Home > Oak Knoll Books, Oak Knoll Press > Now I know why they call it the Windy City: a visit to Chicago

Now I know why they call it the Windy City: a visit to Chicago

A travel report from Rob:

My first visit to the Windy City couldn’t have been more enjoyable, although it only lasted a couple days. My first library visit was with Paul Gehl at the Newberry Library. They had a lovely exhibition (titled Plainly Spoken) organized by the Midwest Guild of Bookworkers, which showed 17 different bindings of sections of Julia Miller’s incredibly detailed bookbinding handbook Books Will Speak Plain. You can check out the online description here.


While visiting with Paul, I brought our copy of the 1824 edition of Peter Cottom’s Whole Art of Book-Binding. By total coincidence, a previous owner wrote on the front pastedown, in pencil, “Newberry Lib has 1811 English first”. This prompted us to do some searching  and eventually we got to look at the first known manual of bookbinding in person. Needless to say, I was pretty excited.



The second stop was in Chicago’s South Side where I would meet with Alice Schreyer and Daniel Meyer of the University of Chicago. What followed was one of the most detailed library tours I have ever taken. The U of C library does not use off-site storage, quite the challenge for a collection of  over 10 million volumes. So the library constructed an underground storage area in the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which houses a very advanced automated retrieval system complete with robotic cranes. This monster project took three years from 2008 – 2011, with the final volume being added in 2013.



The trip wouldn’t be complete without food! I went to the James Beard award-winning restaurant Blackbird (twice!), Buddy Guy’s Legends, and sampled a good ol’ fashioned Chicago deep dish pizza.





  1. Nancy Rahman
    May 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    you must chck this out when you’re here:
    Here’s our latest foodie post on Elizabeth, have you been.. http://wp.me/p4fHVr-17v let us know what you think

  2. May 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Well actually there is a lot of water around the art sites in Chicago. So, a disaster flood plain proximity for the U of C and the fabulous art museum. They should be thinking about this. Many lessons of the Florence flood of 1966 have been forgotten by architects and library planners in the years since. I hope to start a conservation/restoration conference in Florence in 2016 (50th anniversary of the flood) to remind people that Mother Nature and water will have their way…..

  3. May 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Books, Blackbird, and Blues… you’re having too much fun, Rob!

  4. May 21, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I’m so glad you had a chance to see the Plainly Spoken exhibit! My husband and I attended Julia Miller’s talk at the University of Michigan in February. I used two of his work shirts, a boot, and his jeans to make one of the bindings on exhibit.

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