Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Signs of Summer

I have missed posting here for the past week, and also missed hearing from you in response. Alas, work and life sometimes get in the way. It has finally begun--the steady stream of summer houseguests arriving here to enjoy nearby Chicago. This past weekend we had family visitors for several days, and managed to pack in a ton of activities including a walking tour of Little Italy, a visit to the newly opened modern wing of the Art Institute, dinner in Greek Town, a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, and a visit to Powell's Bookstore in Hyde Park. (No Obama sightings to report.) Along the way, we passed the site where Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the great Chicago fire, now the site of the Chicago Fire Museum.

Objects related to books seemed to be everywhere. In Little Italy, at the Jane Addams - Hull House, there was a wonderful display of a bookbinder's bench, a cast iron nipping press, a small standing press, a hot stamping tool, and a leather parer, along with a sample of a handbound book with marble paper and leather on the spine. Bookbinding was taught to the immigrants along with several other crafts as a way to help integrate new arrivals into the community. 

Powell's Bookstore has a fabulous, full bookcase of older books on bookbinding and related book arts; I often visit there when I am looking for something that is out of print or hard to find. This time I came away with two treasures: a book on decorated paper designs from the 1800's, and a small book of John DePol's wood engravings. When visiting Hollander's last week, I had purchased a couple of the DePol reproduction papers, mostly because I liked the way they looked. Now I have some background reading to do on the artist. And where did I put my eraser carving tools?

Another treasure I saw at Powell's, but could not justify the expense, was a copy of Bernard Middleton's Restoration of Leather Bindings, with hand marbled paper and leather spine, a real beauty. At $225, it was not in my budget, but I did get to hold it and turn the pages, savoring the smell and the feel of this exquisitely bound book, a limited edition. When my soft-bound, mass market copy arrives from Amazon next week, I'll have the same content but, alas, not the joy of holding the original. 

The first weekend of June brings more fun guests and the Printer's Row Book Fair, my all-time favorite summer activity in Chicago. I'll be posting more about this event in the weeks to come; if you're a real "bookie" and have been thinking about visiting Chicago, this would definitely be the weekend to come!


  1. we've missed you too Pam!
    Just adding to my list of "things to do in Chicago".

  2. Aaah...cows in the summertime....what a life!