Westward Bound judges book by its cover

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    By AMBER STAHR

    The art of bookmaking is now on display in the Westward Bound book making exhibit now showing at BYU’s Museum of Art.

    “You can judge a book by its cover, at least in this exhibit,” said Christopher McAfee, a rare book conservator at the Harold B. Lee Library. McAfee also has a book that he made in the exhibit.

    Pamela Barrios, also a rare book conservator at the HBLL and who also has a book in the show, said the art of bookmaking originates back to the ancient Egyptians.

    In later years, books were primarily made by monks, Barrios said. The bindings and the covers of the books were very important and elaborate.

    With the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, books shifted to be more elaborate on the inside, Barrios said.

    Throughout the years as books became more readily available and more common, the art of bookmaking was lost in the shuffle of the mass production of books, Barrios said.

    “In the 1900s there was a reintroduction of books as an art form,” Barrios said.

    The art of bookmaking involves several different elements, Barrios said. It can involve the decoration of the cover, the making of the paper and the binding of the book.

    The artists in the exhibit put equal emphasis on all elements of the book, Barrios said.

    “The book form becomes important, not necessarily what is inside,” she said.

    Madelyn Garret, a rare book curator of special collections in the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, is the curator of the Westward Bound exhibit.

    “The most important reason why we did this was to celebrate our book arts program,” Garret said. “We have been working very hard on this program.”

    The exhibit opened along with the visit of Claire Van Vliet of West Burke, Vt., internationally known master bookmaker, Garret said.

    Westward Bound first opened June 5 at the Finch Lane Gallery in Salt Lake. The exhibit then came to Museum of Art at BYU Aug. 7 and will run until Nov. 12, said Paul Anderson, head of design and production at the Museum of Art.

    “The University of Utah was interested in showing (the exhibit) here at BYU, and they approached us here at the museum and asked if we would be interested in showing (Westward Bound),” Anderson said.

    The exhibit also features a book by artist Philip Smith of Chippenham, England.

    Philip Smith is considered the finest book binder in the world,” Garret said.

    The art form of bookmaking is quite a complicated form, Barrios said.

    “It is complicated because when a book is closed, you can not see the inside, and when a book is opened you can not see the outside,” Barrios said.

    With this exhibit, some may pose the question if the books in the Westward Bound exhibit are really books, Barrios said.

    “It is difficult to make the distinction between books you read and books that are art,” Barrios said.

    Susan Cotter, of Parowan, Iron County, is a local artist who won one of the juror’s awards. Her book has a bird theme with collages of topography maps.

    “If I were a bird, (the maps) would be my view of the world,” Cotter said.

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