March 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Minsky's Native American Bindings

Richard Minsky has launched a new exhibit and catalogue of publishers' bindings, titled Trade Bindings with Native American Themes, 1875-1933. The book artist (and FB&C Book Art columnist) turned up 116 different decorative and pictorial covers and more than 20 variants by Margaret Armstrong, Frank Hazenplug, The Decorative Designers, Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, Blanche Helen McLane, Rome K. Richardson, George W. Hood, Thomas Watson Ball, Angel de Cora, Amy Rand, George W. Hood, and many others. They are currently on display in his Hudson, New York, studio.

indians-book-1923-700.jpgMinsky is an expert in American decorated publishers' bindings. His first three exhibition catalogues documented more than 1,000 covers, and each exhibition was acquired by a different institutional library. In 2012, he mounted and catalogued a single-artist exhibition devoted to Thomas Watson Ball, which went en bloc to Penn State. Last year, George Braziller published a paperback edition of Minsky's book, The Art of American Book Covers, 1875-1930.

I asked him if he sought out Native American-themed books for this new project, or if the theme presented itself while he was researching the larger topic of American decorated publishers' bindings. "I have some books with this theme and it's one that was not highlighted in any of the previous exhibitions. Searching for more covers with this subject matter turned up some amazing designs--enough for an exhibition," he told me. "Only five of the designs are among the nearly 1,200 in the previous catalogues." In a newsletter to collectors and friends, Minsky also clarified the exhibit's theme: "This exhibition is titled Trade Bindings with Native American Themes rather than American Indian themes because of its geographic and temporal scope. The books are about indigenous peoples from the Aleuts and Inuit of the arctic to South Americans, and fictional prehistoric inhabitants that may predate those believed to have migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge and the Paleoamericans who may have migrated by boat."

Through March 31, Minsky is offering a pre-publication discount on the limited edition or the deluxe edition of the catalogue.  

Image: The Indians' Book
Recorded and edited by Natalie Curtis
Unsigned cover design likely by Angel de Cora ((Hinook Mahiwi Kilinaka, Winnebago)
Harper and Brothers, ©1923
Courtesy of Richard Minsky.