Sunday, February 27, 2011

Robert Chaplin asks "What's in a Book" and presents the Robert Reid Medal

Robert Chaplin recently posed the question "What's in a Book" as a prelude to the Alcuin Society's newly minted Robert Reid Medal, which he designed. It's marvelous. Below is is a reprint of his post, republished here with his permission:

What’s in a Book ? - isbn 978-1-894897-25-9

What’s in a book ? and anyways, why are books so magical ? I've some thoughts on the matter and may at this point share them.

A book is a containment system for knowledge. Whether it be a clay tablet, scroll, codex or electronic application; a book is a compartmental unit of specific information. The information contained may be of any level of importance, everything and anything; understanding modern plumbing, instructions for burning witches, recipes for delicious cakes and pies, poetry, history, nonfiction, and fairy tales. Irregardless of relevance, form or content, engaging with a book is an act of revelation. Open up the covers, and we are in, experiencing the word, entertained, and enlightened.

This wise stuff aside, the book in codex form has another, more inappropriate function. It can be used to conceal an object. This old chestnut... take a big book in hard covers, one seldom opened, commonly the Bible. Open the book and cut holes in the pages , until you have created enough usable space, to hide something important. Place your secret object in the book, close the covers, and place the book on a bookshelf. Excellent! you have successfully hidden the goods in a manner no one will ever suspect.

Now that I've given you the background information, this is what you are looking at. A book, a medal, my latest publication: The Robert Reid Medal, to be precise. The medal was commissioned by the Alcuin Society and named after Robert Reid, a pioneer in Canadian book design. Presented nationally, the Robert Reid Medal celebrates lifetime achievement in book creation. The design was carved by my hand then cast in bronze at the studio of my colleague Jess Sarber. After the medals were cast, each one was hand finished by me. This work was completed in an edition of 25 with 5 artists proofs.

Regarding the revelatory and concealing power of books, it seemed most fitting, to encase each medal in this manner. Within this context the medal becomes a dimensional illustration, and since I've taken to publication as an act of contemporary art, it would be reasonable to assign an ISBN to this project. The book itself consists of an essay written by Yosef Wosk, regarding the value of a life spent in creation. The typography was designed electronically, burned into polymer plates, then printed and bound at Black Stone Press. A purpose built and published work to simultaneously protect and reveal a lifetime of excellence.

photo credit: Peter Lattimer

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Old Books in New Libraries: Treasures of UVic Libraries

UVic Libraries has a fascinating three-part lecture series titled "Old Books in New Libraries: Treasures of UVic Libraries".
Dr. Helene Cazes will dedicate a three-part lecture series to UVic Libraries "very special collections, and especially the “Seghers Collection" – an unique 7,500 volume library named after Bishop Charles John Seghers (1839-1886). Seghers, the second Catholic bishop of Victoria, arrived on Vancouver Island in 1864 and was murdered in Alaska in 1886. The “Seghers Collection” was placed on permanent loan within the Special Collections Department of the McPherson Library in 1976.

Audio from first lecture, which was held in January, has been posted on the UVic website. The second lecture in the series is scheduled for tomorrow: Monday, February 7, 2011.

All lectures are from 1:30 – 2:30 pm and take place in the Special Collections classroom, A003, lower level McPherson Library, at the University of Victoria.

January 17, 2011
This overview to the unique “Seghers Collection” will give an idea of the complexity and depth of a collection that gathers the classics of ecclesiastical and philological training and Renaissance and Early Modern books and also contains the accumulated donations of more than 150 years from the Catholic community on Vancouver Island.

Audio from subsequent lectures is anticipated to follow...

February 7, 2011
Special Collections, Special Books, and Special Readers
This lecture gives a “guided tour” of a selection of mini-collections within Special Collections: history of medicine, Bibles, discovery of the Americas and Amer-Indian religions, and Aldine editions of modern dictionaries.

March 28, 2011
Plantiniana: Humanist Grafts in Special Collections
Christopher Plantin (1520-1589) could be presented as the epitome of Renaissance humanist printers. He founded a dynasty of learned editors and publishers. An avid book collector, Charles Seghers secured several publications from the Plantin’s Presses, now kept in Special Collections, McPherson Library.