March 09, 2012

Friday Insights: The Reference Library

Part of the Reference Library at the Center
One of the Center for Book Arts' best kept secrets is its reference library, a collection of books on a range of topics relating to letterpress and book arts. From the manuals on basic bookbinding for most novice of students to the highly specific research books on the use of letterpress in Italian post cards, the CBA's library is filled with literary treasures: and is open to all, whether you are a member, student, artist, or simply curious about bookbinding and printing.

Some books on type
The reference library has a range of periodicals (including some that are now out of print) as well as catalogs from past exhibitions both at the CBA and elsewhere, which are perfect for students and scholars doing research on history or trends in book arts.There are also books of research on specific aspects of book art and letterpress history, including paper and letterpress arts in different regions of the world, the practices of renaissance artists, and the aptly named "History of Bookbinding."

A great section of the reference library is the books on different styles of bookbinding. When I first took a class at the CBA, I was amazed that there were differences between flat-back and round-back books (the book covers on modern, mass-produced books always hide the details). Looking in the library, that isn't even the beginning. A student last week had a very specific idea for a book that would open two ways but was not sure how to approach it. After some time in our reference library, she went home with pages full of notes and ideas on how to craft just what she was looking for—along with how to craft many books she never even knew existed before.

More books!
We also have a range of books on type (which are much more in-depth than Tuesday Typefaces) including a massive specimen book of typefaces simply called "LINOTYPE." The best part about this book is that is shows examples of different faces at different sizes, giving the letterpress artist a full range of possibilities. It is a wonderful book to use when you're in the print shop and stuck on using a 12 or 14-point version of a typeface!

There are also plenty of books on paper arts, including paper making, paper crafts, paper detailing, and paper marbling. Different techniques and projects are described, including making textured paper with onion skins, embossed writing paper, and paper sculptures. My all-time favorite is a pair of dainty blue shoes made entirely from paper!

The reference books all range from the basic to the complex, including volumes on designer bookbinding and letterpress techniques, many of which are employed in the works of art we show on exhibition. If you see a type of accordion book you want to try, odds are, we have a book on that. If you like a specific way of printing the cover of a book before binding it, odds are we have a book on that, too. So stop on by and check them out! You're guaranteed to be informed, inspired, and ready to try something new.

It is important to note, however, that our reference library is just that: books can be looked at for reference by anyone visiting the Center, but cannot be checked out. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but in order to be fair to all our visitors and artists, we ask you to take a seat in the bindery, take some notes, and return the book when you are finished. That way they are here for everybody! Thank you very much!

-Christina Squitieri

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