Bookmarking Book Art — Center for Book Arts: Support our Artists in Residence!

Even the “book arts” are having to go back to the future, sort of, to survive.

In the Renaissance, the arts and manuscripts were supported by the patronage of the rich and powerful, intent on securing fame, honor or redemption by association with lasting works.

Miniature of king Edgar presenting a charter (probably the New Minster Charter) to Christ in Majesty, watched by the Virgin and St Peter, from The New Minster Charter, England (Winchester, New Minster), c. 966, Cotton Vespasian A. viii, f. 2v
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Along comes the democratizing printing press, and eventually (a very long eventually), patronage is replaced by secured copyright and a working market.   Now the democratizing Web has arrived, and content, including art, should be free, so we are told or simply shown by the taking.  Is that the future of the book?

The book arts (and book art) are worth a bookmark in the evolution of the book.  They hark back to the brilliant works of art like those exhibited earlier this year from the British Library’s collection of medieval and Renaissance illuminated codices collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years.

A wedding present for Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI. The Shrewsbury Book is one of the most remarkable manuscripts in the Old Royal library. It was a gift to Margaret of Anjou from John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. Margaret is shown with her husband Henry VI. The Shrewsbury Book, Rouen, 1444–45. (C) British Library Board (Royal 15 E. vi, ff. 2v)

In the BL’s ‘Turning the Pages™’ system and ebook versions, we see how the affordances of the web and ebooks can enhance our experience of those works.

Medieval Bestiary, from the British Library

In a previous post,  we looked at the Center for the Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago‘s offering awards of “two $10,000 commissions for new artworks for the iPad [which] will have physical counterparts that intersect, modulate, or inform the digital components of the artwork.”  From print to digital in one case, from digital to print in the other.  The book, its arts and its art as an object have been and will be the focal point of cultural investment.

The work of Brian Dettmer, gracing the cover of  Christine Antaya’s edited volume Book Art: Iconic Sculptures and Installations Made from Books (Die Gestalten Verlag, 2011), embodies why this is so.  Dettmer’s book art declares that despite or because of our crossing the digital divide, the book’s legacy as a carrier of ideas and communication remains secure in the creative realm.    Take a look.

These are the kind of artists as well as masters and mistresses of the book arts that the Center for Book Arts in New York seeks to support.

Crowdsourced funding won’t provide contributors with lasting fame by association, although there are rewards in the form of invitations to openings and Artists’ Talks as well as a small letter-press printed gift.  Here’s hoping that those who value the arts and books (digital and print) for their own sake will dig into their pockets.

Watch, listen and think about it.

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