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Some great reviews

August 1, 2012 1 comment

It’s been a while since we’ve showed off the great reviews our books continue to get, and we have quite a stack for you to read. We’ll post half today and half tomorrow. These reviews have been featured in some of the leading journals in the field of books.

Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography by C. Edgar Grissom

One of the most significant decisions on the part of Grissom and the publishers was to take advantage of the benefits of modern technology and include a DVD-ROM with over 2,000 color images of various details such as dust jackets, covers, dummy copies, copyright pages, pages of text, slipcases, spines, and frontispieces. These high quality JPEG images allow one to make in-depth comparisons between different copies and in so doing offer an interesting glimpse into publishing practices at the time.

A writer of such stature deserves a comprehensive bibliography of his literary efforts, and this is exactly what Grissom has compiled. It is a masterful work of careful scholarship that will from time to time need to be updates, yet as a basic bibliography of Hemingway’s canon, it may never be surpassed.

-John Roger Paas, Wolfenbutteler Notizen zur Buchgeschichte

If your pulse quickens upon hearing that a new edition or printing or state has been discovered, then you should stop reading this review and lay hands on this new bibliography. You will find C. Edgar Grissom’s Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography to be the welcome product of a persistent and inquiring mind. One gets the sense that he has chased the sometimes confounding details of his tome to their source—or else pursued them as far as we could have possibly followed ourselves, leaving us with a trustworthy reference tool that answers, but also asks, questions.

The details and depth of this volume delight. Hanneman’s work may have been foundational for two generations of Hemingway scholars, but the foundation of Grissom’s work is Grissom’s work. He began over again, as it were, and concentrated. A self-taught bibliophile, he spent a dozen years at this task. What has resulted is not merely a description of historical artifacts, although it is precise and painstaking in its description. Grissom has produced the narrative of Hemingway’s primary bibliography by first describing, then annotating, and finally supplementing his text with appendices and illustrations. He observes in his introduction “a properly conceived and executed single-author bibliography chronicles the author’s writing career.”

Judged only by the virtues of the comprehensiveness and thoroughness of Grissom’s bibliographical descriptions, his work is without question the new standard for Hemingway scholars.

-Albert J. DeFazio III, The Hemingway Review

 The American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A Bicentennial History by Philip F. Gura

Philip F. Gura’s splendidly written bicentennial history is focused on an institution that has evaded fossilization. He describes the Society’s “evolution from a small library and cabinet museum started by local businessmen and scholars to an internationally renowned library and scholarly center”.

Gura’s chapters are full of such fascinating detail. They tell the tale of how, step by step, a provincial library became a mecca for scholars from all over the world.

William Baker, Times Literary Supplement

Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P. J. M. Marks

The eclectic, sensitive choice of materials makes this collection more interesting than similar works. The chapter content consists largely of illustrations of the bindings in full, and close-up. By Elizabeth Hunter, these photographs are stunning and evocative, encouraging the reader to pore over them for hours.

The work is beautifully printed on quality paper and solidly bound with a lovely dust jacket.

This is a worthy volume for study by scholars and students, and for the coffee tables of discerning laymen.

-G. E. Gorman, Australian Library Journal

This is the kind of book that even non-bibliophiles will look at and go: Wow. You can imagine then how much more of a delight it is to the connoisseur of the printed book, the lover of fine bindings.

This sumptuously illustrated book on bookbinding is also informed by fine scholarship. Most books on the subject of bookbinding tend to be either pretty pictures without the scholarship or scholarship (usually technical) without the nice pictures. By intelligently and deeply drawing from both, Beautiful Bookbindings becomes not just the most exciting, but also the most illuminating, introduction to the art and craft of fine bindings.

-Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu

 I Classici che hanno Fatto L’italia: Per un Nuovo Canone Bio-Bibliografico degli Autori Italiani by Fabrizio Govi

I Classici is a superb reference to be consulted repeatedly for its pithy insights.

Bibliophiles with knowledge of Italian undoubtedly will take delight in perusing this colossal accomplishment and identifying their own favorites.

-Madison U. Sowell, SHARP News

The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson

This meticulously documented and handsomely designed volume obviously belongs in most of the research libraries of the world concerned with fine printing, but it should be held more broadly than just in institutions whose acquisitions are guided by that subject interest.

They have created a fascinating survey of the major collectors of the period and the extended provenance of these volumes.

-Printing History

 A History of Longmans and Their Books, 1724-1990: Longevity in Publishing by Asa Briggs

This is a social history, anecdotal and familiar, of seven generations of a grand publishing house.

There are good reasons for adding the volume to a personal or institutional library, beginning with the fact that a well-designed and well-made book is always worth holding in one’s hands.

-Melvyn New, The Scriblerian

Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly: Book Collecting in a Golden Age by Joel Silver

It is another example of the fine printing and book design for which the Oak Knoll Press has a now well-established reputation. A word of praise for the outstanding dustcover with its excellent photos of Rosenbach and Lilly is appropriate.

Joel Silver writes in an engaging, readable style addressed to the ordinary reader. The result is pleasing in all respects and makes a gift to delight any booklover.

-R. L. Cope, Australian Library Journal

 Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissance by Stan Knight

Historical Scripts is an essential reference book for anyone sincerely fascinated by the history of Western letters.

-Paul Shaw, Codex

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Some Recent Reviews

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out these excellent reviews of books published or distributed by Oak Knoll Press that have been recently featured in some of the leading journals in the field of books.

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell is the ultimate book about books: richly illustrated essays about famous association copies of rare books. Bibliophiles can only be grateful for such an artistically produced, scholarly, entertaining book on tell-tale copies that continues to be, in the digital half-world, still filled with devotion and awe for the printed book. —Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu

Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley by David Bromer—

Aun Aprendo was obviously assembled with ease of use in mind. Pages are uncrowded and crisply presented, with generous spacing and margens. Collectors, librarians, and booksellers will find this work indispensible. It is unquestionably now the standard work on the publications of Huxley.—Brian Cassidy, Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America Newsletter

The Last of the Great Swashbucklers: A Bio-Bibliography of Rafael Sabatini by Jesse F. Knight and Stephen Darley

I must shout my praise to the rooftops for Darley’s detailed descriptions of those jackets he had to hand. The main entries are very clear and detailed, and everything that anyone would hope for…To conclude, the bibliography has catered very well for the rational collector, and will prove to be an excellent addition to his shelves. —George Locke, Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association Newsletter

Books as History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Texts by David Pearson

Even if you have read the first edition I highly recommend this revised one. —Sandy Cohen, Guild of Book Workers Newsletter

What he does, in eight lavishly illustrated chapters—is demolish the idea, current with the digital faithful, that physical books are passe, that they have been merely text all dressed up, now with no place to go. That book lovers will adore Books as History is a given, I believe. It’s a joy to behold, read, and digest. Stephen J. Gertz—Booktryst Blog

This chapter, like all of the others, is gorgeously illustrated with full-color images of bindings, bookplates, pages of print, pages of manuscript, dust jackets, advertisements, and book art; reading the captions alone would impress the unconverted. Pearson succeeds in providing a history of the book that is serious and though provoking without begin pedantic. In a perfect world, Books as History would be required reading for students of history, contemporary culture, literature, and library science. —Rebecca Rego Barry, Fine Books & Collections

Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P.J.M. Marks

The full-color photographs, especially the close-ups, are magnificent. Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art is a beautifully produced and printed art-book. The color photography is wonderful and the insights and occasional gossip fun. —Sandy Cohen, Guild of Book Workers Newsletter

Line, Shade and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings by Lois Olcott Price

A labor of love for Price for over two decades, this work amply rewards those who have long awaited its publication. The abundance, large photographs by Jim Schenck compliment Price’s descriptive text. High praise goes to Price for clearly presenting a myriad of helpful solutions for a large array of materials and collections. It is nice to have information that was once missing, now all in one place. —Stephanie Watkins, WAAC Newsletter

The book is technical in its precision, full of excellent illustrated examples, and accessible in its straighforwardness. —L.E. Carranza, CHOICE

Congratulations again to Lois Olcott Price for being the winner of the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize!

An Excerpt from Beautiful Bookbindings

June 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll has been very excited about the arrival of Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P.J.M. Marks. Now available, the book contains beautiful photography displaying the finest bookbindings of the last 1000 years. Celebrating over 100 bindings, it shows exquisite medieval bookbindings made of precious metals and jewels to the imaginative creations of contemporary bookbinders. Check out this excerpt displaying bindings from the family business of Mame in Tours, France, as mechanization began to unfold in the craft of bookbinding.

MAME BINDINGS

Selection of Mame bindings

As with many craft-based processes, the nineteenth century saw the mechanization of bookbinding in western Europe. Some firms came to resemble factories, and this was particularly true of the family business of Mame in Tours, France, which was also known for its publishing and printing activities. Traditional craft bindings continued to be produced, but most workers (including women) were employed from the cloth or cardboard covers and attached by means of endleaves and lining material. This was an inexpensive but colourful format, with gilt, coloured or glazed paper used in combination with lithographic prints to make an immediate visual impact. Such bindings have been likened to chocolate boxes and sweet wrappers, but they were popular enough, often being used for such items as Sunday school prize books. Unusually for the time, Alfred Mame (1811-1893) instituted pensions and profit-sharing schemes for his workers.

The nineteenth century gradually saw the emergence of binding designs that reflected the contents of the book, although traditional abstract or retrospective styles remained popular. An example is the gold-blocked brown calf binding of Don Quijote by Alphonse Simier, which shows the bust of a knight surrounded by cathedral-style motifs. The decoration, although elaborate, was achieved relatively quickly and cheaply, due to the use of engraved plaques (which can be employed to cover the whole space available when applied skilfully). The Simier workshop was famous throughout Europe, partly because its founder, Rene Simier (1772-1843), could turn his hand to different styles. He established his business in Paris in 1798, where his subsequent work found favour with the Emperor Napoleon and the Bourbon Kings, and he received the title ‘Relieur du roi’, which was passed on to his son, Alphonse. Both binder publicized the royal connection in the form of their trade signature, seen here at the foot of the spine (a French custom of the period). In the unlikely event that the viewer overlooked this, a printed trade ticket was pasted to the endleaf inside.

Right: France, late sixteenth century; Left: London, early nineteenth century

Throughout the nineteenth century, wealthy French and British bibliophiles were attracted to imitations of historic binding styles, particularly those of sixteenth-century France. Such bindings were certainly technically accomplished but—inevitably—they lacked the vitality of the original designs. The smaller binding depicted here was probably made in France as part of a travelling library for Pietro Duodo (1555-1611), Venetian ambassador to Henri IV. All the books were gold-tooled in the same way with Duodo’s emblem and motto, ‘Expectat non eludert’ (‘She whom I await with longing will not elude me’), but in different coloured goatskin according to the subject of the text. Theology, philosophy, law and history were in red goatskin, medicine and botany in citron and literature in olve (as seen here).

The bland appearance of the larger, nineteenth-century English work is not due to poor craftsmanship, for the binder, Charles Lewis (1786-1836), was acknowledged as the best London binder of his day. His natural skill responded to two stimuli: the vibrancy of the London trade fuelled by the many knowledgeable book collectors; and the influence of two figures, his father Johann Ludwig, and his apprentice master, Henry Walter. Both were Germans who emigrated to England to take advantage of the flourishing market. Lewis’s large workshop was patronized by the most demanding collectors, including the second Earl Spencer. The author, Brunet, had this copy of his book specially bound for Spencer’s librarian, Thomas Fornall Dibdin. The motto towards the tail edge of the front cover (‘Rosicrucius et amicorum’) alludes to Dibdin’s Bibliomania, in which Dibdin himself appears under the soubriquet Rosicruscius, ‘an ardent an indefatigable book-forger.’

Click here to find out even more about Beautiful Bookbindings and to view more pictures in a slideshow.