Volume 8 - Autumn 1999


Guild of Book Workers

The National Organisation for the Book Arts in the United States

Founded in New York in 1906, the Guild of Book Workers is the oldest organisation for the book arts in the United States. Its purpose was to "maintain a feeling of kinship and mutual interest among the workers in several book craft by forming a centre for the collection and distribution of useful and reliable information, and by giving exhibitions of its members...". The Guild was heavily influenced by the arts and crafts movement as exemplified by William Morris, and most of the founding members were women of the upper-class who went to England to study with Thomas J. Coben-Sanderson and others. Coben-Sanderson, Frederic Goudy, Charles MacLeish, and the firm of Sangorski and Sutcliffe were all early members. Forty-two individuals representing the full range of arts and crafts associated with fine book production attended the first meeting. Over the years, the Guild continued to grow; after the Second World War came a steep drop in membership and activities. In the 1980's and 90's Guild membership and activities blossomed again. Current membership is now standing at approximately 900 worldwide.

Benefits of Guild membership include the annual Standards of Excellence conference, participation in exhibitions, the bi-monthly Newsletter, the Journal and a comprehensive Supply Directory and Study Opportunities List. To attract members, many of these are also available online. The Guild also boasts an extensive library which is housed at the University of Iowa Library. Participation in, and access to, all of the Guild's benefits is available to all members.

As the name suggests, the annual Standards of Excellence conference helps members develop their areas of expertise by focusing on specific techniques in detail. During this two-day conference there are four presenters, and attendees rotate through each in small groups. A wide range of topics is presented to appeal to both the expert binder/book artists and the beginner. Included are binding styles and techniques, conservation, materials, and historical overviews. The conference is held at a different location each year and is always well attended. This year, Standards will be held in Chicago.

Exhibitions are perhaps the Guild's most visible function. These are juried and occur on a national level every 2-3 years. Showing recent works by established and aspiring binders and other book artists, the exhibitions have shown the tremendous growth undergone by the book arts in this country. Exhibitions are accompanied by fully illustrated catalogues and have, in recent years, also been published via the Web. The past three exhibitions have been thematic, focusing on the arts of fine presswork and binding, papermaking, and the alphabet. Plans are currently underway for a thematically open exhibition to be held in the year 2000.

The Guild's Newsletter appears bi-monthly, featuring news of Chapter and member activities and reviews of new publications and exhibitions. Also included is an exhaustive list of book arts related events including workshops and exhibitions. The Journal, issued biannually, features longer articles about specific techniques or binders, reports from the annual Standards conference, and related topics.

In addition to its national function, the Guild is currently organised into 8 regional chapters: New England, New York, Delaware Valley, Potomac, Midwest, Lone Star (Texas), Rocky Mountain, and California. Created to help alleviate the challenges of a geographically far-flung membership, the Chapters make the Guild more accessible to the membership by providing workshops, presentations, and member exhibitions. In contrast to the national organisation, Chapter exhibitions are generally self-juried and thus provide an avenue for relative beginners to show their work. In recent years, some of these Chapters have begun doing set book exhibitions, some featuring works privately printed especially for the exhibition (the Potomac Chapter's Da Vinci exhibition, and most recently the Lone Star Chapter's John Muir exhibition which will travel throughout Texas for the remainder of 1999). Catalogues are almost always printed and available. Chapters also publish their own newsletters as well as increasingly maintaining their own websites to inform members and non-members alike of activities.

More information about the Guild of Book Workers and its activities can be had by visiting its website at https://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/gbw, emailing gbw@dreamscape.com Peter Verheyen, Public Relations/Publicity Chair, or by writing to:

Guild of Book Workers
521 Fifth Ave
New York
NY 10175


Skin Deep - Volume 8 - Autumn 1999

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