Saturday, January 14, 2012

Postscript to The Bonefolder

In the days since the last issue of The Bonefolder, Vol 8, 2012, many readers have shared their thoughts and regrets on Book_Arts-L, Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. Please know that this was a very difficult decision, one not made lightly.

Gary Frost wrote in the January 13th post of his Futureofthebook blog:
"We now have the last issue of Bonefolder and it is a wonderful example of the series. This journal has provided an Ellis island of all the cultures that would make-up a nation. The relations of the diversity of features would still be difficult to chart as it required the whole sequence even to appreciate their scope. It is larger than book arts. The scope is closer to the qualities of physical books as depicted on-line.
Qualities of physical books depicted on-line is some kind of editorial paradox but the staff and Peter grappled directly with the challenges. The clean design and attractive two-column layout provided the perfect, conflicted, visual experience. We can also be appreciative of the energy and production of the authors.
Bonefolder is in the league of Fine Print and BookWays but it also enlarged the legacy. Now the momentum is handed off to the forthcoming journal of the Collegiate Book Arts Association. That larger organization will probably take more possession of its journal. Perhaps it will wish to take possession of the discipline of artists’ use of book formats. PDF?"
A day later Betty Bright wrote on Book_Arts-L:
"Let me add my congratulations to Peter and his able collaborators who have brought us Bonefolder since 2004. When writing or speaking about the history of our field, I always note Peter's key role in launching this listserv in 1994, followed by our first online journal in 2004. It isn't just that Bonefolder added a well-edited voice to the field, it's that Peter demonstrated how to do it, and how to do it in an elegant design and with an even-handed editorial voice that will inspire others to step up. With its free residence on the Internet, we have grown used to the amazing fact that each edition appears simultaneously everywhere and open to everyone. That is powerful work for the greater good. Peter and his collaborators have set a high bar, but we wouldn't want it any other way.
Vision and action, much energy and a quality product, that's service to the field of a high order. We owe you much, Peter and colleagues, and I know that Bonefolder will continue to inform us as we move forward and refer back to articles, reviews and interviews that have filled its pages.
Kudos all around, Betty"
To both (and all others out there), thank you for your thoughts regarding The Bonefolder and kudos to Gary for recognizing the conflicted nature of the publication, that of describing the physical book in a very disembodied way online.

As to the future. I very much hope that something else comes along that will build upon The Bonefolder and (hopefully) take the idea in other as of yet undiscovered or unimagined directions. When we started 8 years ago, the very idea of open access was still relatively new and discussion mostly limited to the academy and scholarly publishing circles. Those journals in the book arts that existed were print only and either restricted to the membership of the organizations that sponsored them, or available for subscription at cost as in the case of the Journal of Artist's Books. Lest we be seen as skinflints out for a free ride, all those working on The Bonefolder were (and still are) members of many of these organizations and/or subscribers, and are not opposed to paying for these.

However we were also very attracted to the idea of a freely accessible online journal with universal access to all classes of readers. Since we started,  some centers and organizations have started online journals, but none open access - The Bonefolder remained the only one of its kind.

Another unique aspect of The Bonefolder was to actively engage with our readers through our Bind-O-Rama. These showcased techniques or other aspects of our publication and invited exploration, the results being shown in the following issue and online. While The Bonefolder may be no more, the Bind-O-Rama will continue on as a part of the Book Arts Web. I'll announce the theme later this spring, but expect something traditional and codex-like...

However, to Gary's point about College Book Arts Association (CBAA) or other fine organizations with membership oriented publications filling this void, I don't see that happening. What set the Bonefolder apart was that from the outset it was designed to be open access and freely available to any and all online. It was the online only nature that allowed us to reach the audience we did with over 250,000 downloads over our 8 years, and a presence in just about every library's catalog through our participation in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). I may be a librarian/geek in this respect, but the results speak for themselves and will ensure that The Bonefolder remains available beyond us thanks to participation in digital preservation initiatives such as LOCKSS.

Membership publications are highly unlikely to provide this level of access for obvious reasons that have to do with their being benefits of membership. While the support of an organization can have sustaining benefits for a publication (and I agree with Gary on this point), it can also restrict activities and responsiveness due to organizational structure and bureaucracy that ultimately make it difficult to respond to paradigm shifts, especially in fields as traditional as the book arts. Looking at the online presence of most membership organizations (not just in the book arts) does not encourage me with lackluster results in keeping things up-to-date much less actively promoting the organization and its activities. I see this on Book_Arts-L, after 18 years still the most active list by far (someone please create the next great thing to replace it so I can retire ;-) ) and elsewhere online. Doing this work I get how ongoing care and feeding can fall off the radar, it is hard work and and never ends, but it is essential for growing and maintaining ones audience.

I'd love to be wrong about all this and challenge any of the membership organizations, or a dedicated and diverse group of individuals to take up the challenge of a serious open access publication in this discipline. To those energetic enough to try to create their own open access I am happy to share of our experiences.

The past 8 years have been amazing and we are thankful for the terrific support we have had from our readers and authors with whom we would have achieved nothing.


Peter




Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bonefolder — Volume 8, 2012

Publisher’s Note

On January 13 we release Volume 8, 2012, the largest (and regrettably last) issue of The Bonefolder. What started as an experiment in open-access online-only publishing “way back” in 2004 grew into perhaps the most widely read publication in the book arts with over a quarter million downloads for all issues combined since we began with a global readership. Listing of the The Bonefolder in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) placed us in just about every research library’s online catalog, and participation in LOCKSS will ensure long-term access to all issues (as do  Syracuse University Library’s and the Internet Archive’s servers). This growth, however, also brought with it ever increasing workloads for the small and incredibly dedicated editorial staff who solicited articles, worked with authors, and much more. With the 2011 issue we switched to an annual format (something catalogers curse publishers for) in the hopes that it would allow us to streamline processes and spread the work out as it came in. Alas, that did not happen in the way we had hoped and the process became unsustainable… When we began we knew it would be a challenge, albeit a fun one inspired by other independent publications such as Fine Print and Bookways, but also membership publications such as The New Bookbinder and The Guild of Book Workers Journal.  Since we started other publications in the book arts other sprung up but ours remains the only freely accessible journal in the field. 

Looking back, I think we more than surpassed our initial goals, and while I have deep regrets about “closing the book” I feel it is far better to leave the field at the zenith when we all still have energy for other pursuits (that we all know will come) rather than forcing ourselves to continue. So, it is with an intense sense of pride that I thank all those who have worked to make this publication the success it became – Donia Conn who encouraged me to start things in 2004, Pamela Barrios, Chela Metzger and Don Rash who formed the original core, Karen Hanmer who soon joined the team, and finally Ann Carroll Kearney who was a very welcome addition with this issue.  To Samantha Quell, a long-time student of mine, our thanks for indexing our 14 issues thereby enhancing access. All of you contributed greatly to our success. Finally though, we would have not been able to exist at all if not for our authors, some established, some new, who filled our issues with articles that covered the full spectrum of the book arts.


To all thank you!





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Table of contents:

  • Publisher’s Note
  • Evolution of an Artist’s Book – Sarah Bryant
  • John DePol Digital Archive at The University of Alabama – Amanda Haldy, Sara Parkel, & Dan Albertson
  • Reinventing the Flag Book – Jeff Tong
  • Bookbinding in Estonia – Illu Erma, translated by Silja Oja
  • Modern Portuguese Bookbindings – Sam Ellenport
  • A Tale of Two Boards: A Study of A Bookbinding – Sidney F. Huttner
  • Book Conservation at West Dean College – Abigail Uhteg
  • “How Do I Make It Stick?” Adhesives For Use In Conservation and Book Arts – Tish Brewer
  • A Bookbinder’s Gamble – Gavin Dovey
  • Reliquary for a Book – Florian Wolper
  • Towards practice: The Art of Bookbinding Used to Instill Craft in Graphic Design – Law Alsobrook
  • Durante and Wallace-Crabbe: LIMES – Perle Besserman
  • Of the Bookbinder (London, 1761)
  • Bind-O-Rama 2011– Artistically Reversible: Where Conservation and Art Meet
  • Book Reviews
    • Abbott, Kathy. Bookbinding: A Step by Step Guide. Review by Anna Embree
    • Banik, Gerhard and Br├╝ckle, Irene. Paper and Water: A Guide for Conservators.
      Review by Abigail Uhteg
    • Marks, PJM. Beautiful Bookbindings, A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art. Review by Beth Doyle.
    • Miller, Julia. Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Review by Chela Metzger
    • Minsky, Richard. The Book Art of Richard Minsky. Review by Miriam Schaer
    • Starling, Belinda. The Journal of Dora Damage. Review by John Nove
    • Wallace, Eileen. Masters: Book Arts. Review by Jules Siegel
The Bonefolder (online) ISSN 1555-6565

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beautiful Bookbindings, A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art

PJM Marks. Beautiful Bookbindings, A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art. New Castle & London : Oak Knoll Press & The British Library 2011. ISBN 9781584562931. 190 pp. $49.95.

Reviewed by Beth Doyle

Beautiful Bookbindings is a collection of bindings selected by the staff of the British Library primarily to “please the eye.”[1] The introduction includes a brief history of the book, illustrations of book anatomy and explanations of the economic and design influences that changed the way books were made over the centuries. The bindings are presented chronologically in six chapters starting with pre-16th Century and continue through the 20th Century. Additionally there are several “special themes” that highlight furniture, embroidered bindings, painted edges, and other notable binding details.

The history of bookbinding is a vast and complicated one that spans the globe through many centuries. Beautiful Bookbindings focuses primarily on the Western tradition although the author does acknowledge, and the book briefly highlights, bindings from non-European geographies. There are prime examples of Persian lacquer bindings [2] , Indian pothi [3] , Chinese red lacquer bindings [4] , and traditional North African bindings [5] that give the reader at least a minimal understanding of what books from non-European countries might look like.

Each binding is accompanied by a short text describing what makes it special, how a specific binding was produced, or who may have commissioned or used such a book. It highlights well-known designers and artisans including William Morris [6] , Francis Sangorski [7] , Philip Smith [8] and Alice Morse [9] but also shows work from lesser-known binders. Many of the early bindings represented here are Christian texts and the author accurately describes the religious symbols found on the covers, something that is remarkably missed in many publications. But you would expect this level of breadth and accuracy from a British Library publication.

The bibliographic notes on each page are sparse, listing only the place of publication, size and a brief citation with more descriptive titles and footnotes listed by page number at the back of the book. Be sure to place a bookmark at the “Notes and Further Reading” section so you can flip back and forth to figure out exactly what you are looking at. It may also be helpful to have the British Library’s online catalog open if you are interested in finding additional bibliographic information.

When presenting artwork or fine craft it is important that the design and production aids the close study of the subject. Each binding in this book is expertly and beautifully photographed and presented in a way that you can clearly see very fine details. The explanatory text, however, is fairly small so grab your reading glasses if you want to do more than simply look at the pictures. The binding itself is made with a high quality paper and sewn, not adhesive bound, so it should hold up to many readings.

By the author’s own admission, beauty is an individual assessment, “but who can deny the visual and tactile appeal of a beautifully bound book?” [10] If you are interested in the history of the book, or if you simply love exquisitely made objects that are beautifully presented, you won’t be disappointed with this purchase.



Beth Doyle is the Head of Conservation Services Department at Duke University Libraries. She holds a B.A. in Photography from the University of Dayton, and an MLIS and Certificate of Advanced Study in Library and Archives Conservation from the University of Texas at Austin Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

[1] introduction (pg. 17)
[2] pg. 65
[3] pg. 23
[4] pg. 96
[5] pg. 24
[6] pg. 141
[7] pg. 154
[8] pg. 178
[9] pg. 144
[10] introduction (pg. 8)