Bookmark – “Building the Book from the Ancient World to the Present Day: Five Decades of Rare Book School & The Book Arts Press”

In late 2022, the New York’s Grolier Club and Charlottesville’s Rare Book School/The Book Arts Press joined to create this online exhibition.

We have all been taught how to read books. But what can we learn by looking closely at their material forms? This exhibition celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Rare Book School and the Book Arts Press, which teaches leading curators, librarians, conservators, book historians, and collectors how to analyze books as physical objects, along with the materials and equipment used to make them.

With its catalogue-esque subtitle and its outline in black-and-white body text, the exhibition might slip past the casual scroller. But ignore the eye-candy poster and the all-caps title/subtitle and look closely at that clear and logical outline. Behind each of the links from the outline, the curators Barbara Heritage (Associate Director & Curator of Collections) and Ruth-Ellen St. Onge (Associate Curator & Special Collections Librarian, Rare Book School at the University of Virginia) have provided definitions, explanations and illustrative images that will satisfy novice and expert alike interested in the evolution of the book.

Never mind if the text often reads as a lure to enroll in the Rare Book School. What is here is a companion to any general or specialist course. For the self-taught, it is a companion to any popular book on the subject (for example, Keith Houston’s The Book) or to specialist books (for example, Bamber Gascoigne’s How to Identify Prints).

The final topic in the outline feels like an outlier. Or perhaps only because it is the last. An additional section on book art (not just the book arts) and a section on the digital study and exploration of the book would be welcome.

Here is an archival link to the resource.