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The Center for Book Arts

Alexander Campos accepting
Introductory remarks by Daniel J. Slive

The 2010 APHA Awards Committee has nominated The Center for Book Arts as the recipient of the APHA Institutional Award in recognition of the Center’s extremely active and accomplished promotion of both traditional printing and the contemporary exploration of the book as art object. Since 1974, The Center for Book Arts has made distinguished contributions to the recording, preservation, and dissemination of modern and contemporary printing history, and has done so through a remarkable education and outreach program. The Center for Book Arts was the first non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to the book arts and has become a model for similar organizations throughout the world. In its thirty-five years, the Center has pioneered many activities that may now seem typical of such an organization: classes on traditional and innovative techniques, galleries and publications dedicated to the book arts, and access to printing equipment and studio space.

Its extensive instructional program offers over one hundred courses, workshops, and seminars in letterpress printing and typography as well as bookbinding and other aspects of book production. Classes available in Fall 2009, for instance, included an introduction to hand typesetting, contemporary letterpress printing, digital letterpress, platen press, monotypes, and four-color printing from polymer plates. In the course of its tenure, the Center has educated and trained thousands of people including artists, teachers, librarians, book conservators, collectors, and others intrigued with, and engaged by, books and their creation. Many of these former students have themselves become teachers and have provided instruction privately, at other book arts organizations, or in academic institutions. Through this extensive and successful instructional program, the Center has contributed to the preservation and promotion of the vibrant art of printing.

The Center’s extensive documentation of modern and contemporary printing is represented by over 175 exhibitions. These have included shows dedicated to individual artists and imprints, production techniques, social and aesthetic themes, and presses from particular geographic regions. A highly selective listing includes individual exhibits devoted to the work of Lynne Avadenka, Julie Chen, Tom Phillips, Claire Van Vliet, and the Whittington Press; shows focusing on printing techniques ranging from letterpress to offset printed artist books to mail art; and a wide variety of thematic shows such as “The Altered Page” (an exhibition of selections from the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry), “Grimm & Grimmer” (historical children’s books and related contemporary artists’ books), and “No More Drama: The Saga Continues” (contemporary artists responding to Latin American telenovelas). The Center has also organized a particularly notable, and perhaps unique, series of exhibitions focusing on different geographic regions of book production in the United States and abroad. These have ranged from the Lower East Side to Northern and Southern California and beyond to Latin America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, and Iraq. In sum, the Center’s exhibition program, often documented by complementary exhibition catalogues, has provided practitioners, curators, collectors, and the general public access to a significant variety of modern and contemporary printing.

The Center for Book Arts’s remarkable record of exhibitions and instruction is strengthened by additional activities supporting the preservation and promotion of printing and the book arts. These include publications, lectures, artist services, access to studios and equipment, and numerous opportunities for printers and book artists to practice and develop their skills and their craft. In nominating the Center for the Book Arts for the APHA Institutional Award, the Nominating Committee is pleased to recognize both the Center’s longevity and the quality of its instruction, outreach, and support programs which have successfully contributed to the promotion of printing and printing history.

It is a pleasure to present this year’s American Printing History Association Institutional Award to The Center for Book Arts