The Book Club is working to preserve and promote the history of the book and the book arts even though our daily lives have been changed dramatically because of the COVID-19 health crisis.
As we start to emerge from months of solitude and seclusion, the volunteers and staff at the Book Club are beginning the process of re-opening our offices, library, and club rooms.
We don’t expect in-person programming to begin just yet but we are hoping to host events and activities soon. Until we re-open, we will continue to bring you virtual programs so you can enjoy the dynamic speakers and the educational and entertaining presentations you have come to expect at the Book Club of California.
Please consider joining us for a live online program listed below.
Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. Please refer to the description under each event.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions, or call (415) 781-7532 ext. 3
Many of our staff will be working remotely so please contact them by email or phone. Staff contact information can be found on our website.
The Private Library is the domestic bookroom: that quiet, book-wrapt space that guarantees its owner that there is at least one place in the world where it is possible to be happy.
The story of its architecture extends back almost to the beginning of history and forward toward a future that is in equal parts amazing and alarming.
In his book, The Private Library: The History of the Architecture and Furnishing of the Domestic Bookroom, Reid Byers examines with a sardonic eye the historical influences that have shaped the architecture of the private library, and the furnishings, amenities, and delightful anachronisms that make the mortal room into what Borges so famously called Paradise.
A live online presentation by Reid Byers, author, exhibition curator, and vice president of the Baxter Society
In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, the most ambitious and sweeping social policy in the history of the United States. In the Golden State more than a hundred thousand people filed homesteading claims between 1863 and the late 1930s. More than sixty thousand Californians succeeded, claiming about ten million acres.
In his book, Backcountry Ghosts, Josh Sides tells the histories of these Californian homesteaders, their toil and enormous patience, successes and failures, doggedness in the face of natural elements and disasters, and resolve to defend hard-earned land for themselves and their children. While some of these homesteaders were fulfilling the American Dream—that all Americans should have the opportunity to own land regardless of their background or station—others used the Homestead Act to add to already vast landholdings or control water or mineral rights.
Sides recovers the fascinating stories of individual homesteaders in California, both those who succeeded and those who did not, and the ways they shaped the future of California and the American West. Backcountry Ghosts reveals the dangers of American dreaming in a state still reeling from the ambitions that led to the Great Recession.
A live online presentation by Josh Sides, author and Whitsett Professor of California History, California State University at Northridge
Before the Spanish invasion and conquest, the Aztec peoples produced books that served multiple functions. Two of the main genres of books were religious books and histories. Others served more bureaucratic purposes, such as tribute lists and genealogies. Information was recorded in these books using a pictorial system of writing in which the bulk of information was recorded visually using standardized iconography and pictorial conventions. Specific information (names of people and places), was conveyed through hieroglyphic compounds that effectively “spelled” words with little ambiguity. The Aztec pictorial writing system, then, blurs the boundaries between art and text and painting and writing, and Aztec manuscripts were filled with visual texts that allowed for open interpretations.
Aztec books (often called “codices”) were not the inflexible bound books typical of Europe. Aztec books were made of long sheets of paper – of deer hide or bark fiber – that were coated with gesso and then painted and folded accordion-style. A bound book reveals two pages at any one time, but a screenfold document can display any or all pages at once. The screenfold format allowed for maximum flexibility in use and further enhanced the interpretive potential of the Aztec manuscripts.
The Spaniards understood the significance of these books for the Native peoples because they specifically targeted Aztec royal archives and temples, burning the books that were housed inside. Today few pre-conquest manuscripts from the Aztec world survive.
This presentation offers an introduction to these Aztec codices, explaining their pictorial system of writing, the material form of the books, and their varied contents. The persistence of this traditional system of writing and book making into the colonial period reveals the lasting power of books for the Native peoples.
A live online presentation by Lori Boornazian Diel, Professor of Art History, Texas Christian University
Sometimes something is so well-known, we forget that somebody figured it out in the first place. Any modern Californian does not need to be told that earthquakes are a real and present danger in most of California, including the greater Los Angeles area. But over the decades after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the severity of earthquake hazard in the Los Angeles region was the subject of heated debate.
“The Great Quake Debate” describes this pivotal chapter, focusing on intertwined biographies of two geologists — brilliant scientists and compelling individuals both — who came to personify the debate on a public stage, Bailey Willis and Robert T. Hill. On its face, The Great Quake Debate pitted science against “business interests,” but the story turns out to be so much more than that.
A live online presentation by Susan Hough, Ph.D., author, editor, and research seismologist
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