Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Milestones Decreasing!

I so appreciate the conversations that have happened around milestones in the book arts. You will recall that this came up originally when Monica Moses, editor-in-chief of American Craft magazine, asked me to supply up to 20 book art milestones that would be integrated into a larger craft timeline, to celebrate the magazine's 70th anniversary in its June/July issue. I knew that this would prove to be an impossible task, but I felt better asking several of the field's most knowledgeable practitioners to weigh in with their suggestions.

So, here's the latest. I returned from a trip yesterday to find another email from Moses, asking me to resubmit the milestones, but to reduce their numbers to 10, and even to 5. What torture! It sounds like the magazine's graphic designer is struggling to produce something that will be readable. I am sympathetic to the challenge, and I came up with something, but now am quite nostalgic for the struggle to come up with 20.

So, I've decided to list my 20 entries here, so that they will be listed somewhere! Recognizing that every person who reads this will have a different opinion, here is what I came up with after receiving all of the suggestions that I listed in my previous entry.



1949. Lloyd Reynolds begins to teach calligraphy at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Over 35 years his efforts spark a revival in the lettering arts, whose influence extends from italic handwriting taught in elementary schools to typographers designing digital fonts used in Macintosh computers.


1969. Visual Studies Workshop founded. The VSW Press is the first of several artist-run offset presses that powers the rise of the multiple bookwork.


1971. Kathryn and Howard Clark establish Twinrocker, Inc. Papermill. Six years later Claire Van Vliet develops paper pulp painting there as a visiting artist, seen first in her book, Aura.

1973. Printer and papermaker Walter Hamady publishes his first Interminable Gabberjabbs, a series of books whose content, format and materials tweak book conventions while showcasing exceptional craft.

1974. Richard Minsky founds the Center for Book Arts, in New York City.

1974. Keith Smith publishes Structure of the Visual Book, the first of his books that picture, instruct and interpret non-traditional bookmaking.

1975. Fine Print journal published until 1990, the first journal (of several) to explore craft issues in the book arts.

1976. Dieu Donné Papermill is started up in New York City for the preservation of hand papermaking in contemporary art.

1979. Book conservator Hedi Kyle creates April Diary, inventing the simple yet elegant flag book structure used by countless book artists.


1982. Columbia University’s School of Library Science sponsors the Fine Printing Conference with exhibition and book fair. Thirty-two printers attend, and Columbia later publishes the proceedings.

1983. Paper and Book Intensive founded, a yearly “working sabbatical” for established and emerging artists and others in the book arts.

1986-1988. The National Collegiate Book Arts Exhibition, organized by Richard Zauft and the University of South Dakota, travels to nine sites across the U.S. to highlight the growing options for study at the college level.

1983. Papermaker and scholar Timothy Barrett publishes Japanese Papermaking: Traditions, Tools, and Techniques, based on his travels and research in Japan, and later leads efforts to produce conservation-sound papers while teaching at the University of Iowa.

1985. The University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa launches its M.F.A. in the Book Arts Program through the School of Library and Information Studies, which remains the U.S. program most closely identified with a high level of craft.

1986. Hand Papermaking journal founded.

1987. Printer Harry Duncan’s writings published in Doors of Perception: Essays in Book Typography, giving voice to a new generation of letterpress printers.


1994. Peter Verheyen starts the Book_Arts-L listserv, and in that moment the book arts community goes global.

1998. Gerald Lange's Digital Printing on the Cylinder Hand Press explores the expressive possibilities of polymer plate-making conjoined with desktop publishing and improved font software for letterpress printers.


2007. CODEX Foundation founded to preserve and promote the art and craft of the book through a biennial symposium and a book fair strong in international participation.

2008. College Book Art Association established to support and promote academic book arts education with a biennial conference and (as of 2011) an online journal.


  1. Hi Betty,

    I admire the fact that so many of your 'landmarks' have something to do with education, that is, furthering the conversation and tradition, rather than 'benchmarks' or some sort of tidy account of the accomplishments of that past. Of course the latter is of great significance, so long as it is dynamic, not static, generative.



  2. Thank you, Kyle. I was trying for balance in all things, which was of course impossible with such an array to choose from. I hadn't actually noticed the education base to several of them, although we agree in that I was also thinking of future growth, which is what education is feeding. But yes, ultimately any development is a bit mysterious. You can see where a work or an artist or organization has an impact, but sometimes not in the way they expected. Any development or emerging thread in history is such an organic process. That's just one fascinating aspect of history.

    And...Gerald Lange's comment the other day about specific books as an influence really struck me about how my judgement of influential developments has no doubt been affected by growing up in Oregon, where the arts community was small, primarily craft-based, and definitely distant from Art, and then living in the Midwest, where, at least until MCBA and the Internet were established, the local book art scene was more dependent on publications or local instructors to move the field along. So when I worked at MCBA I always pushed for catalogues to accompany exhibitions, even if they were modest ones, because I knew that a show could then enjoy a sustained impact, and otherwise faced disappearance. Luckily our options have greatly multiplied today, so as long as the computers are plugged in and the power stays on we have exceptional resources for documenting work and nurturing the field...

  3. Just a note that American Craft has moved back the date of publication for their craft timeline issue to August. Soon enough!

  4. Hi Betty,
    I'm a graduate student (and amateur letterpress printer) with a research interest in education, letterpress, and Canada. I'm excited to find your blog. Is there an email I can reach you at?

    - Sam

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