The Book Club of California celebrates its centennial with style

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[Alyson Kuhn] Last Wednesday, 12/12/12, was the Centennial Luncheon of The Book Club of California. The event capped a celebratory year for the club, founded in December 1912 with 58 charter members. The current membership of 1000 includes artists, bibliophiles, collectors, designers, ephemera-lovers and the rest of the literate alphabet. Speaking of ephemera, the centennial logo, designed by member Michael Osborne, has had a great season.

The centennial letterhead, letterpress printed at One Heart Press on Mohawk Superfine

Osborne comments, “It seemed like there couldn’t be anything more appropriate than designing a ‘bookplate,’ a type treatment with a lot of little things going on. I tweaked several of the letters to make everything fit perfectly, and used capital Os for the zeros. The typeface family is Bitstream Kuenstler, which includes several different designs. The little diamond ornament is a reference to the club’s “non-centennial logo,” designed by Tom Ingalls. It has a small diamond-shaped negative space in the center [which you can see on the Club’s homepage], and I reduced that to a dingbat.”

The luncheon was held in the Julia Morgan Ballroom, on the 15th floor of the Merchants Exchange Building—the very building in which the club was founded. Guests were invited to dress as the original members would have. The Palm Court Orchestra set the tone gloriously with music of the day, and civility, congeniality and millinery reigned.


The club has always had a membership cap, which has been raised over the decades—to 600, then 750, then 1000. When I was “put forward” to join a little over a decade ago, I received a lovely typewritten letter informing me that there was currently a short waiting list. I was not kept in suspense for long, and have enjoyed the privileges of membership ever since. More recently, the club created two categories to attract younger members, 35-or-under and Student, both with very modest dues. All members receive the club’s Quarterly News-Letter—it’s hyphenated, letterpress printed and a perpetual pleasure to read. The cover illustrations are frame-worthy. The entire membership also receives an annual keepsake—and whether you call it looty, booty or swag, it’s a paper treasure.

The luncheon program was designed by member Kathleen Burch, co-founder of the San Francisco Center for the Book, and letterpress printed by Richard Seibert in Forum, a typeface designed in 1911 by Frederic Goudy, with ligatures drawn by Thomas Rickner in 2009.

The winners of the costume competition: Larry Morris and his wife, M. Patricia Morris, of Sacramento.

California State Senator Mark Leno offers extemporaneous felicitations to the assembly.

Senator Leno presented the Club with a State of California Senate Certificate of Recognition, with Senate foil stamped in gold in magnificent chisel-point lettering, with an interlocking double swoosh. The certificate reads in part: “I commend your commitment to bring together readers who enjoy learning about the history of California and the Western states. Through your efforts, bibliophiles are better able to pursue their appreciation of the fine art of books.”


Curtiss Taylor (above), past president of the club and co-chair of the Centennial Celebration, made a toast, for which he invited everyone to stand. As we lifted our champagne flutes, he said, “To the Book Club of California and to the founders who formed and nurtured an organization that has lived for a hundred years, dedicated to the creativity, craftsmanship and collaboration that culminate in finely printed books. And to the subsequent generations of dedicated bibliophiles who have cherished and fed this dream through good times and bad. Let us raise our glasses to them all, and may long live the finely printed book and its champion, The Book Club Of California.” I am so happy to have been present.

Broadside designed by Michael Osborne, presenting seven quotes about the pleasures of reading, set in seven “flavors” of Bitstream Kuenstler. Letterpress printed at One Heart Press.

For dessert, everyone received a set of commemorative keepsakes, including the broadside shown above. The California Society of Printmakers, which held its first exhibition in 1913 and thus will celebrate its centennial next year, contributed a small folded print with the society’s logo on the front and the club’s original logo on the back. The San Francisco Center for the Book produced a bookmark of the inscription on the gallery frieze at the club, which is taken from The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts: “To shut the book and step into the day is to make one kind of passage & to pull away from the day to enter the book is to make quite another one.” A great observation on a bookmark, a wall or a beautifully printed page.

Photos: 2, 3, 7, 11 © 2012 StudioAlex; all others courtesy of The Book Club of California.

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