Stunning Collection of Designer Bindings on View

Photo Credit: Richard Caspole

George Kirkpatrick, designer and binder of The Neale M. Albert Collection of Miniature Designer Bindings; A Catalog of an Exhibition Held at the Grolier Club (2006), bound in 2008, leather binding with leather onlays and gold tooling. From the collection of Margaret and Neale Albert.

The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, unveiled today its latest exhibition, a sumptuous showcase of nearly sixty contemporary bookbindings from the collection of Neale and Margaret Albert.

Credit: Hannah Brown

Hannah Brown, designer and binder of Flowers from Shakespeare’s Garden: A Posy from the Plays, illustrated by Walter Crane (1906), bound in 2016, Collection of Margaret and Neale Albert

Designer bindings are perhaps the only books you should judge by their covers. In making them, artists use materials like leather, wood, metal, and cloth to create bindings or structures to house an already published work or a new artist’s book. The results are often stunning combinations of colors, shapes, typography, and texture. Molly Dotson, the exhibition's curator and the assistant curator of rare books and manuscript at the Center, explained that “designer binders may engage with the book’s dichotomy between interior and exterior, and their works often reinforce the visual, tactile, and temporal experiences of reading.”

Several examples of the work of designer binder George Kirkpatrick will be on view, as well bindings by Susan Allix, Hannah Brown, Michael Wilcox, and Robert Wu, among others. According to a press release, the Alberts commissioned much of their collection directly from the binders, and all of the works on display are promised gifts to the Center.

Photo Credit: Richard Caspole

Susan Allix, designer and binder of Silver (2005), hand-printed miniature book. © Susan Allix. From the collection of Margaret and Neale Albert.

In 2016, the Center hosted an exhibition from the Alberts’ collection of miniature designer bindings called “The Poet of Them All”: William Shakespeare and Miniature Designer Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert. Some of the minis are included in the current installation, although the focus is on full-scale bindings.

Contemporary Designer Bookbindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert runs through March 29. Several related events are planned in the coming weeks, including a January 22 talk with collector Neale Albert, binder George Kirkpatrick, curator Molly Dotson, and the Center’s chief curator of rare books and manuscripts, Elizabeth Fairman.