The exhibition will have additional objects, including in-depth looks into two blook genres and new acquisitions, including the 18th century Catholic portable book altar shown below. Here is a peek into the themes with an example from each: 


Catholic portable book altar, European. 18th century.


Stone memorial book. In Memory. American, 19th century.


Daguerrotype case. Friendships Offerining. American or English. Nineteenth century.

Travel Souvenirs

Stone books. Souvenir of the Soldier's Home. Hot Springs, South Dakota. American. 1916.

Stimulating substances

Table lighter. Book of Smoking Knowledge. Ross Electronics Corp. American, 1960s. 

Food and Candy

Chef-an-ette.   Terry's Originettes. American. Late 1930s.

Grooming and Fashion

Anya Hindemarch clutch bag. Chelsea Husbands. English. 1990s.


Yarn box. Knitting Volumes. American. 1940s-1950s.

Household Items

Alarm clock. Lava Time. Lava Simplex. American. 1976.

Books and Writing 

Book repair kit. The Care and Feeding of Books. American. 1947.


Snake book. What I Know About Women. Japan. 1950s-1960s.


TV or theatrical prop. Manon Lescaut and Les Chinois de Paris. American. Late 20th century. 

Games and Toys

Toy spy camera. Secret Sam Camera Book. Topper Toys. American. 1960s.

Safes and Banks

Coin bank. Book Bank. English. 1970s.

Please send this post to your book-loving friends, come to the exhibition and purchase the catalog. I will be at the Grolier Club giving public tours of the exhibition, every Thursday from January 28 through March 10. To keep up with exhibition events, check in with the Grolier exhibition page, or visit the Grolier Club website. The catalog is being finished now and will be ready in early January. To order copies, contact me at ($45 plus $6 s&h). 

First page, Introduction: