One Book, 17 Designs

March 2014

In 1998, Julia Miller began the monumental task of sifting through notes and observations made during her 30-year career as an archivist and book conservator, then sat down to write. The resultant Books Will Speak Plain (The Legacy Press 2010) is a 500-page handbook aimed at conservators, collectors, librarians, and book lovers, for the identification and description of book structures and styles.

To honor Miller’s immense contribution to book arts and highlight the strong impact design has on our relationship with books, the Midwest Guild of Book Workers invited bookbinders from across the country to take the text pages from Miller’s book and rebind them, then submit them to a jury of three experts who would choose the finalists for a traveling exhibition.

In April, the Newberry will showcase the 17 chosen designs, which include models that replicate books from a historical period; cutaways that visually reveal their hidden structure; design bindings that interpret a concept from the text; and artists’ bindings that play with structures and materials to create something new.

Titled “Plainly Spoken,” the exhibition will open Tuesday, April 22, and run through Tuesday, July 8, at roughly the same time and across the lobby from the Newberry’s annual calligraphy exhibition.

Also a juried show, “Exploration 2014” is presented by the Chicago Calligraphy Collective and this year marks its 28th anniversary. The show runs from Monday, April 7, though Friday, June 27, and features submissions of a wide range of stunning and thought-provoking calligraphic art. A special event featuring the award presentation, demonstrations, and discussions will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 12.

The Newberry’s John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing is one of the world’s leading collections in its field. It includes nearly 100,000 volumes of technical literature, periodicals, and historical accounts of printing and book arts; more than 600 cubic feet of printing- and publishing-related archives (in 56 different collections); 650 calligraphic manuscripts and 2,100 printed volumes on calligraphy; 68,000 volumes of classified printing samples of every period (including 2,200 from the fifteenth century); and more than 15,000 items of printed ephemera.

The Guild of Book Workers promotes interest in and awareness of the tradition of the book and paper arts by maintaining high standards of workmanship, hosting educational opportunities, and sponsoring exhibits. The Midwest Chapter serves the region by hosting workshops, exhibitions and other events in the areas of bookbinding, artists’ books, printing, papermaking and all fields of the book arts.