Past Exhibitions

Paul Elder: A Literary Life in Seven Bookstores
On view at the Book Club of California from November 6, 2023 to February 12, 2024

Paul Elder’s bookstores were a familiar sight in downtown San Francisco for seventy years, but he preferred to call himself a “Western Publisher.” He issued over four hundred titles in his career, beginning in 1898 in partnership with Morgan Shepard, then from 1903 as Paul Elder & Company. In this exhibition, we present many of Elder’s publishing themes, including Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts decoration, San Francisco and the West, travel literature, children’s books, Japanese art, ephemera, and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

FIFTY YEARS IN THE MAKING: A Reprise by John A. Lehner of the 1970 Decorative Designers Exhibition
On view July 10, 2023 through October 23, 2023

In 1970 John A. Lehner attended The Decorative Designers Exhibition and was captivated by the originality and variety of The Decorative Designers’ work. The Decorative Designers operated as a firm, as opposed to individual artists, to present publishers with designs hand-painted onto the cloth that would be used in production, thus giving a clearer representation of the finished product. Lehner spent the next fifty years on a quest to collect all sixty-one books that were on exhibit. On display at the Book Club are all sixty-one of the books that were featured in the 1970 Decorative Designers Exhibition plus an additional thirteen books from The Decorative Designers.

American Ingenuity and Innovation: Kitchen Appliance Instruction Manuals
April 3, 2023 through June 30, 2023

From air conditioners to yogurt makers, kitchen appliance manuals—with step by step directions for achieving a desired outcome—are incredible examples of early technical writing and innovative design. The instruction manuals on display reflect a wide range of products aimed at American consumers and provide today’s bibliophiles and graphic artists the opportunity to study the typography, designs, and color combinations of product marketing from the past.

From the Printed Work of Jo Mora
January 30, 2023 through March 27, 2023

The creative career of Joseph Jacinto “Jo” Mora (1876-1947) was both compelling and diverse. In addition to being a painter, muralist, sculptor, building designer, cartographer, actor, set designer, cowboy, and husband and father, Mora was very involved with work on paper. It is his work as an illustrator, cartoonist, printer, and author that so closely parallels the work of the Book Club of California.

Mora’s art work sprang from his interests in numerous subjects including Native Americans and cowboys, the American landscape, California history and its missions, the classics of Chaucer, and Mora’s love of animals. All of these subjects found expression in his work and his lasting creative efforts can be seen throughout California and the West.

The Tribute to George Steiner (1929-2020): An International Bookplate Competition
September 12, 2022 through December 12, 2022

Selections from the International Bookplate Competition to honor the literary critic, philosopher, novelist, and educator George Steiner will be on display at the Book Club as part of the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers Centennial Celebration and World Congress being held September 11-18, 2022. 

Bookplates on exhibit reflect Steiner’s quest for knowledge and his love of books and reveal the many different ways that artists around the world view this remarkable individual.

Visual Poetry
June 20, 2022 through September 2, 2022

Poets, scribes, and printers throughout history have taken advantage of the fact that poetry is both a visual and a verbal art. From the collection of the Book Club of California, this exhibit looks at some of these multi-sensory works from the earliest known shaped poems, over twenty-three thousand years old, up to modern experiments in textual design.

Florence S. Walter:
Pioneering American Bookbinder
January 27, 2020 – March 23, 2020

Born in 1884, Florence S. Walter was a native San Franciscan who began book collecting in her twenties, taking a particular interest in fine press books from France and the work of her friends, Ed and Bob Grabhorn. She began binding in 1934, and became one of the most prominent French-style binders in America.

Florence joined the Book Club in 1913 and was the first woman to sit on the Board of Directors as well as the first woman to serve as president (1952–1955). She was an avid collector and bibliophile, and thanks to the generosity of her family, her near-complete collection of Grabhorniana is now part of the Book Club of California library collection.

115 of Florence’s bindings have been recorded, of which 59 are in the Book Club of California library, many of which are currently on display in the club rooms and featured in Florence S. Walter: Pioneering American Bookbinder.

This exhibit and publication are loving tributes to a prolific artist and important figure in the Book Club’s history.

A Shimmer of Joy
One Hundred Children’s Picture Books in America
December 2, 2019 – January 13, 2020

Picture books are a jewel in the crown of children’s literature. They are composed of words, illustrations, and the dramatically paced rhythm of pages turning in the reader’s hand. When these elements come together with creative mastery, a surge of mind or heart can occur, as with any form of fine art. At its most inspirational, a picture book can provide a transporting reading experience—punctuated by shimmering moments of joy—for the children and adults who journey inside its covers.

A Shimmer of Joy is an exciting and colorful presentation of children’s picture books published in – or imported to – America from 1900 to 2015. The children’s books on exhibit are some of those featured in the Book Club of California’s 239th publication A Shimmer of Joy: One Hundred Children’s Picture Books in America by author Chris Loker.

The Zamorano 80
August 19, 2019 – November 18, 2019

In June 1945, the members of the Zamorano Club issued the Zamorano 80, a listing with bibliographical data on the 80 books that the members unanimously agreed were distinguished and important in understanding California. Currently, there are only four known complete collections. The collection on display will include about 40 of the Zamorano 80 in first editions.

The Artistry of Mallette Dean: A Selection from the Sperisen Library
May 6, 2019 – August 12, 2019

The Book Club of California presents a variety of illustrated books featuring the artistry of Mallette Dean (1907-1975). The exhibition, drawn entirely from the Club’s Sperisen Library, features works printed by the Grabhorn Press, the Colt Press, the Allen Press, as well as several books designed and printed by Mallette Dean. The exhibition includes scarce ephemera, woodcut blocks, and several distinguished titles published by the Book Club of California.

Member Exhibit: Poetry Broadsides from Larry Rafferty’s Collection
December 5, 2018 – February 4, 2019

Hit & Run Press was launched in 1974. Since that time, in addition to publication, Larry has collected books by poets and printers whose work he admired. Along the way, he has accumulated a couple hundred letterpress broadsides. Here, you’ll see a few treasures from his collection.

An exhibition of poetry broadsides by collector and Book Club member Larry Rafferty.

The Joy of Giving: Christmas Chapbooks
December 3, 2018 – January 11, 2019

The chapbook is a form of popular literature printed, starting in early modern Europe, from the 16th century forward. Early versions were cheaply printed and varied from a couple of pages to a few dozen pages. Usually used to print short stories, political or religious tracts, or poetry, they became a favorite mechanism for publishing limited runs of personal poetry, family history, or short stories for limited distribution.

This exhibition will focus primarily on those produced by letterpress printers in the last century, featuring works from the permanent collection of the Book Club of California, as well as from the personal collection of the curator and several companions of the Moxon Chappel who have graciously agreed to loan from their personal collections.

With remarks by curator Alan Dye, proprietor, Noble Impressions.

Member Exhibit: California the Wonderful
October 3 – December 3 2018

This exhibit showcases California books in decorated publisher’s bindings from the 1880’s to 1920’s – books about the Golden State from the Golden Age of book cover art. The books in the collection vary in subject matter, they describe California’s “… romantic history, her picturesque people, her wild shores, her desert mystery, her valley loveliness, her mountain glory, […] her varied resources, her commercial greatness, her intellectual achievements, her expanding hopes” – as Edwin Markham so modestly states in the subtitle to his book “California The Wonderful”!

Ulrich Hacker has been a reader and book collector from an early age on; as his interests widened he began to appreciate books not just for their content, but also as objects of art and design – “handsome books”. This collection will contain several cover variants: variations in color scheme and gilting, titling, layout, borders, etc.

An exhibition of books on California with remarks by collector and Book Club member Ulrich Hacker.

Nautical Fiction, Covers, Colors, and Contents
August 20 – November 9, 2018

David Wingfield Pettus has been collecting books for more than 45 years. In that time he has assembled what many believe to be the most comprehensive collection of nautical fiction in the world.

Like many collectors, his primary focus is on the great literature contained within the covers of the rare volumes he acquires. But, again, like most collectors, he cannot help but be attracted to the bindings, the illustrations, and evocative ephemera that naturally come his way in the course of his collecting.

This Book Club exhibit is dedicated to a selection of those items – visually resonant pieces that particularly compliment David’s love of the sea, the ship, and the sailor – art and artifacts that convey the adventure, loneliness, and beauty found on the “endless immensity of the sea”.

With remarks by curator David Pettus, author and collector.

Member Exhibit: Popping Up: Animated Books and Their Stories
August 1 – October 1, 2018

You may think of pop-up books as children’s toys, but originally they were made for adults. The earliest known pop-up book dates from the 13th century and was used to calculate dates of holy days. In this exhibit, Mike shares a snippet of his pop-up collection with the Book Club; animated books that move when pages are opened, or with pull tabs to provide motion, and carousels with a 360° view. Subject matter varies, from fairy tales to the risqué, real locations and imaginary ones, and ancient history to popular culture.

An exhibition of pop-up books with remarks by collector and Book Club member Mike Jacobsen.

To view Mike’s opening presentation, click here.

Exhibition Opening: Henry Evans, the Peregrine Press, and the Porpoise Bookshop (1948-1964)
May 7 – July 31 2018

Hospitality at 5 PM | Remarks at 6 PM

A retrospective look at the unique and delightful work of one of California’s pioneering small press printers and booksellers, Henry Evans. Together with his wife Patricia and daughter Judith, Evans produced some of the most endearing letterpress publications of the 1950s, and his work was singularly influential on California’s small press movement of the 1960s and 70s.

Curated by John Crichton, proprietor, Brick Row Book Shop.

Catching the Light
February 5 – April 30, 2018

A collection of broadsides printed by Southern California Printers. Curated by Carolee Campbell, proprietor, Ninja Press.

Fourth Annual Holiday Card Exhibition Opening: Treasures from the Book Club
December 4, 2017 – January 8, 2018

This year’s holiday card exhibition features cards sent, received, and collected by the Book Club and its members over the past 70 years. The collection celebrates the work of California presses both big and small, including Tamal Land Press, Feathered Serpent Press, Lawton and Alfred Kennedy, the legendary Grabhorn Press, and many more. Also on display are holiday cards printed in the small, little-known print shops of our members. On view December 4, 2017–January 8, 2018.

Featured card by Feathered Serpent Press, San Rafael.

Exhibition Opening: From The Great Age of Scientific Voyages & Travels 1767–1890: Twenty Notable Explorers & Related Works
Wednesday, September 6, 2017, 5–7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

The Book Club of California’s fall exhibition showcases first and early editions of books, engravings, and maps from the voyages and travels of Bougainville and La Pérouse, Mungo Park and von Humboldt, Darwin and Franklin, Livingstone and Stanley, Burton and Speke, and ten other notable explorers in-between.

The exhibition in on view September 6–November 27, 2017. Join us for the exhibition opening on Wednesday, September 6 with remarks by historian, geographer, and curator Peter Farquhar.

Exhibition Opening: The Working Library: Clifford Burke and Fine Printing
Monday, March 20, 2017, 5:00–7:00 p.m.

The Working Library: Clifford Burke and Fine Printing will showcase selected works from Cranium Press, founded by Clifford in 1967, as well as books that informed and inspired his distinguished career as poet, printer, and publisher. Join us for the exhibition opening, with remarks from Cranium Press.

Lu Jingren: Master of Chinese Book Design
January 18, 2017 – March 13, 2017

A contemporary artist and master of the ancient traditions of Chinese book design, Lu Jingren has been crafting books for nearly four decades. He is renowned not only for his prolific creative work and cutting-edge design sensibilities, but also for his dedication to fostering an appreciation of the book as an art form. “Lu Jingren is a superb designer and his mastery of material and form is exemplary. His books exhibit the rare quality of being accessible to both beginning readers and connoisseurs alike,” says Peter Koch, founder of the Codex Foundation. Lu’s career has spanned major technological developments in printing, from letterpress to offset to digital, and his work demonstrates an inspired, graceful response to such changes. One must “design a book with a novel approach every time,” he says.

Lu studied under the tutelage of Professor Kohei Sugiura of Kobe Design University, Japan in 1989 and 1992. Upon his return to China, he founded Jingren Art Design Studio in Beijing, which focuses on book design, editing, and translating design-related publications. Lu currently teaches book design at the Academy of Arts & Design at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He has garnered numerous awards for book design in Hong Kong, Germany, the United States, and China, and is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI).

In this exhibition, the Book Club of California is proud to showcase some of Professor Lu’s finest and most inventive works, which provide a modern response to the centuries-long traditions of both Chinese and Japanese book making.

The Father of the American Christmas Card: Louis Prang, from the Collection of Keith S. Clark
December 12, 2016-January 9, 2017

Louis Prang—artist, businessman, and educational reformer—was born in Prussia in 1824 and arrived in America in 1850 to pursue his vocation as printer and wood-engraver. He established his own printing firm in 1860 to produce what he termed “chromolithographs”—dazzling reproductions of paintings printed in dozens of colors from hand-drawn litho stones—along with the colorful album cards, children’s books, trade cards, and greeting cards so beloved in the Victorian era. In 1874 he produced America’s first pictorial Christmas cards, eventually employing noted artists to create elaborate designs, elegantly reproduced and often fringed in silk. By the 1880s Prang and Company had issued millions of Christmas cards, along with smaller numbers of Valentine’s and Easter greetings. Prang set an unsurpassed standard for quality and elegance, but cheaper imports undercut his greeting-card business and in 1890 he abandoned Christmas card printing altogether to concentrate on fine-art reproduction and his innovative art-education books. In 1897 Prang’s involvement with lithography ended, and he died in California in 1909. While his sentimental Victorian productions fell out of favor in the 20th century, his name is still recalled by the ever-popular “Prang” brand children’s crayons and water-color sets.

The Father of the American Christmas Card: Louis Prang from the Collection of Keith S. Clark includes a wealth of examples of Prang’s chromolithographed Christmas greetings, from his early productions to his celebrated “Prize Christmas Card” series. Examples of the stunning “American Chromo” landscapes and large-format lithographs that made Prang famous throughout the world will be on view. In addition, the show features rarely-seen Prang material including proof sheets, books, and personal memorabilia, along with examples of Thomas Moran’s important Yellowstone views, and William T. Walters’s monumental Oriental Ceramic Art, Prang’s final chromolithographic masterpiece.

You can read a warm review of the exhibition in the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Developing an Image: Photography, Books, and the National Park Service, from the Collection of Robert Bothamley
August 8-December 5, 2016

Founded one hundred years ago, on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service is an American invention that was developed gradually over time. As our nation expanded to the West and the beauties of its natural wonders were experienced for the first time, people generally felt one of two emotions: a desire to preserve this wilderness for future generations to enjoy, or to exploit it for financial gain. From the beginning, those on the side of preservation and protection made significant use of books, periodicals, and, in particular, photography to generate support for their cause. The exhibition will include a sampling of the publications and photographs that, together, played an important role in making a general public aware of the need to preserve our natural wonders and established support for this new government agency, the National Park Service, to protect and manage these precious resources.

From Lafayette H. Bunnell’s firsthand description of the Mariposa Battalion’s encounter with the Yosemite Valley in 1851, through the lyrical photography of Ansel Adams, Developing an Image includes a sampling of the publications and photographs that, together, played an important role in making a general public aware of the need to preserve our natural wonders, and established support for this new government agency, the National Park Service, to protect and manage these precious resources.

Fine Print: The Review for the Arts of the Book (1975-1990)
May 2-August 1, 2016

View images of the exhibition here.

The Book Club of California’s summer exhibition, Fine Print: The Review for the Arts of the Book (1975-1990), focuses on the remarkable legacy of this San Francisco-based journal, which began as the vision of Sandy Kirshenbaum; grew and thrived with the efforts of a core editorial team that included Stephen Corey, rare book librarian, and two young printers, Linnea Gentry and George Ritchie, who were working for Andrew Hoyem at the time; and went on to achieve high standards of both content and form through the contributions of many talented collaborators from California and around the world. Throughout its fifteen year run, Fine Print not only provided a showcase for the best in fine press publishing, but attempted to integrate all of the book arts, including calligraphy, bookbinding, papermaking, wood engraving, and type design—the latter increasingly devoted to digitization and computer-generated types—while also offering important articles on the history of the book and creating a space for conversation among writers, scholars, and book artists from around the world. Fine Print’s many contributors included Martin Antonetti, Nicolas Barker, Charles Bigelow, Robert Bringhurst, John Dreyfus, Paul Hayden Duensing, Colin Franklin, EM Ginger, Steven Heller, Andrew Hoyem, Janet Ing, Paul Needham, Stan Nelson, Will Powers, Wesley Tanner, Benjamin Vorst, Hermann Zapf, and many others. As Robert D. Harlan has written, “The entire corpus [of Fine Print] will continue to be studied and admired by practitioners, students, and connoisseurs.”


Calligraphy and Poetry: Thomas Ingmire in Collaboration with David Annwn
January 25-April 25, 2016

View images of the exhibition here.

This exhibition traces the collaboration between calligrapher/book artist Thomas Ingmire and the Anglo-Welsh poet David Annwn as they explore processes through which they create works in response to the texts and images of the other. As Bruce Nixon has written “Their collaboration, which began in the early 2000s, is based on ekphrasis, a rhetorical device from antiquity, in which one art medium is described by another, thus heightening its affect for viewers or readers. In this case, the poet sends a poem to the calligrapher, who answers it with an image, which is then returned to the poet to become the basis of another poem, and so on, back and forth, an evolutionary process which, from the calligrapher’s perspective, yields a dynamic exchange, provoking the visualization of the written word well beyond the safety of individual style. As a collaborative undertaking, it is at once conversational and deeply personal.” Over the last ten years, David and Thomas have collaborated on twelve one-of-kind books, innovative calligraphic and poetry experiments, and several printed books. Most of these works will be on display for this exhibition.

Thomas Ingmire has been living in San Francisco’s North Beach since 1972, which coincides with his interests in calligraphy, drawing, painting, and bookmaking. His early work focused on teaching and calligraphic research involving the exploration of calligraphy as a fine arts medium. Beginning in 2002, he turned to the creation of artist’s books. He has embarked on a number of collaborative projects, including the Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca series of books with Manuel Neri; work as an illuminator on the St. John’s Bible; and the creation of original books in collaborations with poets from the UK, Singapore, the Republic of the Philippines, and the United States. His works are found in the Artist Book Collections of Stanford University, UCLA, USC, Yale University, Baylor University, University of Denver, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and many others. He also has paintings in a number of collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, the Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Kunste (Academy of Fine Arts), Berlin, Germany, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Altos, CA, and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

David Annwn is an Anglo-Welsh poet, critic and playwright resident in West Yorkshire, England. He lectures for the Open University in Manchester and Leeds. Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney wrote that David’s work is “wonderfully sensitive and accurate”. John Goodby has called his poem-sequence Bela Fawr’s Cabaret, (2008) “Annwn’s masterpiece” in a “new mode”. Geraldine Monk has written of the “delicious abandon and undiluted energy” of his poetry. Also of note is Annwn’s DADADOLLZ (2010) collaboration with Christine Kennedy and his work with musicians Mick Beck and John Cowey. Recent publications include Thel-Time (2010), (ed.) Dracula’s Precursors, (2011), and Gothic Machine, (2011), Annwn’s major study of the literature of horror 1875-1910, film, and pre-cinematic technology. Annwn has written a lengthy paper about his collaborations with Thomas Ingmire.


Holiday Cards from William P. Wreden, Family, and Friends
December 14, 2015-January 15, 2016

Curated by Bo Wreden, Book Club Member

View images of the exhibition here

Early last December, passing G.F. Wilkinson’s Bookstall on Trinity Place, which was closed at the time, I was attracted to a book with a colorful dust jacket illustrating old Christmas cards: The History of the Christmas Card by George Buday. It took me until December 22 to return when the shop was open and purchase the book. On the same date I was delighted to read San Francisco Chronicle writer C.W. Nevius’s column, “In Defense of Holiday Greeting Cards.” Earlier, I had learned the Book Club of California was holding an exhibition of members’ historic and letterpress holiday cards. I read, too, about an exhibition that the Morgan Library in New York was holding: Handmade: Artists’ Holiday Cards from the Archives of American Art.

Twenty-five years ago, Steve Corey, Special Collections Librarian at the University of San Francisco, generously agreed to host an exhibition of my father’s imprints in the Donohue Rare Book Room of the Gleeson Library for my father’s eightieth birthday. For the occasion I compiled a checklist of books, catalogues, holiday cards, and keepsakes published up to May 1990. I noted that we did not seem to have copies or available records for everything that was printed and it was likely that the list for holiday cards was incomplete. After my mother’s death in 2000, I discovered that she had collected and saved four cartons of cards. In one carton were cards printed for our family and in the remaining three were cards and related materials my parents received or acquired over some sixty-four years. I thought the contents might be worthy of exhibition. This year, with the encouragement of Linda Vance, a New York friend and artist, I proposed the exhibition. Annually, Linda reproduces one of her paintings on the holiday cards she and her husband, Mike Ridder, send out. Two of her cards are included in the exhibition.

My parents’ earliest cards date from 1937. There is a gap, though, from then until 1947. World War II paper shortages led some people to refrain from sending holiday greetings through the war years. Anna and Fabius Finch, my great aunt and uncle, wrote in their 1946 holiday card, “During the war years we omitted sending our usual Holiday Greetings, because we just could not use the words ‘Merry’ or ‘Happy.’ “ What my parents did during the war is unknown. Other gaps occur in the 1960s. Twice my parents were late in getting their cards out so, for example, there is no card listed for 1977, but two for 1978, the first for New Year’s and the second for Christmas.

The first letterpress card sent by my parents was printed by the Grabhorns in the early 1950s. Most cards they printed are undated and without a printer indicated. My mother often wrote in pencil on the back of a card the date it was printed. She also penciled in the year on the back of many of the cards she received, and created a few files for individual senders as well as three large envelopes by category: China and Japan; San Francisco; and Santa Claus, Three Wise Men and Angels, etc. Other cards were loosely grouped by year. A random sampling from the 1960s could easily be viewed as a book world Who’s Who of the era, featuring cards from Bill Barlow to the Yale Collection of Western Americana. The current exhibition features only a small sampling of cards my parents received.

The Exhibition that Never Was: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition, The Book Club of California, & A Century of Fine Books
September 28-December 7, 2015

Curated by Dr. Henry L. Snyder, Book Club Librarian

View images of the exhibition here.

Only a few years after the most catastrophic natural disaster in the Bay Area’s history, San Francisco demonstrated its remarkable audacity, ambition, ingenuity, and imagination when it opened the Panama-Pacific International Exposition on February 20, 1915. Spanning ten months and attracting almost nineteen million fairgoers, the PPIE celebrated not only the completion of the Panama Canal, but the resilience and vitality of a city so recently in shambles, and established once and for all that the City by the Bay was a thriving cultural center.

In 1912, seeking to ensure that the Bay Area’s rich heritage of fine printing, binding, publishing, and book collecting would be duly represented at the PPIE, a group of San Francisco bibliophiles proposed an exhibition of book arts for inclusion at the fair. When advised that their proposal would carry more weight if made by an official entity, this group founded the Book Club of California, an organization dedicated to “the study of letters and the promotion of the arts pertaining to the production of book.” The proposed PPIE exhibition was never realized. Instead, the original founders were joined by others (for a total of fifty-eight charter members) and began a century-long (and counting!) legacy of programs, exhibitions, and publications designed to promote and encourage the highest standards of bookmaking through excellence in scholarship, writing, design, and production.

Since its founding in 1912, the Book Club of California has held to its commitment to promote and foster the art of the book, and this exhibition traces the evolution of that endeavor. In the first display case you will find a selection of books that likely would have been on view at the original PPIE—a snapshot of the book arts in San Francisco during the early twentieth century. In the second display case we feature a century’s worth of items that each in its way relates to the history of our Club and its evolution as a haven for the appreciation of fine printing, binding, typography, illustration, literature, bibliography, and the history of the book in California and the West. All the books on display are drawn from the collections of the Book Club of California.

Alice in Bookland: Fine Press Editions from the collection of Mark and Sandor Burstein
May 18-August 24, 2015

Curated by Mark Burstein, President Emeritus, The Lewis Carroll Society of North America

View images of the exhibition here.

Alice in Bookland celebrates the 150th anniversary (“sesquicen-Tenniel”) of the original Macmillan publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Once thought of as a quaint Victorian children’s book, Alice is now the most quoted novel in existence, and among the most widely illustrated and translated. Since the publication of Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice in 1960, it is also one of the most studied by the academic community, and continues to be a much beloved presence in our culture, with many adaptations in cinema, theater, musicals, opera, and ballet, on websites and merchandise, and more. Lewis Carroll Societies thrive in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Brazil. Naturally, the book has a long bibliophilic history as well. Though collectors may especially desire one of the suppressed first printings, one copy of which sold for $1.5 million in 1998, this exhibition focuses on the fine press editions.

After the copyright of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland expired in 1907, a host of editions, authorized and not, sprang forth. Many of these are on view in the exhibition. They include a version illustrated by Arthur Rackham, the limited edition bearing the illuminations of Salvador Dalí (1969), a Black Sun Press volume with pictures by Marie Laurencin (1930), and the Cheshire Cat Press editions (1988 and 1998), hand-typeset on handmade paper with fine bindings by Eleanor Ramsey.

Carroll wrote many works besides Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, including its 1872 companion Through the Looking-glass. Further out on the proverbial limb are thirty-six lithographs by Max Ernst, who illustrated one chapter of Wonderland, among other works, in his Lewis Carroll’s Wunderhorn; Carroll’s great nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” with images by Max Ernst, Byron Sewell, Barry Moser, Nicholas Perry, Harold Jones, and others; and a volume called Notes de Zoologie (Baby Lone, 1988), illustrated by Pétra Werlé, with fine binding by Jill-Oriane Tarlau. A fine press book called Illustrating Alice (Artists’ Choice, 2013) discusses the many artists across the globe and over the last century-and-a-half who have given their own particular interpretations to the Alice books. (A forthcoming volume, Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece [The Grolier Club/Oak Knoll, Fall, 2015], has a bibliography that lists over 7,500 editions with more than 1,000 published illustrators in languages other than English!)

This exhibition comprises works from the Burstein Collection of Lewis Carroll, now numbering 3,500 books by, about, or inspired by Carroll—not to mention innumerable tchotchkes. It was started by Book Club of California member Sandor Burstein with a single volume he purchased in Portugal in 1974 to memorialize his trip, although his love for Carroll dates back to his childhood. His son, Mark, now curates the collection. The Book Club of California would like to gratefully acknowledge Sandor and Mark Burstein for making the exhibition possible, as well as BCC member Malcolm Whyte who suggested the exhibition and helped choose the books and design their display.

* * * * *

A former Printer’s Devil of the Roxburghe Club, Mark Burstein claims to be genetically predisposed to loving the Alice books. He has served the Lewis Carroll Society of North America as chairman of the publication committee; editor of its magazine, Knight Letter; series editor of The Pamphlets of Lewis Carroll; vice president; and president. In addition, he has edited, introduced, or contributed to fourteen books on Carroll, including, as editor and art director, the forthcoming Annotated Alice: The 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (W. W. Norton, fall 2015) and Alice in Wonderland: Dodgson, Dalí, and the Fourth Dimension (Princeton University Press, fall 2015).


A Circle of Friends: Ward Ritchie, Lawrence Clark Powell, and Gloria Stuart
January 26-May 4, 2015

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.


Holiday Cards from the Book Club of California
December 15, 2014-January 12, 2015

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.


Food & Wine & Good Design: The California Fine Printers’ Legacy
September 15-December 8, 2014

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.


Bits and Pieces: Ephemera from the Book Club of California Grabhorn Press Collection of Florence Walter
May 12-August 25, 2014

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.


Design for Modernity: Art Deco Ephemera from the Collection of Bruce Shyer
January 27-April 28, 2014

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.

ABC2 copy

Draw me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration
September 9-December 30, 2013

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.


Check out the exhibition checklist! A small book with images from the exhibition and text by Malcolm Whyte, printed and bound by The Key Printing and Bindery. Pick one up when you visit the exhibition.


The Legacy of Florence Walter: Celebrating a Century at the BCC
April 29-August 30, 2013

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).



Multiple, Limited, Unique: Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Center for Book Arts
January 28-April 22, 2013

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:


Pressing Forward: The Book Club of California at 100
September 24, 2012-January 7, 2013

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.

-Mary Manning
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
Featuring Selections from the Collection of Glen S. Miranker

June 4-September 10, 2012

Selected Press: San Francisco Chronicle, KQED Arts Blog,, Felt & Wire

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.


And Who Wants Peace?
Three Young Printers in Post-War San Francisco:
William Everson, Jack Stauffacher, and Adrian Wilson

January 9-May 21, 2012

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



Beyond the Text:
Artists’ Books from the Collection of Robert J. Ruben

September 12-December 12, 2011

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.


The Hand Bookbinders of California
39th Annual Exhibition
July 11-September 2, 2011

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

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
and Arts & Crafts of Publishing in Chicago, 1900
April 25—June 27, 2011

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.

Out of the World of Patchen
A Centenary Exhibition

January 7-April 11, 2011

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.

Napa Valley web design and development