Codex Book Fair: The third “edition” was very fine indeed

[Alyson Kuhn] Last week, I spent an enchanted afternoon at the third biennial Codex Book Fair, on the campus at UC Berkeley. The fair and symposia celebrated the art, craft and soul of fine press editions and artist’s books. It was a four-day triumph for The Codex Foundation — and a tie as to whether the exhibitors or the attendees had a more glorious time.

Poster designed by Russell Maret, letterpress printer, lover of letterforms and former student of Peter Rutledge Koch, letterpress printer and director, The Codex Foundation. The CODEX logo, designed by Koch, is Bifur by A.M. Cassandre (1901–1968).

Exhibitors truly came from all over the map. I tallied, using the perfectly organized and cross-indexed directory, a total of 100 U.S. exhibitors, of which 47 were from California, followed by 11 from New York, 10 from Oregon, 5 from Minnesota and 4 from Washington. Sixteen more states were also represented. Thirty-nine international exhibitors came from 12 countries (including 10 from Germany, 7 from Canada and 6 from France).

The Codex Foundation logo is adapted from a woodcut by German Renaissance artist Jost Amman (1539–1591), from The Book of Trades.

Books and broadsides and constructions and cards and prospecti and portfolios were there for the touching. The single-day admission fee, a modest $10 (or $20 for all four days), was less than an evening movie and, for me, more fun than a museum, because we could pick almost everything up and savor it from all angles.

A very large room full of beautifully printed books, their printers, and their appreciators … generated a highly civilized exuberance.

Jessica Spring of Springtide Press and Chandler O’Leary of Anagram Press have separate businesses in Tacoma, Wash. They have a split catalog (flip-and-flop), half presenting Spring’s work, and the other half presenting O’Leary’s. The centerfold (not shown) showcases their ongoing collaboration, Dead Feminists broadsides (and postcards thereof).

I myself am not fueled by coffee, but could not resist Spring’s broadside (below), with text excerpted from a quote by Honoré de Balzac. Spring set each line in a different metal typeface (and one line in wood). She graciously invites aficionados to try and name them all (in order, of course). The first person to identify them all correctly will receive a copy of the broadside from Spring (and eternal admiration, with postal mail to that effect, from me). You can see close-ups here. Let’s set the commenting deadline as midnight this Sunday, Feb. 20. If no one gets them all, the commenter with the most correct IDs will be declared The Winner. Ready, set, type!

Purchases from Springtide Press. The Crabulous card’s charms include: the pairing of a vintage engraving with fluorescent orange letterpress and handset Bernhard Fashion. (No, the S is not set upside down — it’s a deco detail.)

Mitsui Fine Arts‘ simple display of woodblock-produced textile design books for the kimono trade in Kyoto was a show-stopper. Misako Mitsui’s collection of zuancho, which translates as “design idea books,” spans the first half of the 20th century, and was the inspiration for an exhibition in 2008 at Stanford University.

Pages (top to bottom) from: Shin Bijustsukai, published monthly by Yamada Unsodo, Kyoto, 1902–1905; Kiku Hyakushu, designed by Kodo Kawarazaki, published by Uchida Bijutsushoki, Kyoto, 1936; Yugano Shirabe, published by Higashiya-shote-toshobu, Tokyo, 1952. All images courtesy of Mitsui Fine Arts.

Exchanging business cards with Misako Mitsui was a special moment for me. She graciously gave me two of hers, so we could photograph the front and back simultaneously (below right). Other favorites among the cards I collected are those of: Jonathan Clark of Artichoke Press, Lucy Childs of Another Room Book Arts, and wood engraver Richard Wagener. I look forward to reporting on their books in future posts — and I am already looking forward to Codex 2013.

Special thanks to Lucy Childs, whose tabletop sign (shown at the beginning of this post) is a one-line ode to analog interactive experience.

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Comments (4)

  1. Posted by lidia varesco design on 02.17.11 at 7:44 pm

    I used to make artist’s books, so it was wonderful to see these examples, including work my friend Jessica Spring. thanks for sharing!

  2. Posted by Gregory Walters on 02.19.11 at 4:44 am

    Type Guesses: Craw Clarendon Book / Bank Script / Engravers Shaded / Packard / Onyx / Typo Upright / Stymie Bold / Bernhard Cursive aka Madonna / Playbill / Modernique / Antique Condensed Ornamented (Page and Hamilton) / Copperplate Gothic (Heavy Condensed) [or maybe Steelplate Gothic] / the last line is too fuzzy to tell, but maybe Stymie or Clarendon.

  3. Posted by Douglas Sandberg on 02.21.11 at 11:27 pm

    David Jury and i photographed the very finest examples of books from this third CODEX for the upcoming “BOOK ART OBJECT” catalog. t was an exhausting week. But I can tell you that the quality of the work is what keeps you going on such a project. Each piece is a visual adventure. And a challenge to depict the best way possible in the time allowed. We look forward to another fine catalog.

  4. Posted by sky tv half price offer 2011 on 08.19.13 at 9:11 pm

    Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a completely different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

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