Return from CODEX 2019

codex-poster-2019.jpgThis is the second time that I have attended the CODEX Biennial Book Fair and Symposium, and again, I came away having learned more valuable information about book arts and collecting.

My favorite part this year was the talks by book artists in the symposium. Artists Till Verclas and Victoria Bean were especially entertaining, and Susanne Padberg, a collection consultant and exhibition curator, gave a fascinating talk about the differences in book collecting and access to book arts collections between the United States and Europe.

I enjoyed hearing about the different creative processes and inspirations the artists used to create their books – as varied as a childhood toy tugboat to the descriptions of clothing in a novel. It was also nice to recognize many of the artists, master printers, and book conservators sitting inside that room. While this introvert still prefers to sit quietly in the back, it was great to listen to all the happy book-related chatter and experience the camaraderie in the room.

The book fair at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond was as overwhelming as it was two years ago. There were so many interesting booths and artists to meet. We traveled to the fair for two of the three days we were out there and came up with a strategy to view as much as we could. As happened before, there are books we saw on the first day that called out to us. So we returned to the hotel and discussed those books and waited to see if we kept thinking about them. Then the next day, we went back and took another look and in a few cases, welcomed new books into our collection.

We had the pleasure of meeting Russel Maret at the book fair. I have heard about and viewed his books at a few of my California Rare Book School courses. His work is beautiful and appeals to me because of his focus on typography and the content of the text in the books he produces. I am more drawn to the printed word than many other forms of printed images in books so it doesn’t surprise me that I had been wanted to learn more about his work. He had Ornamental Digressions and his new work, Character Traits, at his booth. I will keep on my collector’s “wait-it-out list” an original copy of his Æthelwold Etc which has been out of print since 2010.


Russell Maret at his booth with Character Traits and Ornamental Digressions.

We also had the opportunity to chat with Sarah Horowitz again and hear about her newest projects. We added her Death of a Moth book to the collection two years ago, and I have enjoyed reading and sharing it since then. Sarah still had copies of her Wildflowers book which I love because of the delicate and colorful etchings. When I collect artists books that contain more printed images than text, I seem to gravitate towards nature related themes. Wildflowers contains an essay by Tim McNulty entitled ‘Gestures of Stone and Water: A Natural History of the Wenatchee Watershed.’ I love the green paste paper cover and the thoughtful way that the binding was designed for her water colored etchings.

This is a photo of Wildflowers. Photo credit: Sarah Horowitz’s website

The CODEX event is amazing because of the number of books artists from all over the world that it draws into a single area. Many of the country’s best printers and bookbinders are there. Many of the book artists collaborate with more than one other artist to complete their books. Book arts programs at different colleges and city centers were also there as were vendors who sell paper, leather, and other book making supplies. It was great to chat with the different students from the Mills College Book Art Program and see a glimpse of what is to come from the next generation of printers and book artists. I also had the pleasure of chatting with my patient teacher from the San Francisco Center for the Book, Juliayn Coleman from Book Island Bindery. I also ran into book artists that I follow on Instagram (Bettina Pauly, Brian Kring, and Vladimir Zimakov), some of whom I had never met in person until the book fair!

On one evening, we attended a fascinating lecture entitled “Book conservation interventions: Case studies from Stanford Libraries” given by Elizabeth Ryanat at the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco. I was pleased to recognize several of the repair techniques she described from the work that I did at the Cincinnati Museum Center many years ago and from my book repair course at the SF Center for the Book. That evening I also browsed through the exhibit at the Museum. Below are some photos of the lovely binding tools and equipment on display.

This is a HUGE plow compared to the small one I have in my temporary studio!
A lovely guillotine for cutting text blocks or other stacks of paper.
Not my grandmother’s sewing machine.

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