While millions of readers have enjoyed the works of Emily Dickinson or read Aesop’s fables in mass-produced paperbacks, the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries is offering a glimpse at rare books that go beyond the words to become artistic statements themselves.
In the exhibit New Again: Selections from the Rare Book Vault, curator Anne Meyers DeVine delves into the details of some the most intricate book-making of the past four centuries, placing on display rare works selected from the collections of UGA’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The books range from art history biographies printed on a handpress to concertina-folded books of letters.
“With over a quarter million volumes from early printing of the 15th century to artist made books of the 21st century, visitors of all ages can find something unique that speaks to their personal interests,” said Kat Stein, director of the Hargrett Library. “The pleasure of exhibiting these works is in seeing all the ways that guests connect with the pieces and the stories that they inspire.”
On display in the Rotunda Gallery of the UGA Special Collections Building, the exhibit includes examples of hand-made tomes dating back centuries, as well as contemporary books that combine centuries-old techniques with a modern aesthetic.
For example, the display places a 1626 edition of Aesop’s Fables, written in Greek and Latin and accompanied by woodcut illustrations, beside a 2006 version of Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Russian book artist Dmitry Sayenko. The 21st century volume is one of only six in existence.
In another case, the book (Compound frame): seven poems, one of 120 copies produced by The Janus Press and Gefn Press in 1998, pairs seven of Emily Dickinson’s poems with relief prints by contemporary artist Susan Johanknecht. Elizabeth Steiner’s inventive book structure uses woven strips of Tyvek to bind the pages between covers of polyethylene needlepoint canvas backed with reflective plastic sheets. The final product demonstrates how traditional techniques can transform with modern elements.
"Visitors to the Hargrett Library are frequently surprised that we collect newly published books. The books in our Private Press Collection may feature handmade papers, handset type, unusual bindings, sometimes all three," said DeVine, rare book outreach coordinator for the Hargrett Library. "Showcasing these recent books alongside analogous older works from the rare book vault will, I hope, shed some light on contemporary book arts."
New Again: Selections from the Rare Book Vault, will remain on display through August 27. Before arriving to UGA’s campus, visitors should check their symptoms via UGA’s Dawg Check tool. Masks are required and visitors must follow social distancing guidelines in the galleries.