Curated by Henry Snyder, BCC Librarian
This exhibition celebrates the work of three creative individuals from Southern California—and their friendships, talents, collaborations, and shared passion for books and fine printing.
Harry “Ward” Ritchie (1905-1996) was one of the most important and prolific printers and designers of Southern California in the twentieth century, and a key figure in the region’s “Golden Age” of fine printing. In addition to producing hundreds of books over the course of his distinguished career, he was a lecturer, bibliophile, poet, and historian of the press in his region. In 1932, he founded the Ward Ritchie Press in Los Angeles, which featured keepsakes, limited editions, cookbooks, and books about local history or Western Americana. His distinguished design work includes a 1934 edition of A Gil Blas in California by Alexandre Dumas (on view in the exhibition), which was published by bookseller Jake Zeitlin’s Primavera Press, illustrated by Paul Landacre, and printed by Saul Marks at the Plantin Press, and which the American Institute of Graphic Arts recognized as one of the “Fifty Books of the Year.” The Ward Ritchie Press eventually expanded to become Anderson, Ritchie, and Simon, and though its output was primarily commercial, the work remained notable for its style and finish. In 1976, Ritchie retired from the firm, bought an Albion hand press, and moved to Laguna Beach, where he produced some of his best pieces under the Laguna Verde Imprenta.
Lawrence Clark Powell (1906-2001), librarian, raconteur, novelist, and literary critic, was as respected and famous in his sphere as Ritchie was in his. The two were middle school classmates, attended Occidental College together, and remained close friends and collaborators all their lives. Ritchie published, introduced, and designed Powell’s work (beginning in the middle school newspaper Ritchie founded), and Powell reciprocated by contributing to Ritchie’s publications. Other friends in their circle included Robinson Jeffers (Powell’s Ph.D. thesis was the book Robinson Jeffers: The Man and His Work; one of Ritchie’s earliest publications was Jeffers’ poems Stars, 1930), M.F.K. Fisher, Saul Marks, Jake Zeitlin, Paul Landacre, the bookseller Glen Dawson, the printer Vince Gerry, the bookbinder Joe D’Ambrosio, and the publisher George Macy—but the core was always Ritchie, Powell, and their wives.
In later years, there was one more notable addition—the actor and artist Gloria Stuart (1910-2010). Stuart’s first husband, the sculptor Blair Gordon Newell, was Ritchie’s college fraternity brother, and the couple was close with Ritchie and his then-wife Janet in their youth. In 1981, both widowed, Stuart and Ritchie renewed their friendship and developed a loving and romantic relationship that lasted until Ritchie’s death. At the age of seventy-two Stuart learned the mechanics of printing from Ritchie and quickly developed a reputation in her own right as a book artist and printer. She continued to produce books until the ripe age of one hundred under the imprint Imprenta Glorias.
The Ward Ritchie collection featured in this exhibition made its way to the Book Club via another friend of the group—the designer, bibliophile, and Club’s longtime librarian Albert Sperisen (1909-1999). He was art director and later vice president of the advertising firm, Foote, Cone & Belding, where Ritchie worked briefly in the 1940s. During his years at the Book Club, Sperisen acquired works from Ritchie, Powell, and Stuart for the library—one of the last exhibitions he curated for the Club was of the work of Gloria Stuart, who called Sperisen a “boon companion” and “true friend.” Eventually, Sperisen’s close friend and successor as Book Club librarian, Barbara Jane Land (1945-2013) acquired and augmented the collection, and her sisters have now generously donated it to the Book Club. The Club is exceedingly grateful for the gift and the opportunity to share selections from it in this stunning exhibition.
A month-long exhibition of fine press holiday cards from the collection of the Book Club of California and its members and friends. Featuring early Victorian Christmas cards, Chinese New Year’s greetings, contemporary letterpress calendars, poems, carols, and more–designed and printed by some of California’s finest printers, past and present.
Free & open to the public during Book Club of California hours: Monday-Friday, 10 am-5 pm. Call (415) 781-7532 for more information.
Curated by Randy Tarpey-Schwed.
The notion of finely printed cookbooks could be considered a bit absurd. Such objects are by their very nature “practical,” destined to be handled by buttery fingers, splayed open for easy access to their recipes, and stained with the fragrant splatters of the saucepan and soup pot. Yet a number of California’s fine printers applied the same level of craftsmanship to those efforts as they did to their commissions for more “refined” genres like literature and art.
Food & Wine & Good Design: The California Fine Printers’ Legacy showcases over one hundred examples of fine printing, outstanding design, or accomplished illustration in books, broadsides, culinary ephemera, and gastronomic literature. The one element that all the items displayed have in common is that they were created by California craftsmen and published or printed in California. Many of these works demonstrate the design and aesthetic characteristics of the periods in which they were created: objects printed before 1920 often had an Arts & Crafts or art nouveau quality; books issued in the 1930s and 1940s utilized art deco motifs and skinny, streamlined sans-serifs types; and many volumes published in the 1960s and 1970s made free use of color in a nod to the psychedelic era.
The items showcased can also inform our understanding of California’s substantial contributions to the culture of food and wine. Ultimately, this embrace of all things gastronomical manifested itself not just in cookery books, wine labels, menus and other practical objects, but also in volumes of epicurean philosophy and literature, or so-called “food writing.” This evolution is a reflection of a broader celebration that has moved beyond the kitchen and dining room and into the libraries and the souls of those who celebrate not just good food and fine wine, but also the pleasures of great literature, and the wonder of a finely crafted book.
Randall Tarpey-Schwed is a bibliophile, collector, and independent researcher with a special interest in gastronomy. He curated the Book Club of California’s 2008 exhibition A Delicious Obsession and is the co-author of M.F.K. Fisher: An Annotated Bibliography.
Free & open to the public during Book Club of California hours: Monday, 10 am-7 pm; Tuesday-Friday, 10 am-5 pm. Call (415) 781-7532 for more information.
Curated by Henry L. Snyder, BCC Librarian
From 1919 through 1965, brothers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn had the most venerable press in California. Printing such works as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Robinson Jeffers’ Solstice, they were revered by San Francisco bibliophiles for their expert sense of design, their mastery of historical and contemporary modes of typographic expression, and the creativity and versatility of their publications. The Grabhorns printed over fifty books between the years 1921 and 1965 for the Book Club o f California, along with the first twelve years of the Club’s Quarterly News-Letter, numerous keepsakes, and more.
Primarily known for their books, the Grabhorns’ “bread & butter” came from producing ephemera—announcements, invitations, certificates, resolutions, memorials and tributes, programs, menus, wine labels, advertisements, and broadsides—for institutions such as the Book Club, the Bohemian Club, the Roxburghe Club, the Wine & Food Society, the Chit-Chat Club, the Sarah Dix Hamlin School, and the Dominican Convent of San Rafael.
This exhibition presents a selection of some of rare Grabhorn ephemera, drawn from the Book Club of California’s collections, which included the Florence Walter Grabhorn Press Collection (donated by Margot and Perry Biestman), a portfolio assembled by Dr. George Lyman (donated by Mrs. David Potter), and previous holdings.
As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Book Club publications, we are proud to celebrate the Grabhorn Press’s close alliance with the Club and its integral role in the history of Club publications.
Printers and graphic designers make a series of artistic decisions when creating books and ephemera. In the 1920s and 30s, these decisions were influenced by the “art deco” motifs then in vogue. Inspired by avant-garde art movements such as Cubism as well as symbolism from Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec, Asian, and African cultures, the motifs included chevrons, sunbursts, zigzags, lightning bolts, airbrushed ray bands, and simplified, elongated human forms and silhouettes. All can be found on the smartly-styled “packaging” of books and ephemera inventively designed during this period.
This exhibition will provide a visual survey of prevalent art deco motifs depicted on a wide variety of ephemera: programs, menus, travel brochures, matchbox and luggage labels, catalogs, dance cards, announcements, bridge tallies, playing cards, poster stamps, business cards, signs, tradecards, perfume cards, sheet music, letterheads, blotters, and more.
Bruce Shyer, a retired attorney, currently serves as Vice-President of the Ephemera Society of America. He is a collector of books and ephemera about bookselling, among many other topics. In 2005, the Book Club held an exhibition of ephemera from Shyer’s collection entitled Early California Booksellers. Twenty-two years ago, Mr. Shyer, with fellow ephemerist George Fox, furnished the Club with a tantalizing sample of colorful commercial art in another Club exhibition, quaintly denominated Nineteenth-Century Throwaway Printing Saved! Ephemera in the Collection of Two Gentlemen. The now ephemeral twentieth-century announcement of that exhibition was printed by Andrew Hoyem of the Arion Press and was saved by Mr. Shyer.
Exhibition Opening Monday, September 9, 5-7 pm
Check out some photos of the exhibition here.
An excellent children’s picture book still has the power to magically whisk young minds off to another time and place—even in today’s whirling digital world. The Book Club of California is pleased to present Draw me a Story, September 9-December 30, 2013. Originating from San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum, this exhibition of twenty-three original drawings and paintings and a baker’s dozen of classic books explores one hundred years of timeless nursery rhymes, fairy stories, bold adventures, amazing animal tales, and imaginative ABCs.
The nostalgic journey starts with Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway—two of the more popular illustrators of the nineteenth century, both of whom have children’s literary awards named after them. Moving into the twentieth century, work by author/illustrators from Johnny Gruelle, W.W. Denslow, and Harrison Cady to Edward Ardizzone, Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, Rosemary Wells, and Patrick McDonnell demonstrates the boundless vision that made these artists enduring favorites.
Draw me a Story also takes the viewer through the creative process of illustration and its evolution through preliminary working sketches by William Steig, Don Freeman, and Edward Gorey. Set in The Book Club of California’s cozy and elegant gallery, this richly colorful collection is ideal for all who wish to recharge their imagination.
The exhibition originated at The Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, and has been curated for the Book Club by collector Malcolm Whyte.
Over the past forty years Malcolm Whyte has produced nearly two hundred books, of which he has authored forty-five. They include critically acclaimed educational activity books for children, pioneering cookbooks (Complete Yogurt Cookbook and The Original Diet: Raw Vegetarian Recipes), and illustrated art books (The Scrimshander, Great Comic Cats, The Underground Comix Family Album, and Goreyography, the bibliography of the works of Edward Gorey).
In 1984, he founded San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum, for which he has written and produced exhibition catalogs on the art of Walt Kelly, Walt Disney, Charles Schulz, Edward Gorey, the Crumb brothers, American Indian art, and children’s book authors.
Whyte lives in Marin County, California.
To view photos from the opening, Monday, April 29, click here.
The Legacy of Florence Walter features forty-five fine design bindings that Walter’s family has treasured for many decades. Her working sketches, photographs, keepsakes, and other printed ephemera supplement the portrait of Florence Walter as a matriarch and hand bookbinder.
At the opening, Professor Henry Snyder, OBE, will introduce the exhibition and the grandchildren who have made it possible; they will offer reminiscences of Florence and the family.
Born in 1884, Florence Walter began binding in 1934, and soon became one of the most prominent French-style binders in America. Especially choice is her unique binding of James Joyce’s Ulysses, illustrated by Henri Matisse and published by the Limited Editions Club in 1935. Another wonderful volume is her dramatic binding of Henry Miller’s Into the Night Life (1947), personally inscribed by the author to her.
Upon her death in 1972, Walter’s family donated the contents of her studio—including some 500 finishing tools and a book press (shown on the back cover of this program) as well as 300 books on binding & paper—to Mills College. Her work was shown at Mills in 1973 and at the Legion of Honor in 1976. The family retained her many bindings, which are now on exhibit (through August) at the Book of California for the first time in nearly fortyyears.
Florence, née Schwartz, married into the Walter family in 1907. Her husband, John Walter (1879–1930), was prominent in downtown retail and was an important figure in the San Francisco Art Association and the California School of the Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. His brother, Edgar (1878–1938), was a sculptor whose work can be seen on the proscenium arch of the San Francisco Opera. In the wake of the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915, he designed a bronze plaque for the life members of The Book Club of California; the originals of these can be seen at the entrance to the Club.
Florence herself was an important bibliophile, a great patron of the Grabhorn Press; she joined the Club in 1913 and was both the first woman on its Board and its first woman president (1952–1955). In 1951, she commissioned Wurster-Bernardi to build a house at 2745 Larkin, on the north crest of Russian Hill overlooking Ghirardelli Square and Alcatraz. Her bindery was a notable and wonderful feature of this home.
—Kathleen Burch & John McBride, Exhibition Curators
The exhibition is possible thanks to the splendid gift of fourteen of Walter’s bindings, donated by three of her grandchildren: Paul A. Bissinger, Jr., Peggy Pressman, and Tom Bissinger (the children of Marjorie and Paul A. Bissinger, Sr.). Paul Bissinger’s gift also includes additional printed ephemera celebrating the life of Florence Walter; her sketches of some of her bindings; and books and single sheet material printed by the senior Bissingers. As far as we are aware this is the largest collection the work of Florence Walter in an institution, and we are proud that her grandchildren chose our library for its preservation, so that the public may enjoy it for generations to come.
The exhibition also includes examples of Walter’s work from other sources, as well as bindings by her teacher, another celebrated San Francisco bookbinder, Belle McMurtrie Young (wife of the second president of the Book Club of California, William R. Young).
Organized by Alexander Campos, Executive Director, Jen Larson, Collections Specialist, and the Collections Committee, The Center for Book Arts, New York.
For the past two years, the Center for Book Arts has been involved in a Collections Initiative, which involves the in-depth cataloging and preservation of our extensive collection of artist books, prints, catalogues, and ephemera. This exhibition marks the culmination of the three-year Collections Initiative. The exhibition will offer an overview of the history and development of book arts over the past 40 years, and examine the role of the Center for Book Arts in both nurturing and promoting innovative artists and preserving traditional artistic practices. All works in the exhibition can also be viewed through the Center for Book Arts’ online collections database.
ARTISTS WHOSE WORKS ARE ON VIEW AT THE BOOK CLUB INCLUDE: Tomie Arai, Dennis Ashbaugh/ Kevin Begos/ William Gibson/ Karl Foulkes/ Peter Pettingill, Lynne Avadenka, Bryan Baker, Delphi Basilicato, Barton Lidice Benes, Doug Beube, Karl Beveridge, Michael and Winifred Bixler, Julie Chen and Clifton Meador, Carole Condé, Ana Cordeiro, Sylvia de Swaan, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Ann Fessler, Ellie Ga, Chitra Ganesh, Roni Gross, Joshua Harris, Barbara Henry, Candace Hicks, Carole P. Kunstadt, Hedi Kyle, Suzanne Lacy, Warren Lehrer, Catarina Leitão, Hilary Lorenz, Margot Lovejoy, Isabelle Lumpkin, Mikhail Magaril, Russell Maret, Franco Marinai, Barbara Mauriello, Scott McCarney, Richard Minsky, Carlos Motta, Mark Murray/Caliban Press, Shervone Neckles, Jánis Rudolfs Nedéla, Heidi Neilson and Chris Petrone, Sarah Nicholls, Sarah Paul Ocampo/ Rachel LaRue Kessler/ Sierra Nelson, Shani Peters, Catya Plate, James Prez, Robin Price, John Randle, John L. Risseeuw, John Ross, Ed Ruscha, George K. Shortess, Robbin Ami Silverberg, SKART, Karina Skvirsky, Kiki Smith, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Tattfoo Tan, Barbara Tetenbaum, Danny Tisdale, Juana Valdes, Claire van Vliet, John Frederick Walker, James Walsh, Cory Wheelock, Sam Winston, Paul Woodbine, Paul Zelevansky.
For more about the Center for Book Arts, please visit: www.centerforbookarts.org
In 1912 in San Francisco a group of book lovers came together to create The Book Club of California. At that time San Francisco possessed printers of extraordinary quality, a thriving literary and art community, knowledgeable booksellers, and major book collectors. Fifty-eight of these men and women including Dr. Edward Rpbeson Taylor, Adolph Sutro and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, were the charter members of The Book Club of California, created for “the study of letters and the promotion of the arts pertaining to the production of books.”
The programs set during these years have continued to this day. Scholarly lectures on the book were sponsored, the first exhibit on rare bookplates was mounted, annual meetings were held, and club offices were established in downtown San Francisco. In 1914 the Club published its first book, Bibliography of the History of California and the West, 1510-1906, by Robert E. Cowan. It was printed by the firm Taylor, Nash & Taylor in San Francisco. This book established the publishing program of the Club which continues as its best known activity.
Club books show a special interest in Pacific Coast history, literature, and fine printing. They are fine press limited editions of exceptional quality. Exquisite paper, printing, and binding are shown in this exhibition. Other books document important fine press firms such as the Grabhorn Press, which demonstrate the mutually beneficial relationship the BCC has had with regional fine press printers.
Exhibits, lectures, and fellowship continue to be integral to The Club’s life. As the Club begins its second century it has moved into spacious Club Rooms at 312 Sutter Street in San Francisco with space for a gallery, a library, lectures, offices, and relaxation. The Club is open weekdays and welcomes your visit to enjoy its many activities, some of which are shown in this exhibit.
Book Club of California Centennial Committee
This exhibition opened at Santa Clara University in January 2012. For the full traveling exhibition schedule, please click here.
You Know My Methods: A Collector’s Approach to the Sherlockian Canon is an exhibition that both celebrates the iconic Hound of the Baskervilles in the 110th year since its American publication and explores the divagations that one collector has enjoyed in his pursuit of the Hound. Visitors have the rare opportunity to see holograph manuscript pages of the Hound, a manuscript that has largely vanished. Also on display are unusual works including a publisher’s dummy for the American first edition; an original illustration by the artist Sidney Paget, who first defined the face and figure of the Great Detective; lurid movie posters of the 1930s and ’40s, and more. At the same time, the exhibition also shows how elements of the story—the cigarette butts at the gates of Baskerville Hall, for instance–can put a “gently mad” collector on the scent of different material for his shelves and walls.
Glen Miranker has one of the premiere collections of Sherlock Holmes books and artwork in the United States. It is the work of more than 35 years, begun as a counter-balance to graduate studies in computer science and a career in high-tech. Glen speaks widely about his “gentle madness” to such groups as the Grolier Club, the University of Minnesota Library, the Toronto Reference Library, the Roxburghe Club, among others. He most recently spoke at Harvard’s Houghton Library, where he helped organize a sesquicentennial symposium honoring Arthur Conan Doyle’s birth and co-curated its companion exhibition. Glen pursued a successful high-tech career until his retirement in 2004 from Apple, where he had been Chief Technical Officer (for Hardware). At present, Glen is engaged in a variety of Sherlockian pursuits while also building collections in wartime cryptography and the early days of radio.
In 1948, Jack Stauffacher & Adrian Wilson reprinted Eric Gill’s 1936 lecture, And Who Wants Peace?, an exquisite folio with a woodcut by Mary Fabilli, the then-companion of William Everson. This exhibition focuses on the work of these young printers in the years right after WWII: the passion, the poetry, the service and the curiosity as they established their presses, studios and careers.
- John McBride, Curator
The books in this exhibition have been selected from more than 60 artists’ books recently shown at the Grolier Club, New York, from the private collection of Robert J. Ruben. They represent a broad range of conceptual content and physical form, created by artists from across international boundaries: Italian Bruno Munari; Swiss Warja Honnegger-Lavater, whose work in the artists’ book medium predated Ed Ruscha’s in the 1960s; and London-based Susan Johanknecht, to name a few. A number of local California artists will also be included.
Many of the works tackle difficult themes, from AIDS, in Karen Chance’s iconic Parallax, to brain trauma, in Scott McCarney’s Memory Loss. Others, such as Ronald King’s Turn Over Darling, and Antonio Frasconi’s A Literary Bestiary, are more playful in content.
All of the books exhibited display craftsmanship and artistry that heighten alertness, challenge aesthetic and political awareness, and lead us to a deeper understanding of the full range of human experience. The exhibition has been curated specially for The Book Club of California by Kathleen Walkup, Professor of Book Art and Director, Book Art Program, Mills College. The initial Grolier Club exhibition was curated by Robert J. Ruben and Yvonne Korshak.
Every year the Hand Bookbinders of California present an exhibition of members’ recent work. The emphasis of the non-juried show changes from year to year according to current interests in the binding world, but always there is a solid core of design binding. This year’s show presents a range of fine binding styles, from an historical replica in the style of “Queen’s Binder B” to an exquisite full French design binding of Macbeth in miniature. There are several examples of finely-tooled books, as well as a variety of other decorative techniques: leather is crumpled, carved, sanded, onlaid, inlaid, painted, and embedded with agate. Members show a similarly inventive approach to structure: two books are bound back-to-back; one starts from both ends and meets in the middle; a third has pages which open like a set of doors. Some books are conceptual: cut and colored triangles of vellum are sewn together into a cat’s cradle. Others are very personal: a mother/daughter collaboration; a mother’s poem to her son; a box gifted to a boy at his Bar Mitzvah. The Hand Bookbinders are not only binders; they write, illustrate, and even print their work. The variety of the 39th annual exhibition shows that book binding continues to flourish in California.
To learn more about the Hand Bookbinders of California, please visit www.handbookbinders.org.
L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published almost sixty books between 1897 and his death in 1919. More than a century later, these books continue to astonish for their variety as well as the elaborateness of their production and design.
Baum was born in upstate New York in 1856. He tried a number of careers (playwright, newspaper publisher and editor, manager of a luxury goods emporium, traveling salesman) before his talent as a creator of stories for children became manifest.
His relocation to Chicago in 1891 exposed him to a vibrant arts community. Following the devastating fire of 1872, Chicago positioned itself as the second most populous city in the United States and supported the arts vigorously. The 1893 opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago showcased the architectural, graphic, and printing arts that were flourishing in the great metropolis of the prairies.
Out of this ferment came Baum’s first book for children, Mother Goose in Prose, in 1897. It was published by Way & Williams, one of two major Chicago publishers promoting the arts and crafts designs first introduced by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, and contained original illustrations commissioned from poster artist Maxfield Parrish. The publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Chicago three years later showcased the printing arts of Chicago in a way that transformed America’s juvenile literature.
L. Frank Baum rather reluctantly acknowledged that Oz was his greatest success with children, eventually establishing a series of Oz books. But he continually explored new realms of fantasy, including adventure tales for boys and girls as well as romance novels for adults, almost always adopting pseudonyms for these works.
This exhibition, drawn from the personal collection of Peter E. Hanff, shows the rich variety of Baum’s output from 1897 to 1910, the heyday of innovative design for Baum and his publishers.
Kenneth Patchen, one of the 20th century’s leading experimental writers, produced over two dozen volumes of poetry prose, along with painted poems, silkscreen prints, drawings and other graphic works. Patchen’s books, such as The Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941), gained widespread attention and notoriety; his readings of poetry with jazz were a phenomenon in the 1950s. His writings and recordings continue to intrigue and inspire lovers of modern literature and art worldwide.
Patchen, born in Niles, an Ohio steel-mill town, worked mainly on the East Coast until 1950, when he and his wife Miriam moved to San Francisco. Living in North Beach, he created his well-known “painted books” and began performing “poetry-jazz” in the City’s avant-garde clubs. A crippling back injury restricted his activities in the late 1950s; the Patchens moved to Palo Alto, where Kenneth continued to write and paint until his death at age 61.
Printer and photographer Jonathan Clark, who as a young teenager befriended the Patchens in the 1960s, arranged for the transfer of his archives to the UC Santa Cruz library special collections. Clark’s own extensive collection of Patchen material, acquired directly from the writer and his wife, is the source of this exhibition at The Book Club of California.
Jonathan Clark presents an illustrated lecture entitled Out of the World of Patchen at the exhibition closing party on Monday, April 11.
Curated by Peter Stansky