On your next trip to the Book Club of California, don’t miss the Albert Sperisen Library, our wonderful reference library housing over 10,000 volumes, all searchable via WorldCat, and all open to club members, guests, and interested readers. The library supports the club in its mission to promote the art of fine printing related to the history and literature of California and the western states of America. In addition to noteworthy fine press books and ephemera printed in California and the West, you’ll find a treasure-trove of reference material on printing history and the book arts. Just call the club at 415-781-7532, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment during library hours: Mondays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Although the Book Club of California has provided a home in its office for printed material from the very start, it was only in the mid-1950s, when the club had grown enough to require larger quarters, that a systematic effort was made to expand the collection. Albert Sperisen, the club’s librarian from the 1950s until his death in 1998, led the expansion. Two major gifts laid the foundation: one from Kenneth D. Bechtle and the other from Norman Strouse. Another move, in 2010, provided an occasion for a series of important gifts, which increased the collection by nearly twenty-five percent. These include works given by Clifford Burke and Virginia Mudd, Carol Cunningham, John Levinsohn, Noel Kirshenbaum from the collection of Sandra DeNola Kirshenbaum, and a group of splendid bindings by Florence Walter given by her grandchildren.
Prior to becoming the club’s librarian Mr. Sperisen was an advertising executive with Foote, Cone & Belding, where he won awards for his design; later in life, he became a sought-after consultant in the fields of graphic design, fine printing, and typography. Fellow collector and club member William P. Barlow, Jr., himself an esteemed bibliographer, had this to say about his friend: “If it were necessary to find a single word to describe Albert Sperisen, I would choose taste. It is not an original suggestion, since Foote, Cone & Belding once used an image of Albert’s face and a glass of wine to illustrate that concept perfectly.”
“Albert showed taste in the books and other objects he collected,” Mr. Barlow went on to say, “in his typographical designs, in the exhibits he put together for the Book Club, Stanford, and the University of San Francisco, in his dress and, I am immodest enough to think, in the cultivation of his friends.” Many of these friends were fellow members, and they took pride in the books he acquired for the Book Club of California. Perhaps you’d like to discuss a potential addition of your own to the collection?