The Fourth DeGolyer Triennial
Exhibition and Award for American Bookbinding
at Bridwell Library
2 June - 21 July, 2006
|About the Triennial||Introduction||Helen Warren DeGolyer||Previous Winners||Exhibit Catalog|
Design binding is more an art form than a simple protective layer for
delicate leaves of paper or vellum. Binders explore the relationship between
text and covering, often challenging the conventional definitions of what is
meant by “book,” or indeed binding. The triennial Helen Warren DeGolyer
Exhibition and Award for American Bookbinding offers an opportunity for book
artists to exercise their creativity and craftsmanship in the area of fine
binding. Every three years, a volume is selected from Bridwell Library’s
Special Collections for which a design binding is both logical and
desirable. For the fourth triennial, the edition was Ficciones, by Jorge
Luis Borges, published by the fine press Ediciones Dos Amigos, in Buenos
Ficciones appeared in 1944, and is in part a reissuing of eight short stories originally entitled The Garden of Forking Paths, first published in 1941. With the addition of nine more short prose works entitled Artifices, the work was rechristened Ficciones and released a second time. Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) had already achieved critical acclaim by the time he wrote the stories which would become Ficciones in the basement of the Miguel Cané branch of the Municipal Library. His undemanding job in the municipal library gave him the time for creative output, but was in otherwise a disappointment. Several of the allegorical stories in the collection, notably “The Library of Babel” reflect his dissatisfaction with his experience there. Later, between 1963 and 1973 Borges served devotedly as Librarian of the National Library of Argentina. His career spanned several continents and included several academic appointments at prestigious universities in Argentina and the United States. He also presented lectures all over the world. Borges won a number of prestigious awards during his long career, including the Argentine National Prize for Literature in 1956, and the Formentor Prize in 1971, shared with Samuel Beckett.
The stories that comprise Ficciones were never intended to be easily understood or highly palatable. Although it would be an exaggeration to credit Borges with the origin of postmodernism, his influence has been undeniably profound. Borges verbally stretched the limits of conventional story-telling, questioning perceptions of reality and challenging complacency. Ficciones now stands as one of the monuments of literature, and the New York Public Library named the work one of the books of the century in 1995. Borges is rightly regarded as one of the most important twentieth-century writers in any language.
The Ediciones Dos Amigos edition was begun on August 9, 1984 and completed December 31, 1987. Samuel César Palui oversaw the edition and signed each of the forty-two copies. Bridwell owns number twenty-six from the private collection of the publisher of Ediciones Dos Amigos Ernesto Lowenstein. The collection of short stories by Borges includes seventeen illustrations by five important Argentine artists: Gabriela Aberastury, Julio Pagnao, Mirta Ripoll, Raúl Russo, and Alicia Scavino.
The task set for participants was to propose a design binding for this most uncommon volume. At least since the early twentieth century, design binders have sought to reflect on the cover something of the nature of the contents of the book. From this perspective, Ficciones is an especially challenging work to bind. The imagery is fantastical and the narrative often elusive.
The binding design awarded the Helen Warren DeGolyer Award for American Bookbinding this triennial is the work of James Tapley. The binding is as visually challenging and structurally complex as the narratives and illustrations it will house. Swaths of bright purple and green goatskin provide a backdrop for a sequence of images suggested by the text. The intricate construction opens in layers to slowly reveal juxtaposed portraits of Borges in youth and maturity, and an illustration of the garden he knew as a child. The sample binding Tapley included is adventurous, and demonstrates not only mastery of traditional methods but also abundant creativity. Familiar techniques, such as meticulously executed inlays, march along side the wildly unconventional. Perhaps most conspicuously, a forged brass panel marries the two sections of the front board into a single panel.
The judges awarded two additional prizes, the Jury Prize for Design and the Jury Prize for Binding. The Jury Prize for Design recognizes a design that demonstrates artistry, originality, technical competence and is also appropriate to the text. The jury awarded this prize to Esther Kibby, for her evocative illustration of dream and dreamer. The Jury Prize for Binding similarly acknowledges an outstanding sample binding provided by an exhibitor. David John Lawrence won the prize for a beautiful jeweled binding on Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa. This prize emphasizes fineness of technical execution, fine binding structure, and again must show artistry and be appropriate to the enclosed text. In the case of Tilt, the binding is on an angle, and the jewel is a stylized plumb bob.
These designs and those of other participants are now on display in the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries from June 2-July 21, 2006. Bridwell Library is delighted to once again host this triennial exhibition, and celebrate exceptional American Bookbinding.
Elizabeth Haluska-Rausch, PhD
Curator of Special Collections
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by Elizabeth Haluska-Rausch, PhD
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Photography by Jon Speck
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